Friday, August 1, 2014


This week on our educational day the group went to the West Bank. This had been on our itinerary from the beginning. Since the fighting started we pretty much all assumed the trip would be canceled, but we were wrong. On Monday, Lior sent us the itinerary for the next day, and reassured us that security had approved everything. He also made sure that if we felt uncomfortable or nervous that we were able to discuss it with him. So Tuesday morning, everyone got ready to go....except for me. I woke up not feeling well so I decided to sit this one out.

According to what I was told when everyone returned from the West Bank, Tuesday afternoon, most of the day was filled with talks with different Jews from settlements. The original plan was to speak to Palestinians as well, but because of Eid Al Fitr, it was changed. Our group has been asking to hear all of the different perspectives on Israel in general all summer, so that was disappointing.

I soon realized that writing a blog post about a trip I did not go on would be difficult, so I enlisted the help of some of the others in the group again. Unfortunately not a lot of them followed through on this (which is also why this post is late), so I will share with you the two I did receive.

Justin Kirschner:

"Our education continued the other day with a trip to Judea and Samaria aka the West Bank as most know it. We visited two Israeli settlements (Ariel and Itimar) and had the opportunity to hear more Israeli perspectives. Unfortunately, we lost the chance to speak with Palestinians working at an industrial park within the Ariel settlement. It would have been quite interesting to hear how they really feel about the "occupation" rather than have Israelis explain to us what Palestinians believe and how they act.

Either way, this educational day truly reinforced the idea that there is little hope for the future and that neither side really wants to make sacrifices for peace. It deeply saddens me to say this because Israel is such a wonderful place with amazing historical, religious and cultural roots, although these roots are part of the problem. On one hand, the bible says this is Israel's land and most of these settlers simply refuse to believe otherwise and even subtly admitted to putting up fights if asked to leave their settlement in exchange for peace.

On the other, Palestinians, according to the Israelis we spoke to, reject most offers for integration and infrastructural assistance offered by the Israeli government to the PA. Well, this is probably due to the fact that the PA (government) wants nothing to do with Israel and wants them all out of their internationally sanctioned land. Everything we hear and converse about may or may not be true which is why our discussions are so emotional and complicated. Let me end with a quote from a professor we spoke to that resonated greatly with me, "Facts and opinions are parallel.""

AJ Goldhoff:

"We went to the "West Bank" Tuesday, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria here. I had never been there and it was very intriguing for me to experience life there for the first time. It was very interesting to see the city of Ariel for me, because it is a city of 20,000 Jews sitting in this area that the world knows as a predominately Arab area. I loved seeing the pride in these residents; however I have also talked to many Israelis outside of Judea and Samaria who do believe these settlements across the green line are a huge cause to the ongoing conflict. I loved getting a new perspective and really finishing off the puzzle in my head because I felt I needed to see this in order to really have a firm grasp on the conflict as a whole. Overall, I felt safe and I felt it was a good experience even though I may not have agreed with everything discussed in our meetings with residents."

Our group meeting on Wednesday also had to do with different perspectives. An Ethiopian Jewish woman came to speak to us. First, she played us a short film which she directed and wrote. It was based on things that happened in the city of Lod, where she lived when she first came to Israel from Ethiopia. Afterward, she told us a little bit about her story, and then we were able to ask questions.

It was very interesting hearing her perspective, because it was different than a lot of Ethiopian Jews. When her family came to Israel, her parents only spoke Hebrew to her and they always lived in neighborhoods which were predominantly Israeli. This way, she grew up very much a part of Israeli society. A lot of other Ethiopians who came to Israel lived in mainly Ethiopian areas. This gave the woman a very different outlook on things. 

We asked her about her Jewish identity and when she knew she was Jewish. She told us that she only knew she was Jewish when she came to Israel, but she did not really have a Jewish identity until she visited the U.S. She said here, most people are Jewish, and it is just how everyone lives. In America though, since it is so diverse, she had to make a conscious effort to be Jewish. Now she said she struggles more with her Ethiopian identity. She had a lot of really interesting things to say, and I am very glad we got to hear from her.

Being here, and hearing all of these different perspectives has given me a whole new perspective on Israel. I feel like I understand so much more about the conflicts that take place here. It is a very complicated place, and I do not know that any resolution to any conflict here will ever really be the end of it. This place holds so much importance for so many people, and it brings up so many emotions. People are very passionate about Israel, on every side, and this is why peace is so difficult.



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