With the vision of creating a harmonious, inclusive and democratic Australian society, a new group calling themselves “Give Peace a Chance” went on a study tour of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
In conjunction with Breaking Bread Journeys, a joint Israeli-Palestinian tour project, a group of 20 people participated in a study tour of Israeli and Palestinian areas.
The group was made up of Christian, Jewish and secular people, as well as members from the LGBTQ communities. The focus of the tour was to hear human stories at a grassroots level – ordinary people reaching for each other and taking charge where leaders often fail.
Under the watchful eyes of a Palestinian Muslim guide, the tour lasted eight days.
They spent the first three nights in East Jerusalem where various speakers came to them, and then they visited the old city where they went for a Shabbat dinner.
After spending a night in Jericho they went to the Jordan River and met Mahmud from Eco Peace. A fabulous night was experienced in Ramallah where they met with PA officials and visited Rawabi, an intentional city built on the vision of innovator, and developer Bashar Masri whom they met.
Then it was off for three nights in Tel Aviv where they went to the Israeli Innovation Centre, the Kuchinate School and the Rainbow Tour. There they met with LGBTQ leaders learning about their rights and communities in both Israel and Palestine.
They met with Chen (Israeli) and Sam (Palestinian) from Ha Aguda, which is an LGBTQ NGO working for LGBTQ rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. And they also met Alison Kaplan, a Eurovision host.
The tour included a very interesting visit to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. They took in an inspirational model school, Bialik Rogozin School, affording respect, offering opportunity and a home through education to refugee and immigrant children. It was at this point that they made contact with the Kuchinate African Refugee Women’s Collective that provides a home, work and connections for refugee women.
The group had a wide variety of experiences and met with a diversity of speakers. Throughout the experience, they challenged their own pre-conceived ideas about the conflict, about Israel, about Palestine, and also about themselves.
This diverse group met with people-to-people peace initiatives, such as Combatants for Peace, Parent’s Circle, Women Wage Peace and Eco Peace, all of which included both Israelis and Palestinians working together, sharing their stories and making a difference.
They had great dialogue with a number of Jewish and Arabic thinkers, writers and educators, including Yossi Klein Halevi, Gil Hoffman, Dr Rachel Korazim, plus Palestinian Authority Ministers including the Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr.
And so the interesting meetings went on: They met with Anna (Israeli USer) and Marwan (Palestinian) from Palestinian Internship Program, providing paid internships to Palestinian graduates specialising in IT and technology.
They met with Hani Alami from Coolnet, which is a start-up encouraging Palestinians to stay in Jerusalem and not move to Ramallah and the diaspora.
They were introduced to Nora Kort from the Wujoud Centre in Jerusalem for a meal – she has preserved Palestinian artefacts from her family and others after losing their property in 1948.
The group met up in Sydney on their return. The general consensus was for their relationship to continue and for the commitment of giving peace a chance to always move forward.