Presbyterian students join interfaith seminar

Givat Haviva and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations recently hosted a seminar, “Through Others' Eyes.” The Jewish Week covered the seminar. Caroline, one of two Presbyterian students from Wallingford Presbyterian Church who participated, reflects:

On August 3rd, we both attended a seminar at the United Nations, featuring a group of Israeli teenagers focused on the understanding of the conflicts occurring in that region of the world. On our way up to New York, we felt both nervous and entirely unknowledgeable about the subject we were about to discuss. As two young Americans, we understood that we had a certain distance from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict that had allowed us to put it into a box often labeled “bad things that happen in other places.” When we got to New York, we were introduced to a group of 16 teenagers, 8 of whom were Israeli Jews and 8 were Israeli Arabs. The group had been travelling together for 2 weeks in the United States, with one more week to go on their tour, with a program called “Through Others' Eyes,” that connects teenagers in Israel through the art of photography. Immediately we were struck by how close the group was, and through discussions with them, we learned that they had not known each other at all before joining “Through Others' Eyes,” despite the fact that many of them lived within 20 minutes of each other. During their trip, they had discovered that at the bottom of it all, they were just teenagers and they had the same goals, hang out with friends, play sports, shop, go to school, and plan for the future. This connection, we found as well, transcended any other difference, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we all shared a hopeful outlook for our own personal future. The students also spoke of their frustration with the international community at their inability to help to put a stop to the conflict that tears apart their country. One Israeli Arab student asked the liaison for the Department of Palestinian Rights why there is no representation in their department for Israeli Arabs. The answer, which did not entirely satisfy the students, was that Israeli Arabs are represented by Israel and therefore do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Palestinian Rights. Conflicts within Israel between Jews and Arabs, however, have led many of the students to believe that this representation is insufficient and that more needs to be done to help end the struggle. Above all, however, the program is about hope for the future. At the end of the seminar, Danah, an Israeli Arab student spoke to the group about her experience on the trip, how she made real relationships with Jews, something she had never thought she would do. She said she saw a great amount of hope for her country. If more students like her, and the 15 others on the trip, could see that there truly is no difference between the Jews and the Arabs, her generation may be able to help end the bitter conflict. We left the experience with new insight of the causes and effects of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but more importantly we gained knowledge of the people who are affected everyday by the fighting.

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