Tag Archives: Israel/Palestine

Israel/Palestine March 14: Day 6

The main part of our day was spent cleaning up trash at a local park in Nablus. It was very hot and sunny today so most people weren’t too excited about it, but the job needed to be done. Everyone put on their gloves, grabbed a trash bag, and started to clean.

The little kids playing at the park were mesmerized by our presence. Swarms of girls came up to us and asked us our names and ages. The language barrier made it difficult to communicate but the girls managed to understand what I was trying to say (at least I think they did). Many began helping us clean up trash and their faces lit up each time they put a piece of trash in my bag and heard me thank them in Arabic. One girl even tried giving me money for what I was doing.

Later we traveled to a coexistence community for Arabs and Jews. We got a tour of the village and we had a chance to hear more about the place from a man who works and lives there. The main goal is to build mutual acceptance, respect, and cooperation between the two peoples. The children in the community and the surrounding villages get a wonderful opportunity in the sense that they learn in both Hebrew and Arabic. This means they grow up bilingual, as well as with a mindset that peace can happen in the future.

– Jackie

PS: Today was Yaseen’s 18th birthday!

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Mississippi March 13: Our Second Day

The memories of our wonderful second day are locked in forever.  The day started with a visit from Veronica and Elliot, the homeowners of the Choctaw St. house, where Keita, Eli, Justin, Allie, Adam, Jake and Kyle are working.  I won’t go into the whole story, because I am hopeful that one of our students will write about it in a blog post soon (once we get our wifi situation worked out) but she certainly has had really challenging experiences, which she has gotten through with great amounts of faith and a love of God and humanity.  Elliot, her Hawaiian born and raised husband, was much less loquacious but equally kind and friendly.

After hearing from them, we were excited to get to the houses to work.  I took Nadia, Le, Taylor, Ethan, Emily, and Victor to the house on 8th Street where we have been working and we fully turned that blue house white.  In the upcoming days, our task is to turn the white house brown.  We will post pictures of the process, and pictures will come soon of the Choctaw St. house as well.  We topped off a hard day of work with a potluck dinner with Habitat for Humanity homeowners (including Veronica and members of her family) and some other Habitat volunteers. All in all, a great day.

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Israel/Palestine March 12: Right to Education

Today, two girls from Friends Boys School gave a presentation about their club called “Right to Education.” This club helped donate supplies for students in the Jordan Valley. It was disheartening to hear about how the children have to walk an hour plus to school everyday where they have limited supplies. After, we were able to have a Q & A session with them and other FBS students. We had many of our questions about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict answered through several stories that blew my mind. Not only did we learn more about the history of this conflict, but we learned about the present day-to-day problems too.

One of the problems that affects some of the FBS students that live in Jerusalem is that they have to pass through the check point into Palestine. One of the students talked about how there was a time where one of their friends had to miss school because the check point was closed due to a holiday. Out of the many stories that we have heard, there were a few that were really touching. I would have never been able to know the stories with out going on this trip. This trip has been a great experience so far and I cannot wait for the rest that I will be able to experience and learn.


P.S – We won the soccer game today!

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Israel/Palestine March 11: Attending Classes

Today, I went to school with my host sister and visited her first class, IB Business and Management. Sitting in the classroom was quite interesting because I learned how different the students are from us at George School.

We then listened to a lecture by Omar Barghouti about BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a campaign that promotes non-violent resistance against Israel’s occupation in Palestine. The presentation was very informative and definitely widened my knowledge about the relationship between the two countries, about the belief of Palestinians, their courage to resist, and about different ways of resisting. My favorite is definitely the culture resistance with dances and performances.

The visit to Al-Amari refugee camp allowed us to learn of the poor living conditions of Palestinians who weren’t allowed to go back to Palestine. Roads (which seemed to me more like pavements) got smaller and smaller as we walked but they somehow still led to many houses, with a lack of sunlight. We then visited a play center that was started by Quakers for 5 year-old children. The class we visited had about 40 children. We were greeted with songs that we didn’t understand, however, we still noticed the excitement and happiness in their smiles.

The children were then given notebooks and crayons so we could draw with them. I approached two little girls. One was really happy with the crayons and started to draw butterflies right away in her notebook. The other hesitated and looked through the colors that she had. I drew a flower in her notebook to ask her to draw but she started to color in the flowers. This miscommunication made it easier for us to understand each other, because she liked to color my pictures. There were many times when the girl looked up at me and started speaking Arabic. I stood there smiling, hoping that I could use it to substitute for my lack of understanding of Arabic. Before we left, I got to take pictures of the girls and received high-fives from both.

