Part 1: who lives where?
After the tired bodies rolled out of bed we went up to the beautiful rooftop of our hostel where we were greeted by the sea and his good friend the sun. On the roof we began our morning routine, starting with ten minutes of silent meditation. Then we had a short time to share how our (mostly sleepless) night was for everyone and then review our schedule for the day.
Our first activity took us out of the hostel and to Yarkon Park, a grassy recreation area on the banks of a river in northern Tel Aviv. In the park we had an opportunity to play around a bit and spend some time together in the shade of a large oak. We also had a special workshop where the participants divided into three groups and were given a blank map of Israel/Palestine. We gave them colors and asked them to use a different color to mark where different groups of people live: Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims, etc. We then looked at the different maps while each group explained why and where they had marked the different groups. We then used our rainbow colored maps as a basis for discussion about the social and political relations between different groups in our country. It was quite an enlightening and interesting activity for both the participants and for us, the guides.
We finished our day in the park with a picnic, then got on the bus and took off for the North. The bus ride was the favorite part of the journey for some of the participants, on the bus they could spend some free time chatting with one another, eating snacks, listening to their IPODS, sleeping and singing songs.
Part 2: The Palestinian â€œNakbaâ€ (the disaster)
Our bus ride came to a stop at the Village of Al-Ghabisiyya, a Palestinian village which was ethnically cleansed during the 1948 war. There we met Daoud Bader and another representative of the committee of displaced Palestinians in Israel (those who live as Israeli citizens but whose original native towns and villages were destroyed during and after the 1948 war. We had a chance to see the old mosque of the village, which was the only remaining structure.
From the village of Al-Ghabisiyya we went to the village of Al-Bassa, today the Israeli town of Shlomi. There, amongst the modern houses and industrial buildings, we saw the old church and mosque of the original village, which have been sealed off by the Israel Lands Administration.
Our guides explained to us that they are not allowed to enter such mosques and churches because the Israeli government is worried that any recognition of their rights in the area would be seen as an encouragement for them to return to their villages. The tour was quite powerful, insightful and also very sad. It had made an impression on the participants and raised some more serious discussion in our evening session.
Al-Ghabisiyya Al-Bassa Al-Bassa
From the tour we headed straight to our hostel in Pekiâ€™in/Buqeiâ€™a. A unique and beautiful multi-religious town in the hills of the Galilee which has large Druze and Christian populations, as well as small Jewish and Muslim communities. We settled into our rooms and gathered for our end-of-the-day discussion. The participants summed up the eventful day using candies and stones. The participants (especially the Jews) said they felt that the tour so far had not been â€œbalancedâ€. They said they felt that only the side of the Palestinians had been heard.
Some of the participants said they doubted the version of the events they had heard. Some said they felt they were being blamed for what had happened, and that this made them uncomfortable. The voice of a significant number of the Palestinian participants was largely absent for much of this discussion, and remained so for many other parts of our journey.
Part 3: An â€œinterfaith caféâ€
Our last activity of the day was â€œhostingâ€, an activity in which every participant was asked to bring something which represented her/his personality, beliefs and culture. Participants brought a variety of objects and content to present, such as pictures, religious symbols, jewelry, prayer books, poems, drawings and songs. Especially memorable, for me, were the very special drawings of one of the participants as well as a hip-hop performance by two of the Palestinian youths and a girl who brought her prenatal ultrasound (!) pictures. It was, all in all, a fun and informative evening, which was followed by another sleepless night for many of our participants. We, the guides, stayed up late discussing the events of the day and wondering how to balance and deepen relations between the Jewish and Palestinian participants in our group.