During the last eight months, we have been planning and working on the development of a new group of the Interfaith Encounter Association. This is a group of students from Bethlehem University and from the Hebrew University.
We first had a few encounters for a core group of 6-7 people. During the months February-April 2010, this group met five times in different places: at the Everest Hotel located in Beit Jalla, in Talitha Qumi and in Jerusalem, in order to plan the first meetings of the larger group. During those meetings, we developed a close connection between the members of the core group. We became friends and meet regularly. We faced several problems while trying to create the group, but it made us feel more acutely the need for this group.
In March we had a preparation meeting, at the Hebrew university, in order to prevent technical problems during the first group's encounter. Unfortunately, the first meeting of the whole group was canceled, after a few days of fighting and riots in the area. The students of Bethlehem were facing objection to the idea of meeting Israelis and we decided to postpone the first meeting.
A month later, we called another meeting and set everything for it to succeed. When Nour, the Bethlehem coordinator, went to bring the permits from the Civil Administration, we faced a technical problem: For some reason, we got the permits for the wrong hours of the day. The Palestinians couldn’t make it to the meeting, so the Israelis met for a short time and talked about their expectations from the encounters.
The coordinators met each other once more, and finally we had the first meeting of the Bethlehem-Jerusalem group on May 23rd, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
After enjoying the refreshments, we introduced each other and had some warm-up games. Later on, the group split into two groups, and we decided about the topics we would like to discuss on the next meetings.
By the end of the encounter, we had a wonderful tour around Mount Scopus Campus. We saw the beautiful views of Jerusalem and the mounts of Jordan, and also visited the synagogue of the campus.
On the second time we also met at the HU in Jerusalem, on July 4th. Some of the Palestinian students couldn’t come, because their permissions were washed accidentally after being forgotten in the pants of the person who picked them up from the Civil Administration…
The topic was "our roots". Yif’at and Rahhal introduced a short presentation about the Palestinian history and about the Jewish history.
Afterwards, every person shared his or her family story.
The meeting was very moving and we were excited to share our stories and to listen to others’ stories.
After a few days the coordinators met again and had a nice walk along the road of Ein Lavan Spring (near Walaje)
Our third encounter took place in Bethlehem! This was the first time since the formation of IEA that we were able to obtain permits for Israelis to go into a Palestinian city and we were very excited about it! The report from this encounter will be circulated soon.
This new group was created thank to the work ofYael, Henri, Nour, Noy and Ward from the IEA.