We finished our afternoon with working in the garden, removing the weeds so the school could plant organic food, and spent time with our host family.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Ramallah. We will have a farewell soccer match that everybody is excited about. Jackie, Emily, Raphi, Jacki and I don’t know how to play soccer but are expected to…we will see how it goes.

Bye! Yen Anh Nguyen

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Israel/Palestine March 10: Early Wake Up

Today we woke up around 4:30 a.m. to see the sunrise from the rooftop of our Austrian Hospice. Unfortunately we were early by about an hour and wasted precious sleep time as we awaited the sun to come up over the beautiful city of Jerusalem.
After this the group attended breakfast at the hospice and later traveled by bus to Ramallah, Palestine. As we drove through Jerusalem to Ramallah, Chip began to tell everyone about some of the historical landmarks as we passed them and even showed us where he had lived during the duration of his time in Israel.
As we got closer and closer to Ramallah, I began to get more and more nervous about what was going to happen upon arrival and what my host family was going to be like.
But before this we had a meeting for worship with Westtown. After dropping our bags at Rammalah Friends School we all darted over to the meetinghouse, following the steadfast Polly Lodge. The meeting for worship was riveting. Hearing some of the stories that the members of the community and schools shared were powerful and extremely moving.
After this we listened to a speaker at the  meetinghouse, a very interesting woman, who told us of her hardships in Palestine and the problems that were being caused due to the opposing government of Israel. Although I was half asleep from jetlag I forced myself to stay awake and listen to what this woman had to say. Her stories and view on things were firm and extremely interesting and I thought it helpful to get a view on things from a Palestinian’s point of view.
After this we headed back to the school for lunch and another speaker, who again, was extremely intersting. Each speaker, no matter how different their stories were, had one thing in common: oppression from the Isreali government. I found this fascinating and outstandingly intersting due to the fact that one group of people could dictate and control another group in such a way.
Following a long question and answer session from this speaker, it was time to meet our host families. We were all anxious and nervous to find out who we had, what he or she was like, and if we would get along with one another. Thankfully and impressively each student gelled well with the host kids and instant connections were made. We had three hours to spend with our host families before the dance recital at the cultural center.
The dance performance was outstanding. The combination of another culture’s dance and the new experiences witnessed by myself was incredible and indescribable. I instantly felt more welcome having attended that performance.
After that we were on our own for the night, where most of us went back to the houses and crashed due to jetlag and a long day. We’ll be back tomorrow with more news and events.
-Israel/Palestine 2013
Noah Kimelheim

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Israel/Palestine March 9: We Have Arrived!

Our flight was uneventful, but long.  Delta had the best entertainment system I have seen yet.  Not only did every passenger have a personal screen, there was a huge selection of movies, including Lincoln, Argo, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, as well as TV shows, games, music, and the good old standard of “your flight in progress.” I think we all made it through the night unscathed.  I still find the act of flying to be miraculous and to wake up on the other side of the world to be amazing.

The weather in Tel Aviv was warm and breezy. The group split in half and took two separate shuttles to get to Jerusalem.  The first shuttle passed through Mea Sharim, the ultra orthodox section of town, and witnessed a demonstration in progress.  Ultra orthodox Jews were protesting the use of automobiles on Shabbat.  Jacki’s description of the event is very articulate.

The second shuttle took a different route through the West Bank. The road passed by several Palestinian villages where we could see evidence of olive groves and terracing of the hillsides. We also saw many views of the separation fence/wall. At some points it was a fence and at other times a huge concrete wall.  Our passing through the checkpoint out of the West Bank was a non-event as the soldiers just smiled and waved us through.

Our driver pointed out wreckage along the roadside from the ’67 war and said he has fought in that war.  He indicated that he had suffered from some paralysis in his left arm from the war and also some injuries to his face.  He also pointed out a prison outside of Ramallah, where in his words, “terrorists are sent.”  We went through an Israeli community north of Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze’ev to drop off one of the passengers in the shuttle.  Yen Anh noted how small, but organized the housing units seemed to be.  She found the styling to be aesthetically pleasing.

Then we arrived to Damascus Gate to enter the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Not only was it chilly, the place  was jammed with cars and pedestrians, so we needed to move quickly.  It was exciting to see the wide eyes of the students as we navigated the hustle and bustle of the area.  Yaseen noticed how similar this part of the city was to parts of Cairo.  Fnally we checked into the Austrian Hospice.

Kids are in nice clean dorm rooms, with several sets of bunk beds in a large room.  The place is in the heart of the Old City and the view from the roof is breathtaking.

