This is the part of a series of live dispatches from our Write On For Israel students during their trip to Israel. Write On For Israel is a leadership training program for high school students. You can find out more about the program here, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for live updates throughout the trip and here for the daily roundups.
Day two of the Write On Israel mission began at an Israeli-Arab elementary school in Baqa Al Garbiyye, an Israeli-Arab village near the Green Line. Here, we came to learn more about the challenges facing Arab minorities living in the Jewish State.
Upon entering the school, we discovered that the young students and teachers awaiting our arrival were even more excited than us. The program began with children singing songs about unity and togetherness, promoting the idea that we’re much more alike than different.
After the performance, the students, all of whom were 11 and 12 years old, gave presentations about the city, its cultural and historical significance and the role it played in their lives as Israeli-Arabs. We then spent time bonding with the students. To our surprise, despite the age, religious and racial differences between us, we shared many things in common, including our love for social trends like Tik Tok.
After meeting with the younger students, the mood intensified in preparation for the serious conversations we were about to have with Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians our own age. We spoke about topics ranging from their identities to the more controversial problems taking place in Israel, like border walls, paralysis in the peace process and the separation of Arab Palestinian families living on either side of the Green Line. While we obviously expected answers differing from our own, the conversations were eye-opening as we found insight into what it means to be a Muslim minority in Israel. We did hear disturbing statements such as “Israel has no right to exist,” or “Israel is 100 percent to blame for this situation.” However, the entire exchange was civil, pleasant and productive.
Next, we went to Eginsu Ashete Meyer’s house, an Ethiopian-Israeli who emigrated here when she was a child. She shared stories of how she and her family dreamed of moving to Jerusalem and once the opportunity to fulfill her dream arrived, she didn’t hesitate to answer the call. She described the many obstacles that she and her family had to overcome to succeed in leaving Ethiopia and emigrating to Israel.
While at Meyer’s home, we also met Lucy Ayoub, a journalist filming a documentary about multi-cultural homes in Israel. She too gave us a clear picture of her life and upbringing. Ayoub is a woman of many cultures, her father is Arab-Catholic and her mother is an Israeli-Jew who converted to Christianity. She spoke about how her own upbringing as a multi-cultural person in a multi-cultural home has shaped her beliefs and identity which will dictate how will she raise her children.
Upon reflection, we realized that there was a common progression of goals between the Israeli-Arabs and the Ethiopian woman we met. Previous generations of those groups focused more on coming to Israel and establishing themselves in communities. Now, the goal has shifted towards changing Israel for the betterment of all peoples.