Educational Program Sun, 03 Dec 2017 04:07:23 +0200 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Leeds Met Volunteer Journey

11 – 24 June 2014

June 11th - Our first morning in Tel Aviv, we headed to the neighborhood of Shapira, which has long been a poor and ethnically diverse area of the city. With a local resident of Shapira we walked around the streets, met people from the Mizrahi Jewish and African migrant communities.

We met a group of young Israeli students and recent graduates, who told us about their backgrounds and about the question of military service in Israel. Some of them refused to serve and were even jailed.

The next day, we were guided by Jaffa historian and community leader Sami Abu Shahadeh. We explored the story of a Palestinian city that was transformed in 1948 by the birth of Israel. In Jaffa’s old town we met Arab residents who can still remember the events of the mid-20th century.

We had a 2 ½ -hour drive into the Negev desert, where we meet our Bedouin hosts. We did volunteer work with our Bedouin hosts to restore traditional mud-brick buildings, which will be used as community centers – spaces for the women and children to meet, for health education, for computer lessons, for women’s groups, etc.

Furthering our cultural exploration, we visited a kibbutz in the Negev and talked with its residents. We were accompanied by Israeli teacher and activist Yeela Raanan. We got a better understanding of what is a kibbutz is, what it meant to the founders of the Israeli state, and why the desert was important to the first generation of Israelis.

The next day, our cultural exploration took us to an Israeli community called Har Amasa, which is a way station along Abraham’s Path in the Negev. We met David and Tal Benshabat and talked with them about their environmental work and their advocacy for justice and peace.

Starting at the Dome of the Rock, we explored the main sacred sites of Jerusalem, and some of the Old City’s secret unknown places. We also visited the Yad Vashem Museum. For Jews, the creation of Israel was about redemption and return. For Palestinians, it marked the beginning of al Nakba – the catastrophe. We visited the Palestinian village of Lifta. Our guide told us about his experiences as a child in 1948, when he and his family were forced to flee their village.

We were taken to TAYBEH, where we visited the Byzantine ruins of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We had lunch with a local Christian Palestinian family. We spent the night in the rural village of KUFR MALEK where we had conversations with our Palestinian host families, and learned more about their daily lives and challenges.

On the 19th of June, we hiked to WADI JAHIR, one of the most remote and beautiful valleys in the West Bank. We had lunch and rested at the AUJA Eco-Center.

We swam in the DEAD SEA, and later visited JERICHO – the oldest city in the world.

On the 21st of June, we visited the TENT OF NATIONS, near Bethlehem, where we did volunteer work on a farm.

Back in Bethlehem, we explored the Separation Wall with its famous graffiti, and talked with refugees from the Dheisha Camp.

The next day, we visited Battir, as part of our cultural exploration. Battir is a Palestinian village that was caught in the fighting of 1948 and ended up right on the Green Line that separates Israel from the West Bank. We walked the valley and explored the story of this village with a local guide.

On the 23rd, we drove south to Hebron, the city at the heart of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. We explored the old town, saw the Ibrahimi Mosque / Tomb of the Patriarchs, and through a local NGO, we learned about the partition of the town.

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Harvard Harvard

14 – 22 March 2015

A delegation of 96 graduate students from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government along with four organizers visited Palestine. The 8-day educational tour was organized by the Palestine Caucus at that school.

The graduate students came to Palestine to improve their understanding of the situation on the ground. Some 14 different nationalities were represented, including Americans, Canadians, Indians, Pakistanis, Australians, French and Nepalese.
Supported by the Siraj Center, the students met with Palestinian government officials, local and international organizations such as the UNOCHA, to learn more about what is being done for democracy and justice in Palestine, and to discuss the challenges that people face. The tour also took the students as far north as Nazareth, Haifa and Tel Aviv where they had the opportunity to meet with Israeli civil society organizations.

The group walked through the Old City in East Jerusalem, where they had the opportunity to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Seplechure, the Western Wall and see the diversity which exists within the Old City. In the Bethlehem area, the students visited the Aida Refugee Camp, learned about how the occupation is impacting the environment in Palestine, cycled in Jericho, swam in the Dead Sea, visited the Negev Desert, and watched how blown glass is made in Hebron.
Two nights before departure, a farewell dinner was organized by the Siraj Center at the Tent Restaurant in Beit Sahour, where a local dance group performed traditional dabkeh for the Harvard students as an expression of Palestinian tradition and salutation.

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Westtown High School Westtown High School

14 – 27 March 2015
The Siraj Center arranged for a delegation of 14 high-school students from Westtown School in the USA to travel through Palestine.


The group stayed with local Palestinian families, helping them to get a real sense of everyday life and culture in the West Bank.

They also visited the major towns of Palestine, and had the opportunity to discuss their observations and insights with both Palestinian and Israeli grassroots organizations and NGOs.

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Westtown High School Westtown High School

1 – 14 March 2014

Quotes from the participants of the Westtown Senior Project

“The narrow and labyrinth like streets in the Old City had merchants along the sides selling candy, fresh fruit, clothes,

and jewelry. We were led by our tour guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the Wailing Wall (the Western Wall).”

