Touring Israel together: March 31st -
April 7th, 2005
by Evelyn Böhmer-Laufer
A very special group of people boarded the El Al flight
from Vienna to Tel Aviv on this early Thursday morning: 10 teenagers from
the Carinthian Alpen-Adria-Gymnasium with their two teachers Elfriede
Kopeinig and Heidi Jausovec. A warm welcome awaited them at Ben Gurion
airport when they were picked up by 9 young Israeli Arabs from the Arab town
Kalanswa and their 8 Jewish friends from the nearby Ramot Hefer high school
in the Israeli Sharon area. They were accompanied by their Arab teachers
Hosnia Matani and Otman Hatit and the Jewish-Israeli project manager Nili
It was the second meeting of this group who had already spent ten days
together in Austria last summer. There, they had come to know each other and
had performed workshops dealing with the complexities of their respective
personal and group-identities, had tried to cope together with various
challenges and had experienced themselves as efficient problem-solvers and
as multi-talented young artists.
This second encounter was meant to explore the multiple historic, cultural
and religious roots of the ethnic groups involved even further and into more
depth. A bus took us from the airport to southern Negev desert, where we
were guests of the Bedouins in Kseyfe, a recognized Bedouin village, and Um
El-Hiran, an unrecognized Bedouin village. Sleeping in Bedouins' tents,
sharing meals served with no cutlery in large bowls for five, sitting on the
floor, participating at a political and culinary feast in a Bedouin village,
a camel-ride through the blossoming desert were some of the highlights of
the first two days and gave the group some insight into the way of life of
the Bedouins, as well as into the problems they encounter in their attempts
to find their place within the modern state of Israel to which they belong.
A few centuries seem to separate these people from modern Israeli society -
modest living conditions in aluminium huts partly without water and
electricity and a way of life built on patriarchate, polygamy and the strict
adherence to religious codes and rules.
Click to enlarge!
Passing the Negev with its colourful stony mountains and craters, the
fortress of Massada and the Dead Sea with a brief stop at the shore of Ein
Gedi, we pursued our way up to Jerusalem, this fantastic modern city with
its millennium-old history, its monuments and sites holy to all monotheistic
religions. Having to put on a kippah (a kepi) when entering a Jewish site,
having to take off your shoes before entering a mosque and knowing how to
behave in a Christian church turned out to be a challenge for most of the
adolescent, as well as adult, participants. Is it appropriate, is it allowed
obeying the rules of another group's religious site, or would this betray
your own set of beliefs and rules as dictated by your own faith and
religion? And what if you unknowingly and unwillingly hurt somebody's
feelings, because you simply do not know what is appropriate and what is
wrong in the religious context of this other person?
The visit to Jerusalem ended at Yad VaShem, monument and memorial of the
Holocaust, a sinister and uncanny place for every person of whatever origin
or religion. It was touching and impressive to see these young people
hugging and holding each other as they silently marched through the new
museum, as they stood shattered and silent in the children's hall or in
front of Janos Korczak's memorial.
next stop was Herzliah with an invitation to the Austrian Ambassador Dr.
Kurt Hengl whose wife was relieved at the good manners of her young
visitors. A real Viennese Jause was served to our delight, with
Apfelstrudel, Sachertorte and delicious Palatschinken. The Austrian pupils
presented the ambassador a drawing depicting Austrians efforts to weld Arabs
and Palestinians together.
The following days were marked by the amazing generosity and hospitality
common to all groups and people in Israel: The families of Kalanswa invited
all the kids in their houses for a day and a night, where they were hosted
in mixed groups of three to five by the families of the Arab participants.