AH View

Next door there is the minaret of the mosque, plus three other minarets in view.  Several church steeples and domes can be seen as well as some castle-like towers in the distance (perhaps Herod’s Tower or the Tower of David at the Citadel). The Dome of the Rock appears to be on our doorstep.  As the crow flies, it is probably 400 meters from us,  but when we visit we”ll need plenty of time to following the snaking pathway through the city and then to wait in line to get up to the plaza.  From the roof one notices that the tops of buildings have all types of shapes, rounded, square, balconied.  You get the sense that this city has grown to use every inch of available space. I look forward to seeing the same view in the morning light.

After checking in, we went out to dinner and then walked through the Old City to the Jewish Quarter.  We headed down to the Western Wall and spent some time reflecting and in some cases praying at the wall.  Some students left messages in the wall and others just observed.  It was a peaceful experience.

We found our way back through the narrow tunnels and alley ways of the Old City to crash into bed for a big day tomorrow.


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Israel/Palestine March 9: Arriving in Jerusalem

A large taxi bus took ten of us from the airport in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The Old City. As I looked out the window I saw the city turn to lush, green areas, then back to city. Everything looked different than home, but nothing seemed so shocking. I liked looking out at seeing signs in Arabic and Hebrew, and comparing the architecture to what I’ve seen around the world and at home. We drove for about thirty minutes, and still, nothing seemed that different. I wasn’t feeling the culture shock I imagined I would. I wondered if I was naive or ignorant to assume that Israel would be so drastically different.

As we began to enter Jerusalem, I saw a large group of very traditional Jews. Still, not that different from home. (Closer to Brooklyn than Philadelphia, maybe, but not too odd a sight to see!)

And then I realized they were yelling. Yelling? On the sabbath? I don’t speak Hebrew, so I couldn’t make out most of what was being said.

However, Chip pointed out that some were chanting, “Shabbas,” a reminder that today was God’s day, a day of rest. The Torah says it is forbidden to do any work or create fire, and driving or riding in a car is perceived as both.

By driving through their neighborhood, we were being incredibly disrespectful to them and their beliefs. Our driver didn’t seem to care, with his one goal being to get us to our destination as soon as possible. In my life, I have been taught to respect the ideas and beliefs of others, but never in a way that presented itself so blatantly. As we drove through the crowd of people, they continued to yell, and I got a very uneasy feeling. I felt like I was doing something wrong, essentially telling this group of people that I didn’t respect them. I made eye contact with a young boy as we passed by, and I hoped he could somehow read the guilt I was experiencing.

I look forward to learning more about the religious and cultural beliefs of the people here and on our trip, and I hope we can explore ways to deal with situations like this in the future.

Jacki Applebaum

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Israel/Palestine March 9: Arrived Safely

Friends, just a quick note to let you know that we had a smooth flight and an uneventful entry into Israel via Ben Gurion Airport.

We are now safely arrived in the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem.  The group is tired but everyone appears healthy and in good spirits. (See photo below.)

Austrian Hospice

I’ll leave it to a student blog poster to give you further details of our flight and the trip into Jerusalem and the Old City.

Best, CP

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Israel/Palestine March 8: At the Airport

Our group is safely ensconsed at gate 6 of terminal 3 at Kennedy Airport.  Thanks to the assistance of our trusty van drivers Michel LoStrocco and Corey McNaught we arrived well ahead of schedule for our 9 pm flight to Tel Aviv.  We fed the students, and now the group is hunkered down at the gate, awaiting boarding.  While it will likely prove difficult, our hope is that each member of the group will post at least once on the trip, and that someone will post at least once every day.


Although it snowed several inches today our trip to the airport was uneventful.  The most exciting event so far is that I saw a pigeon go flying down the hall, and it almost flew right into the heads of Emily, Chandler and Jackie K.  According to the girls, Chandler hurriedly ducked behind them and Emily fled the scene.


The theme of this blog post is “preflight thoughts:”


Hassan says: “Excitement.” Raphi says:  “Excited and tired.” Chandler says: “I want to know when they’re going to feed us,” even though he just ate Emily Dunbar says:  “I better win this game of Life.” Yen Anh, who is doing economics homework even though term 2 just ended, says: “It just hit me that we’re all going to Israel and I’m excited.” Jackie Knoll says, “I hope there are no crying babies on the plane.” Jacki says: “I’m really full, I can’t believe I spent five dollars on licorice, and I hope I can sleep on the plane.” Henry says: “Ginger snaps.” Rumzi says: “Can we board the plane last?” Polly wonders: “Why is boarding scheduled 1:45 hours before departure?”


The rest of the group is hanging out at another gate.


I hear a baby crying really loudly.  We’re boarding.


Gotta go.



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