The Journey

General description

Between July 22-27, 2007, 22 young Israelis (ages 15-17) embarked on a six-day journey through Israel/Palestine. Among the young people there were both Jewish and Palestinian (Christian and Muslim) citizens of Israel, as well as one Israeli born Norwegian girl. The young people came from all over the country. By gender, the group had nine male participants (all Palestinian) and 13 female participants (nine of them Jewish and four of them Palestinian). Among the Palestinians there were three Christians and ten Muslims.

The program was constructed in order to provide young Jewish and Palestinian youth a chance to meet with one another and get more deeply in touch with their national and religious identity as well as get to know the other’s national and religious identity. For this we prepared activities which provided joint learning and dialogue experiences as well as a chance to get to know each other on a personal level, while having a lot of fun in doing so.

Much of the program was designed around very special interaction with interesting and important people and places as well as spaces for sharing and introspection.

Exploring the land: Israel/Palestine

The idea of making a journey around the country came from the fact that the land of Israel/ Palestine stands at the center of a conflict, since we have not learned yet to share it in a just and peaceful way.

Both Jews and Palestinians have stories to tell that are connected to their histories and religions. We wanted the group to experience some of these stories, as told by Jews and Palestinians of various religious backgrounds.

Our journey started in the old coastal town of Jaffa. We then spent two days in the northern part of the country, and finally spent two and a half days in Jerusalem (Yerushalayim / Al-Quds).

Using two languages - Arabic and Hebrew

From the beginning, the idea was to make the whole program bilingual. The participants would speak in their mother tongues, Arabic and Hebrew (both official languages of Israel). All of the participants understood Hebrew. Some of the Palestinian participants and Vivian, the facilitator, were fluently bilingual, while others among the Palestinian participants understood Hebrew but were shy to speak it. None of the Jewish participants could speak or understand Arabic. In Israel’s segregated school system, Arabic is rarely taught to Jewish students in a way that enables them to properly acquire the language.) Therefore, in order to enable the participants to express themselves freely in their own language, we decided that Vivian would translate during the study tours and group sessions.

The narratives

In our conflicted land there are two parallel narratives that rarely meet. Sometimes they are not even told. The Jewish narrative of the national and religious connection to the land and the painful narrative of exile, persecution and genocide of the Jewish people is being told to every Jew around the world and to every Israeli since early childhood. In the same way, through the Ministry of Education, this story is also being taught from a nationalist Zionist perspective even in Israel’s Arab schools.

The recent history and the story of the establishment of the state of Israel are naturally being told from the perspective of the Jewish side.

The Palestinian narrative of national and religious connection to the land and the painful story of the “Nakba” (the catastrophe) is a story that is rarely even today being told openly and is missing in both the Hebrew and Arabic text books in Israel. [1]

We learned that the second generation (since the Nakba) did not hear so much from the first, and that only the third generation had started to raise the issue and talk about the injustice.

Religions and spirituality
Finding peace within

Every morning we began with ten minutes of silent meditation. During this time, we would be quiet and the participants would observe their breathing and try to keep themselves concentrated on this simple (but not so easy to perform) task. This activity was meant to give us a fresh start to our new day, and to allow our participants a simple spiritual practice which they could take home with them.

Visits of holy sites in Jerusalem:

During our Journey we visited and experienced some of the holiest places for the three religions. Each participant had a chance to experience a worship site of the other two religions and learn about the history of each of the monotheistic religions in Jerusalem.

Sharing thoughts and feelings: The evening circle

We concluded each evening during our journey with a circle in which every participant had a chance to share about how her or his day went. We did this one by one, with each participant receiving something sweet, like a candy, after which they would share something good that happened that day. After that they would be given a rock, which they would hold in their hand while sharing something hard about the day. Each participant finished by sharing something new that they had learned that day. During this time of sharing, the facilitators could learn about the impressions of each and every one of the members of the group for that day. This was a good tool for the facilitators to learn about the process.

The Group: Day by day impressions and experiences