A Letter to MASA about the Importance of the VillageThursday 19 September 2013, by
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September 15, 2013
Dear MASA committee,
After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, I knew I needed to experience Israel before moving on to graduate school and the "real world." I applied for Israel Teaching Fellows through MASA and in August, my journey began.
The ten months I spent volunteering in Israel were really incomparable to any other time in my life, even studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I learned so much about myself, my culture, my people and my home. Leaving Israel was definitely the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and I still sometimes wonder if it was the right one...luckily I can always go back.
But during my time in Israel throughout all the weekend seminars, group meetings, and various other learning experiences, I felt like something was missing.
During one of the final seminars, we visited a village called Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam for an hour-long informational speech from a Jewish-Israeli man and a Arab-Palestinian/Israeli woman that lived and worked in this village. As soon as the hour was over, I was yearning for more information and wanted to get involved. I asked Rita, the Palestinian woman that spoke to us if I could come back. She smiled, and gave me her email. She set me up with a family, and after my MASA program was over in June, I came to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam for two days to stay with them, learn about the village and hear some perspectives we aren’t exposed to in MASA programs.
I cannot even begin to delve into my amazing experience at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam in this short letter, but what I do want to do is make a difference in MASA programs. I think it is of utmost importance that participants on MASA programs stay at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam to learn about the peace-making process, various opinions, and how a community with such a deep conflict can strive to survive within a country that doesn’t necessarily support it, (not to mention the healing power I believe this village has).
I came to the village with my own opinions but with an open mind, and I learned so much. It is so important to give the "others", the "enemy" (as they are often called) a face. It seems such a simple lesson and so inherent, yet we are all just humans, and unfortunately we need to be reminded of this from time to time. The media creates biased images of the "other" and whether we want to or not, we begin hating each other without really knowing why. I know it is hard to believe, but in just two days at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, I was reminded we are all humans, we all deserve respect and to live dignified lives.
I write you this letter to ask you to consider including Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam as a regular part of your programs. If we are to come visit Israel, learn about its culture and its history, then we should also learn about the future and what the possible outcomes are for the country, especially if we are to "live like a local." We have to remember, Jews are not the only inhabitants of Israel and co-existence is vital for a peaceful future. If a village such as Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is able to survive during such intense times, then we are to have at least one thing for the future: hope.
Thank you for your time,
Former Israel Teaching Fellows Participant
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