After dinner, the kids decided on their own to spend part of the evening as
a whole group and met all together in the house of Allaa, one of the Arab
girls. During this time, the adult team was invited for an abundant dinner
at the house of the school's principal, Mr. Nihad Zmiro and his wife,
Nazarin to which other personalities of the Israeli-Arab world were invited
and where an interesting conversation on important political issues
developed. On the next day we were all invited to the headquarters of the
Arab Democratic Party in Nazareth, whose male as well as female, religious
as well as secular, Arab as well as Jewish members have opted to follow
Prime Minister Sharon's new political track and to give a chance to peace
and coexistence with the Jews. After a meeting with former parliament member
and present chairman of the party, Mr. Abd Al-Wahab Daraushe, and other
party members, we visited the Annunciation Church, strolled through the Shuk
(market), bought souvenirs and delicious baklava and finally headed for an
overnight-stay at Ben's house in the magnificent blossoming and green
Galilee, at Harashim observatory. Ben's parents received us all - 35 youths
and adults - to their house; a copious dinner and breakfast framed a night
on mattresses and sleeping beds and pampered us generously until we left on
the following day for our last stop in Israel, in a Kibbutz.
It was Eilam's mother who hosted us at Kibbutz Gaash, located at the
Mediterranean near Natanya; a fabulous dinner, prepared as a joint venture
by the mothers of three Jewish participants, was served to us in the garden
near Eilam's house; a Kibbutz member of Austrian, in fact Carinthian origin,
was there to relate to the Austrians' questions in perfect German; a walk to
the seashore led us there just in time to watch a fabulous sunset, before a
bonfire was lit to warm us on this last night before departure.
On the way, wherever we went, friendliness and generosity: Apart from free
meals and lodge offered to us by parents of Jewish as well as Arab
participants, road-vendors offered us free boxes full with strawberries and
fruit when Otman went off the bus and told them who we were. It was as if
the whole country with all its people had united to host and pamper us
through the 8 days of our stay.
The last day of the peacecamp was dedicated to group-psychoanalytical
workshops. This offered a good opportunity to discuss and elaborate on
topics which had come up during the week, issues related to people's
identity and (sometimes hurt) feelings, on the conflicts between people and
generations and on questions which have ever since been the focus of
interest of the young. This was the time to put emotions and feelings into
words, to ask questions and to experience one's own, specific and unique
being. Discussions dealt with the similarities and differences between
groups and people, and with each person's own and individual perception of
the world, a perception free of prejudice and preconception. We talked about
love and affection, about learning from experience and asked questions that
youth must ask and left unanswered until they can find their own, individual
A tearful parting at Ben Gurion airport at 3 o'clock in the morning left
many of the kids with broken, but full, hearts and with the feeling that
something very meaningful has happened, something which would stay with them
and which has really changed their vision of the world forever.
What it is like to be an Israeli Arab girl in Israel
by Reem Matani
first of all i am proud that i am an arabian girl, it is hard
to be an arabian and to live in israel or in another country that arabs are
not a lot.
first of all it is hard for us to live in a jewish country because we dont
take all of our lows and they dont respect us, for example when an arabian
woman goes to a center she has to give his identity and they look at all of
her things but the jewish woman they dont ask her any thing why??
second it is hard for us because we can't study what we want, we cant study
before we are 20 or 21 years old because arabs wont go to israeli army.
these are just two examples of the hard things that we faced there are a lot
of things but i cant write all of them.
about the positive things to be an israeli arabian are a lot and i just want
to talk about few positive things.
first this land is ours and we born here so we have to continue ourlife her
wth the jewish and we dont have to give up. second we will know the jewish
traditions and culture and we will have a back ground about them. third we
will be the best people in the world because we didnt left our homes and
land and we stayed in our lands so we didnt giv up.
israel is a good country it gives us a lot of things and it takes of us a
lot of things, for example we dont pay for studying at schools, our grandmas
live good life because israel gives them money so they dont have to work or
to do something like that.
at the end i just wanna say that i am proud that i am arabian and live in
israel because it is cool but i want to live in an arabian country called
palestine because i am arabian and i have to live in an arabian country that
have the same traditions that i have, that believe in God and something like
that but we cant do anything i hope that the situation here in israel wil
change to the best and i hope that we will live a good life.
