JERUSALEM | Nine American Seeds visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories from July 21-August 4, 2011. The program, called Bayti, which means ‘our home’ in both Arabic and Hebrew, takes advantage of Seeds of Peace’s expansive network in the region to create two weeks of educational and experiential learning opportunities.
Building off of last year’s pilot program, Seeds visited historical sites, attended educational discussions and lectures, and participated in community service activities.
Israeli and Palestinian Graduate Seeds served as guides for the American delegation and planned the majority of the itinerary, allowing the American Seeds to see the region through the eyes of Israelis and Palestinians, rather than through the lens of a tourist.
The Seeds visited more than 16 Palestinian and Israeli towns. The itinerary included:
• Spending the day with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization in Nablus, where an American Seed has been leading programs for several years. They discussed life under military occupation in Nablus with youth and staff at the organization, toured the old city with local Seeds, and visited an olive oil soap factory.
• Engaging in dialogue with Palestinian-Israeli youth in Tira, led by Graduate Seed Bashar, who founded a community development organization focused on combating youth apathy and hopelessness there. Following their discussion, the Seeds met with a representative of one of the largest Palestinian political parties in the Israeli Knesset.
• Visiting the Haddad family village in Jenin, home to the first theme park in the West Bank, and the Jenin refugee camp with local Seeds.
• Meeting with Israeli Seed Adi at her office in Jerusalem, where she is a legal assistant to the first Palestinian-Israeli to serve on the Israeli Supreme Court.
• Learning about Israel’s social welfare programs through Graduate Seed Efrat’s work with a Tel Aviv’s sexual assault crisis center and programs targeting at-risk youth.
• Learning about a joint Israeli-Palestinian women’s economic empowerment program led by Graduate Seed Maram in Hebron. Her ‘Two Neighbors Project’ enables Israeli women to manufacture coffee sleeves that are then embroidered by Palestinian women from the villages of Susiya and Al-Tiwani.
• Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, Western Wall, and Museum on the Seam.
• Dining with a representative from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
• Visiting the Qalandia Refugee Camp and Ramallah’s Muqata.
• Spending the day in Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Nativity and Aida Refugee Camp with local Seeds.
• Exploring the nature reserve of Ein Gedi, the hilltop fortress of Masada, and floating in the Dead Sea.
• Visiting Al-Arrub Refugee Camp, home to Palestinian Seeds and educators, and the old city of Hebron.
• Discussing the Israeli education system with Israeli Seed Moran in Emek Israel and Beit Shaarim Megiddo.
• Visiting Israeli Seed Shuki in his Druze community in the North of Israel, along with the mayor of his village, for a discussion on the Druze religion and their place in Israeli society.
• Exploring Haifa, a mixed Arab and Jewish city, with local Seeds.