Meet the Teachers: Joanie Garratt volunteers for Israeli War, studies at Harvard

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As seen in the March 7 print edition

Eunice Kim, staff writer

While attending high school in Switzerland, history teacher Joanie Garratt traveled to Israel each summer to work on a kibbutz, or a communal farm, on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Garratt’s fondness for Israel grew each time she visited. When the Israeli War broke out, Garratt traveled to Israel not to work on a kibbutz, but to volunteer to make food for the soldiers.

“[The volunteers] can work and live there for free,” Garratt said. “ I would work in the fields during the morning and then spend the afternoon on the Mediterranean beach.”

The Lebanese border on which Garratt worked was a dangerous place, and Garratt risked her life volunteering.

“[The Lebanese border] was very dangerous and at night we slept in bomb shelters,” Garratt said.

After volunteering, Garratt stayed in Israel and attended Tel Aviv University, where she majored in political science, international relations and history. Her experiences in Europe and Israel and her desire to learn more about the Arab-Israeli conflict encouraged her to take these courses.

“Unfortunately, I was unable to solve the Middle East’s problems during my short stay there,” Garratt said.

After two years in Israel, Garratt returned to the US in order to graduate college. She graduated from UCLA and earned her Masters Degree in government from Harvard. Garratt explained to her students that her college recommendation letters that described the events during the war might have been one of the major factors of her acceptance to Harvard.

“I was also a teaching fellow at Harvard and had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant with some very interesting students and visiting scholars,” Garratt said.

Even after experiencing sleeping in the bomb shelters in Israel, Garratt found studying at Harvard to be more demanding.

“The main thing I remember about Harvard is working around the clock,” Garratt said. “I experienced more stress at Harvard than the combined two and a half years I spent in Israel, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I learned a lot about life, myself and the world.”

Garratt’s emotional connection to Israel didn’t end after she moved back to the U.S. to continue her education. In fact, Garratt visited Israel right after the Camp David Peace Accords in 1979 and many times after.

“During that summer I was hired to teach at Hebrew University for English speaking students.  It was great,” Garratt said

Her fondness for the time she spent in Israel has influenced Garratt to motivate her own students to enter study abroad programs that take place in Israel.

Further information on such programs will be provided in a counselor meeting that takes place on March 14.

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