Israel Day Eleven

The day began at 6:20 AM with my roommate snoring. I rolled towards my phone only to realize my alarm wasn’t set for another 25 minutes. Eventually, we all packed our belongings, and left our sacred home the Kibbutz in Parod.

Our first destination of the day was at Giva’at Haviva, which is an institution that focuses on bridging bridges between Jewish and Arabic communities. Here, we had the chance to gather background knowledge of Israel and the borders and organization of the country today. Particularly, we focused on the green line that outlines the border of the West Bank.

Afterwards, we went to a look out point that allowed us to see the green line from a birds eye view. This allowed us to gain more of a perspective of the complexities within the country. Our group then encountered a local that shared with us his life story and hardships he lives with every day. For example, he mentioned the “balagan” (mess) of the security check-point he must cross every day on his commute to work and back home.

After lunch we returned back to Giva’at Haviva where we were opened up to a panel discussion with three Arabic individuals, two of the age 19 and one at the age of 18 years old. The three of them were born and raised in Israel. The two 19 year olds were educated in a combined Jewish and Arabic elementary school. During their time at this empowering school they explored both sets of holidays and traditions to better understand the people around them. The 19 year old man said, “This school does not just set you up for academic success. Rather, it adds tools to our tool box for life situations particularly, in this complex era.”

As the discussion went on, the idea of identity came up. A question was posed about how they identify themselves in Israel. The common theme throughout the three was the title, Palestinian with an Israeli citizenship. The 19 year old explained that identity for him was defined by the way he dances, the holidays he celebrates, the food he eats, etc. He follows the Arabic traditions as a priority in life; therefore, views himself as a Palestinian. Moreover, the 18 year old mentioned because Israel is recognized as a Jewish state, the simple fact that their population is not Jewish creates a sense of feeling less welcome.

The closing comments with the three individuals were focused on misperceptions of innocent Arabs. The 18 year old woman used to wear a hijab on her head. She recently stopped wearing the hijab and shared with me that this change created a noticeable difference in her treatment and judgement from other demographics. In addition, she mentioned that there is almost always extra trouble at the airport during security and she is always being interrogated. The 19 year old said, “The men look more Arab than women; therefore, for me, people will choose to avoid sitting next to me on a bus or train. But it’s okay; I don’t mind I having two seats.” The thought struck me because young adults around our age are being misjudged by others for stereotypical reasons.

Finally we finished our day off standing at a stunning viewpoint of the capital city, Jerusalem. As we gathered together, each holding a glass of grape juice, we hoisted it up toward the sky and as one, we said the Shehecheyanu.

We are so happy to be in Jerusalem and as Ryan said, maybe we’ll all feel a little bit of that “magic” in Jerusalem during the next couple of days.

Noah Boroditsky

Gabriel Helfant