JERUSALEM | Fourteen American Seeds participated in the fourth “Bayti” trip to Israel and Palestine, spending two weeks in June and July meeting with their Seed peers on both sides of the Green Line and learning about the conflict first hand.
Bayti, which means “My home” in both Arabic and Hebrew, is an intense, immersive experience designed to provide American Seeds a deeper understanding of the many narratives of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, exposing them to locations, people, and perspectives not typically available to tourists.
The Seeds also come away with a better understanding US involvement in the region and space to reflect on how they would like to engage with it in the future.
This year, the group met with dozens of Israeli and Palestinian Seeds involved in human rights, politics, and community-organizing across Israel and the West Bank, as well as heads of peace organizations, representatives of settler groups, and US diplomats.
Other highlights included a multinarrative tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, meetings with Knesset members, and visits to Hebron, Jaffa, Sderot, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, Nablus, Bethlehem, Haifa, and Neve Shalom/Wahat Salaam, an intentional community of Jews and Palestinians.
Seeds participated in dialogue sessions throughout the experience, allowing them to process everything they were seeing and work through a difficult range of emotions and reactions.
Visits to the Israel Holocaust Museum and the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh triggered the deepest emotions.
“Yad Vashem struck us with endless emotional jabs,” wrote one Seed. “We walked silently, room after room, as photographs of bulldozers heaving dead Jewish children, display cases full of empty Jewish shoes and films of Holocaust survivors telling their personal horror stories beat us down, blow after blow.”
“Walking outside, there wasn’t really anything to say. Israel as a necessary home for Jews seemed to make sense.”
In Nabi Saleh, the site of weekly protests by villagers against the confiscation of land by Jewish settlements, Seeds heard from residents about the realities of living under military occupation.
“With this trip, my approach to the conflict has slowly evolved,” wrote one participant. “At Camp, we spend a significant portion of our time debating the historical right of either the Israelis or the Palestinians to this land. Here is perhaps the more salient question: is the present reality of Palestinian life under occupation morally justifiable or not? And further, if it isn’t, what are we going to do about it?”
“I reflect more and more on the pain that this conflict has inflicted on the people of this land, regardless of identity and nationality,” said another participant. “I walk away from today buried in even more of the complexity and sadness of this conflict.”
2015 BAYTI TRIP PHOTOS