Soon I'll begin to log and review the many hours of footage from the trip. In the mean time, I'm reviewing it all in my mind and continue to recall and discover the issues, ironies, and realities that unfolded.
The other two programs were postponed due to tensions and fears after two incidents of violence. The second program in Jerusalem was scheduled to begin the day after the attack at the Synagogue. The Palestinian school feared retaliation and for the safety of their students traveling into the heart of the city. The reality made this more than a headline to me.
We met with the Jewish students at their school to discuss the events of the day and to explain the MiC program. I interviewed some of the students and was moved by the intensity of their stories.
Even though their individual and collective perspectives were mixed, and often even confusing, it seems they are looking forward to participating when the program is rescheduled. I envision this to be one of the more dynamic pairings.
The other postponed program was in Netanya, where a week earlier a man's car was set on fire as he entered the Palestinian area. The man was rescued but tensions remained high.
We made every attempt over the course of a week to relocate both days of the program to a neutral territory, but ultimately decided to postpone as the spirit and method of our program was being compromised by the alterations. This was a hard decision that didn't go smoothly.
On our last day we traveled to Jaffe for a much anticipated reunion with our delegates. When we arrived 2 weeks ago, everyone had confirmed attendance. One by one and two by two, they informed me they wouldn't make it. Some offered reasons… family illness, need to study, no transportation, etc. Just as I was about to order dinner for the few who I thought were still coming, I got the call that they weren't. In truth, I believe there were other reasons that they didn't want to share. I want to think it was more about their sense of safety traveling and not a change in their perspective on coexistence, but who can say for sure? In most cases it was their parents who made the decision. I had so wanted to talk to and film their thoughts and perspectives on the current escalation of tensions, as well as to hear their experiences after returning home. Follow-up is an important part of our work and we will continue to develop ways to stay in touch with all of them and to foster ways for them to connect with one another. Needless to say everyone involved in the cancellations was incredibly disappointed and we do intend to reschedule the programs to take place with our facilitators in Israel.
We were able to expand our network of MiC supporters, including teachers, principals, and potential facilitators during this tour, through direct contact, word of mouth, and via our social media posting. This is very significant for Music In Common, as we intend to broaden and expand our programming throughout the year with a team of Jewish and Arab partners who can work side by side to initiate and implement activities in the region. We will be working diligently here in the U.S. to train and develop this team in Israel so that programming and follow-up can take place. In our commitment to these goals, fundraising for our Israel programs is critical and will be ongoing. With a strong network in the country, our potential for sustainable efforts becomes more feasible.
Tensions throughout the trip were palpable. We remained acutely aware of relatively small incidents reported, reactions and responses by both sides, and of course always aware of our location and surroundings. Navigating the streets and highways in the country is tricky at best, but we made our way around without any major detours, enjoying the diverse beauty of the countryside and cities and meeting many people along the way. Though we weren't able to bring students to Beit Hanina, a school in East Jerusalem, Justin and I visited, toured, and interviewed the principal at the school. Then, we walked and shopped in the bustling town. I personally really enjoyed the familiar Arab atmosphere.
We took advantage of the unexpected down time to enjoy the magnificent Mediterranean Sunset and the night scenes of Jaffe and Tel Aviv. It was also a time to reflect on the events of the past 2 weeks and the outcomes of what happened and what didn't happen.
Even with all the twists and turns, the most prominent vibe of the trip reflects the theme we proposed to the students for their songs, "We Refuse To Be Enemies". In general every student, teacher, and person we spoke to echoed this in one way or another. As the world watches from afar via headlines, life in Israel continues on day to day. People go to work, go to school, shop, enjoy the arts, and travel about. At times, it was hard to believe their was anything noteworthy going on. In some places, it is impossible to identify between Arabs and Jews. We heard many stories about police and IDF screening people on the train, on the streets, and at the borders, both Arabs and Jews. Everyone is suspect and to me, that reality is a very sad reflection on humanity.
What I take away more than anything is that when we look closely, individuals are intent on co-existing and that for better or worse, We Are All In This Together. From my perspective, the We includes ourselves and others... All. My hope is that somehow this concept will flow upstream and change will happen. Maybe at some level it already is. I want to believe it.
My task now is to sift out the dramatic complexities to reveal what actually happens during the MiC process. The shifts in attitude, understanding, expectations, and perceptions are real and tangible every single time. These students are modeling a process toward peace, whether they recognize it or not. That has lasting value in that the experience cannot be unexperienced. This is hopeful and inspiring. For all the exhaustion, stress, and uncertainties I know that we accomplished our goals. The fact we did so amid such challenging circumstances is precisely why we are there and why this work is so relevant.
We are hosting an information session about the February tour in Israel and Palestine with students on Monday November 24th from 5:30-7PM at the Mason Library in Great Barrington. More information see this article.
As always, you can see updates, photos, and videos from the tour on our Facebook Page.
Your support in the form of donations, volunteering, in-kind services, promoting, and networking are welcomed and encouraged. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.
In Gratitude ~ L
In addition to sharing random musings, Beansprouts Blog will offer ideas, tips, strategies, and reflections on multimedia production, social media, and other insights.