14 American Seeds meet with Palestinian, Israeli peers on Bayti trip
JERUSALEM | For many American Seeds, dialogue sessions at Camp in Maine are the first exposure to the lives of Israelis and Palestinians behind the news headlines. Fourteen of these Seeds were able to further deepen their understanding of the region and its complexities through “Bayti”, a Seeds of Peace educational trip in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Packed into the two-week trip in July were visits to major cities in Israel and in the West Bank, and a series of meetings exposing them to issues and experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to as tourists.
Highlights of the trip included a multiple-narrative tour of the Old City of Jerusalem; meetings with Graduate Seeds involved in women’s rights, immigration policy, businesses, and community youth organizations; a tour of the Knesset and meetings with elected members from different political parties; a visit to Palestinian refugee camps near Hebron and in Jenin, and a trip to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on the border with Gaza.
Through conversations with Graduate Seeds active in public life, politicians, activists, and other youth, the Seeds came to understand the complexities and nuances of conflict both within and between Israeli and Palestinian communities.
“We saw raw, untainted human experience,” said Hayley, a 2011 Seed who was on the trip. “We saw things that can’t be described in dialogue. The people we spoke to painted a very three dimensional picture of life there; I feel like I now understand the psychological impacts of living in the region.”
Seeds also spent time in Haifa and its Baha’i Gardens; Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity; old city Jaffa; Jericho and the Dead Sea; Ramallah; Nabi Saleh, the site of weekly protests against settlement expansion; and Neve Shalom/Wahat Salaam, a cooperative intentional community of Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel located outside Jerusalem.
Central to Bayti were daily debrief sessions in which the Seeds and their trip leaders discussed their thoughts and feelings about everything they were experiencing. These served as spaces for intentional thinking and processing of what the Seeds saw, heard, and felt as they moved through a challenging and intense region. The Seeds were also able to meet with their friends from Camp and experience the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
This was the third and largest edition of Bayti, a term which means ‘my home’ in both Arabic and Hebrew.
2013 BAYTI PHOTOS