Westmont Magazine A Stranger in Their Midst
Westmont Sophomore Will Present a Paper at an Annual Scholarly Meeting in Vienna
When Geoffrey Arai ’09 speaks at the Society of Biblical Literature’s annual meet-ing in July, he will be an oddity. It’s not his Jewish-Japanese heritage that sets him apart or his dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship. He’s unusal because he’s a college student. Undergraduates rarely receive invitations to present papers at the international forum.
“Journey to Gaza” reflects fieldwork Geoffrey did with his mother in Gaza refugee camps. The paper comments on the political and social elements that led to the crisis there and also includes a biblical perspective.
Geoffrey interviewed convicted terrorists who said they were unable to break out of a cycle of poverty because of oppression from the government. “The paper is about my experience and how it relates to the Bible and ‘the stranger in the midst’ scripture in particular. First they were strangers in the midst to Israel but that is no longer true. So the question is, how do we treat them according to biblical principles?”
Visiting orphanages in Israel and the West Bank, Geoffrey presents Gospel messages through the use of origami. “You see people in total disarray because they have no idea what to do or how to get out of poverty,” he says. “There’s no infrastructure to build upon. They have nothing.”
While he grew up in Pasadena, Geoffrey traveled to Israel often. In fact, he first heard about Westmont from a soccer player sitting next to him on a plane. “I don’t even remember his name, but he sold me on Westmont,” Geoffrey says.
His college career has included intensive debate and speech programs at Pasadena City College, the University of Oregon, Cedarville University in Ohio and the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem.
Geoffrey hopes to work as a political negotiator or pursue international affairs after college. As an Israeli citizen, he must serve in the army reserves until he’s 54.
Even with rising tensions in the Middle East, Geoffrey remains hopeful that Gaza will one day see peace. “Violence will have to decline there,” he says. “Maybe if Israel and Palestine become united as one state, patriotism will override terrorism. We will need to give them infrastructure, health care, trash pick-up, and education so the people are able to prosper. Hopefully, out of that prosperity and good will, terrorism will subside, at least in Israel.”