Message from Kalina and Izabela:
Today we visited Wahat al-Salam Neve Shalom, an experimental bilingual school for Palestinian and Israeli children. Most schools are religious in the area and the children do not have the opportunity to understand each other. We got a tour of the school and were able to play with the children during recess and visit a classroom. The kids had only been learning English for two years but could read stories without much difficulty. I found the idea of having Palestinian and Israeli children go to school together and learn to interact with each other to be amazing. It allows them to get to know each other and see the others point of view, so they can work out their issues. I really liked playing with the kids and talking to them, since they were all really cute. The little girls wanted us to braid their hair and one even wanted to braid my hair, which was the highlight of my day. Afterwards, we discussed and compared what we saw to our previous notions of the situation. The school definitely shows the attitude of the peace community which is an experimental village. It helped us realize the successes within our community but also things we could work upon ourselves.
#Rachel and Matt
After our visit to the school, our tour guide, Bruce, took us for a hike in a rocky valley outside the city of Jerusalem. It was nice to see the natural part of Jerusalem rather than the urban, religious parts filled with stone houses and buildings. On the hike, we saw wild flowers (when Bruce scolded Ms. Schlosser for picking them), a natural spring, beautiful hills filled with tall trees. When we reached the spring, there were Israeli boys jumped from the top of the rock into the two- meter deep water. We were worried they were going to get hurt, but they all made it up. Bruce described some of the fauna that were present in this valley that appear in Biblical scripture, including more olive trees. Bruce was also very shocked when he saw water at the bottom the valley, blocking our way out to the bus. This is from the Israeli winter; it had it first major rains in 12 years. He joking told us to take off our shoes to walk across as he was looking for another way to find out. I (Rachel) was the first to cross the creek from the natural rock bridge that formed. Fortunately, only one of us fell in (Zunaira) and the others made it across safely. The hike was overall a different experience from what we have been doing before, but also a good learning experience. It was a good change to absorb the outdoors of Israel.
Following our symposium theme of religious pluralism, we went through an incredible program with the organization “Oasis of Peace”. This commune of sorts is home to about 50 families, half Jewish, half Palestinian. There is also a primary school with children of both traditions, who are taught in Hebrew and Arabic. In addition to touring the site and interacting with some of the children from the school, we engaged in dialogue with one of the organizations leaders, Abdessalam Najjar. Abdessalam not only spoke to us about his job as a discussion mediator, but also spoke with us about our opinions of the Jewish/Palestinian conflict and about peace keeping in general. He shared great experience from years of peacekeeping work and gave remarkable insight to the world that we live in today, and the people we share it with. After days of intense intellectual stimulation, our discussion was by no means a break; however it was an unforgettable experience with a truly remarkable man.