Describe the peace camp which took place in Israel from
March 31 to April 7th. What were its main parts? Describe what you have
seen, experienced and learned.
I think that the peace camp in Israel was a great peace camp and I enjoyed
it very much. We had a lot of experiences and we learned a lot of new things
from our experience in the peace camp. First of all the peace camp was great
because the program was very good because Austrians saw all the main cities
of Israel they saw the north, the south, and the center of Israel and also
they saw the Jewish and the Arabs cities and they saw the traditional of
every one of them and they saw the Bidwen so they have a back ground about
the Bidwen, the Arab and the Jewish. For me it was very kind to meet these
kinds of people because I have new ideas about all of them, and I hope that
the situation will be better than now. About my experience it was a great
experience because Israel is a great country and exactly Jerusalem because
in Jerusalem there are three religions, we saw the churches, we saw masques,
and special holly places for Jewish, it says that we saw the three holly
places in Israel and we just saw them in Israel. I think that it is a great
experience and I learned a lot of things, first of all I have new back
ground and new information about Arab, Jewish, and Bidwen, also if I will
get abroad I can give the people back ground about my land. Now I think that
this experience gave all of us a special meaning and it is very meaningful
for every one of us. I don't know what to say but I enjoyed the trip a lot
and I learned a lot of useful things about my country and its people.
Describe your personal feelings and thoughts related to
this camp. What did you receive from the camp? What was missing or
Oh, it is a hard question; I can't talk about my real
feelings because they are in my heart. But I can tell you a little bit about
my feelings. I am very happy and satisfied from my self and from the
experience that I did because it is a hard experience because every one of
us had to show of his/her self and every one had to make good relationships
with others, and another think I am satisfied from my self because my feet
were hurt and I continued the peace camp in Israel and I didn't mind about
my feet, and now I am very happy because I have new friends and I like to be
in a contact with all of them, and also my relationship with my old friends
came better. I learned a lot of useful things, I show off my self and I had
good things. I don't know what to say but it is cool to had this feelings
and experience but there were something missed that we didn't talk a lot
about the main subject peace, we had to talk about the peace and every one
of us have to show off his/her main ideas that connected to peace. But I
never mind because I received a lot of things from the peace camp, like
friends, seeing places that I didn't see them before, making good
relationship between the 3 groups of the camp.
What was left open and unresolved and with what open
questions do you find your self now after the second peace camp?
There were a lot of left open questions that they are still
open for ever and we didn't solve them or talked about them. For example, we
were in the peace camp but not all of us know the real meaning of peace, and
between who we have to do peace. So, I think that we didn't solve the main
problem that we worked for solving it. I didn't was in the first peace camp
in Austria for this I don't know what happen there and about which subjects
they talked, but in Israel we didn't talk a lot about peace between Israel
and Palestine. So the question is: how can we make peace? And how can we
live without problems and frightening?
What would be your wishes, expectations and suggestions
for another peace camp?
I have a lot of suggestions for the next peace camp, but
before I write my suggestions I would like to join the peace camp in Austria
to talk about the main subject "peace". I hope that all the new participants
will enjoy the peace camp and I hope that they can change a little bit in
the situation in Israel, or to change a little bit in the relationship
Jewish and Arab to the best. My suggestions are to add another group from an
Arabian country, and for the teachers they have to choose good students to
participate in the peace camp that they can show off there ideas and be
helpful for the group. Another thing is that we are brothers and sisters for
this we don't have to look at the religions and the nationality; I think
that the new participants have to be one hand and from this point we can
build a new world by love, every one have to love the other and we will
build a new world stands on the love. I hope that every one will have fun
and enjoy, and I am sorry because I talked a lot but I love talking and I
hope that the things that I wrote are not boring and good luck for every
Reem Matani- Arabian participant