Posts tagged with Bedouin:
Those of you who follow my blog or my life closely know that I recently returned from a 2 week trip to Israel/Palestine. Just to get it out in the open, I call it “Israel/Palestine” for a number of reasons. Mostly it’s the fact that we traveled not only within Israel, but also to the West Bank, which isn’t technically Israel- though it’s controlled and occupied by the Israeli government. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but basically it’s populated by Palestinians and run by the Palestinian Authority. Also, it was Palestine for a long time, and many of its citizens or residents still consider it to be Palestine in their minds and hearts. I understand this sentiment, as I think if my hometown of Denver had its name changed overnight to a word and language I didn’t understand, it would probably remain Denver in my heart. I don’t mean it as a controversial political statement suggesting that I think it should go back to Palestine, or that the name Israel is invalid, but rather I mean it as a gesture of progress and peace. I hope that the further we move from debates over things like the composition of letters and imaginary land boundaries, the closer we can get to real discussions of people, children, rights, and love. Additionally, if I call it Israel, I hurt some people, and if I call it Palestine, I hurt some people- and I prefer not to hurt anyone. I’ve considered the notion of an eventual “Israelestine” (which I think sounds better than Palsreal)- but more about that in a later post.
So, first stop- the Negev Desert.
Sunrise over the Negev Mud Huts (our bedrooms)
We stayed at the Desert Shade Eco Lodge, run by our good Israeli friends Ziv and Maya. The Eco Lodge by nature serves only vegetarian food, with the exception of occasional fish. I believe this decision is not based primarily on animal welfare (though I could be wrong), but rather on the immense ecological damage that meat-consumption causes. Desert Shade itself serves many functions, and is often visited not by student groups but rather by families or adult groups seeking a peaceful, back-to-nature trip. For us, however, it served as a place to start the trip, get our internal clocks adjusted, spend time in the silence of the desert, and get to know one another. The students had spent the year in classes together already, but they didn’t really know one another outside of those few hours per week. Ziv organized a number of activities that helped bond the kids as well as helped them focus on their personal goals for the trip.
One afternoon was spent in the nearby town of Mitzpe Ramon, interviewing locals. As I stood nearby with my video camera, students asked these desert dwelling Israelis about their opinions on not only the larger Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also about more local issues, such as the relations between Jewish Israeli Negev-ites (I made that word up) and the nearby Arab Bedouins. The Bedouins are a nomadic people who, due to the encroaching of modern civilization and the expansion of Israeli cities, have had to drastically change their ancient lifestyle and establish more permanent villages. This causes all kinds of problems for the Bedouins, such as limited access to water, unwanted advice from the government (our Bedouin friend Solmon told us a very entertaining story about his family’s first experiments with prepackaged, pre-ground coffee), and the inevitable decisions about which traditions to keep and which traditions to compromise.
Adorable Bedouin Boy
Solmon telling us about his life, in the comfort of his home tent
Rather than delve into the responses of the interviewees, I mostly want to point out how maturely the students lead these conversations. One key buzz-phrase in SIPP’s organization is “compassionate listening”- an essential skill for students to develop before embarking on this trip. Rather than interject with their personal opinions (I nervously held my breath when one man stated factually that there is no need for humanitarian aid in Gaza**, and that they are “fine”- however, the kids held it together and stayed silent), the students just kept on giving one of the greatest and most rare gifts available- listening. It’s such a powerful, underrated tool, and I think that if more honest conversations like this could take place between Israelis and Palestinians, and if people could check their defenses at the door, we could actually make a real dent in this situation.
One person of note that I, for my own biased reasons, am compelled to share with you was a member of a group referred to as “The Black Hebrews”. This is a group of Jewish African-(originally)Americans who in the 1960s, decided to leave their homes in Chicago and return to what they consider their natural homeland, Israel. There has been quite a bit of strife between these people and the government, but all that aside, what I loved about them was their veganism.
This group believes that the true laws of Judaism demand a life free of animal cruelty. I’ve actually heard that a lot (VERY good article about it here, “Chicken Soup or the Jewish Soul?”, by my love Jonathan Safran Foer), so I found it inspirational that an entire sect has decided to live this way. I forget this guy’s name, but he made me a delicious smoothie, and for that I love him.
After we said our goodbyes to Ziv, his amazing family, their beautiful horses, the breath-taking landscape, and the kind American volunteers, we hopped on our bus and headed for our next destination- Bethlehem…
**This quote didn’t really fit into the body of my post but I enjoy it and feel it’s worth sharing. From the ever-wise, ever-witty, ever-smarter-than-everyone-else Jon Stewart:
"You know, whatever you may think of the respective leaderships, the Israelis or Hamas, whatever Gods you pray to or whatever direction you pray to them in, if you can’t even look at Gaza, and agree that there is suffering there that needs to be alleviated, no matter who’s to blame for it, then your heart is so dead tourists flock there to float on their backs in it."