GRIP, Research Abroad

Old and New

September 30, 2019
By Mark Lis, CAS '21

Bar Ilan University - Tel Aviv, Israel

For my GRIP internship I worked in a molecular biology lab focusing on mRNA expression under stress conditions in Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. While my research was not connected to the history of the land around me, history still permeates throughout the university and the land. At the center of the history sits the city of Jerusalem which I had been meaning to visit since I arrived. And when talking to some grad students in Bar Ilan, I found the perfect excuse to go: The Jerusalem light festival.

From late June to early July, Jerusalem hosted its eleventh annual light festival. For one week each summer, the city of Jerusalem puts on an incredible display of lights and art using its ancient walls and winding streets as a canvas. Dozens of exhibits ranging from a local band playing jazz in the Christian quarter to a massive projected message covering the wall near Zion Gate. This year, the energy at the festival was electric. There were a million people speaking every language from a myriad of different backgrounds all marveling at the unique bizarreness of the different exhibits and of the situation in which we found ourselves. Outside the walls of the Old City there was a one-man band singing Israeli folk music while wearing a light-up hat, harmonizing with three guys who were dressed in tuxedos and singing in Arabic. There were neon faces turning on strings which were constructed so that it would be impossible to tell which direction they were facing, and there was an interactive exhibit in which kids ran in front of a projector and their outline would appear on the wall with colors shooting out of them. It was honestly just a really fun and cool experience.

Jerusalem Light Festival
Jerusalem Light Festival

A moment that will particularly stick with me is the first moment I saw the festival while ascending up to Jerusalem. Aside from the immense beauty and overwhelming power I felt as I ascended towards the Old City of Jerusalem, I was struck by the contrast between the new and the old. Walls whose foundations are thousands of years old were now holding up the largest disco ball I’d ever seen. Roads and valleys which thousands of years ago carried pilgrims up to Jerusalem by foot or donkey now ferried thousands of cars. They’d all come to see Jerusalem. But not just for what it once was or for what it had been, but also for what it has and what it is now. It was incredible to see that while the country began deep in the past, the story of Jerusalem is still being written.


The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.