“Our tour guide, Jeff Halper is an Israeli Jew who belongs to the Israeli Commission Against Housing Demolitions, gave us his perspective about the conflict, some of which was completely opposite of the Dar Ramot family. Driving around East Jerusalem in the city of Silwan, which has been changed to the City of David, where the Palestinians live, opened our eyes to the stark difference between the living conditions of the Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Today (Wednesday) we went to Nazareth. We went to the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth Village museum, the Church of Multiplication (Jesus served bread and fish), Church of Primacy of St. Peter (Jesus sifted post resurrection), Capernum (located on Sea if Gaillee) and the Church of Beatitudes.”

“We woke up before 6 AM so that we could get a photo of the sun rising above the Dome of the Rock. Later that morning, we went to the Holocaust Museum, and then drove to Bethlehem in the West Bank for dinner and dancing with our host students! We also went shopping in the Old City where we had to bargain for a good price.”

“Our days have been packed with meetings, conversations, lectures, tours, and visits to holy sites and museums. I have been wanting to see Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, for a long time. I was thrilled to dip my toes in the Sea of Galilee; and standing in a circle outside the church on the Mount of the Beatitudes, and reading from the Sermon on the Mount on a beautiful sunny afternoon was simply breathtaking. I have been excited to see the Dome of the Rock and the churches in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Bethlehem. I have been struck by the walls: the Western Wall, the walls of churches, temples, and mosques…I have seen pilgrims touch or kiss the thresholds of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of the Nativity, and the Wailing Wall, and a Druze Temple with great devotion…I have seen the “Security Wall” covered with graffiti as it cuts across Palestinian neighborhoods and refugees camps. There are walls that divide and walls that connect.”

“One of our hosts said to me, ‘Many people come to visit the holy sites, but they don’t take the time to meet and connect with people. Beyond the stones of the church itself – what about the people who worship there – the living stones?’”

“Our Senior Project is affording us amazing opportunities to see the sites and the rugged beauty of the land, and to get to know and hear the stories of people who live and work and struggle and celebrate life and seek peace and justice here. I believe that education like this, in which we connect with and learn from people who live halfway around the world and on both sides of this enormously complex conflict, who sometimes even can’t or won’t talk to each other, can make a difference.”
“The next two and a half days were an immersion experience, and those conversations and interactions happened on both campuses of the school, as we attended classes, engaged with speakers, visited a local mosque and a play center in the Amari Refugee Camp supported by Quaker organizations, and played ‘football.’ The dialogues have been riveting as students from both schools have shared their experiences with passion, conviction, and open friendliness.”

“It’s been an amazing trip, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of it. Before the trip I barely knew anything about the conflict, but I have come out with a plethora of knowledge. Meeting people face to face was the most important aspect of the trip. It allowed me to put faces to the conflict. It is much different to meet people rather than hearing their stories through the media that sometimes skews the facts because of bias viewpoints.”

“Israel and Palestine are a land of conflicts, contrasts, and contradictions: stunning natural beauty, magnificent holy sites, rapid development, shocking poverty, intertwined and seemingly irreconcilable narratives and perspectives about the land, the occupation, human rights, and how to find common ground and move forward. The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the churches, have been inspiring to me, even more so the people, the “living stones.” We have been blessed to be among Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze, all of whom are striving to live up to their highest selves. The hospitality of the families we stayed with will always stay with me. In the quest for commonalities in spiritual traditions in this challenging time, perhaps hospitality and compassion could be a new metaphor.”

“I am deeply grateful for having been able to be part of this Project.”

“It has been the trip of a lifetime, one which I am sure will transform me forever.”

“I celebrate the ongoing, vibrant and durable friendship between our two schools, half a world apart, who share a commitment to peace and to creating global problem solvers and difference makers.”

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Boston College Boston College

December 2014 – January 2105
After studying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a human rights perspective, Boston College students make an annual immersion/study trip to the Holy Land over winter break.

The trip spends about half its time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv- Jaffa, Nazareth, Haifa, Sea of Galilee and half in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Old Birzeit, Taybeh and Hebron. It includes meetings with human rights activists working on issues such as land, water, cultural survival, prisoners, women’s and children’s, economic development, and health care rights.

Our speakers come from the public and private sectors and from the United Nations offices in the area. The tour also includes visits to the main holy sites: the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of the Nativity, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock Mosque, and the Baha’i hanging gardens. The tour guides are generally community leaders in their own right who give us a fascinating insight into local life. We also do home stays with local families, learn a little dabkeh dancing, meet students at local universities, and enjoy many “shop opportunities” for local ceramic, glass, embroidery and cosmetics products.

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Illinois University Illinois University

20 – 29 May 2015
An American delegation from Illinois University composed of 7 participants visited Palestine for nine days. The delegation started its day with a visit in Jerusalem where

 they had meetings to hear about the political situation. Later on they visited Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus and ended their tour in Jaffa.

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