Last week, a group of ten British students and UJS team members returned from a week-long trip to Israel and Palestine.Highlights of the trip included meeting Tal Shalev, a journalist who has been writing about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for many years;
she offered a unique insight into his leadership, and visiting the residence of David Quarrey, the British Ambassador to Israel, to discuss the relationship between Israel and the UK. (right)
The group also enjoyed a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, discovering how and why the region became so central to so many of the world’s religions, and examining the controversies that have sparked from this.
The group was fascinated to explore the role of religion in Israeli society. There were lots of discussions about the way in which religion impacts everyday life in Israel, affecting marriage, divorce, conversion and more; the group debated the role of the Israeli Rabbinate on several occasions. This was particularly topical considering recent controversies about access to prayer space at the Kotel (Western Wall.)
A border tour, reaching Israel’s borders with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza in a day, allowed the group to consider external threats to Israel. Learning about Hezbollah, Hamas, the Syrian conflict and the wider context in the Middle East enabled the group to gain wider perspective on the conflict and how Israel features within the broader, more complex picture of the Middle East today.
The group also spent time in Ramallah, visiting the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Miki Vyse, who is currently studying for a Masters in Public Policy and Management at York University, said after the trip:
‘In the UK, it is far too often displayed that the conflict and its history are simple, black and white - but it is far from it. The way that we discuss it in Universities, Trade Unions and social media needs to change. Speaking with Israelis, Arab Israelis and Palestinians this week has taught me so much. […] I'm glad I've been to learn this week, I'm glad I've spoken to and seen the things I have because it's opened my eyes to a new narrative that we just don't discuss in England.’
Liron Velleman, Campaigns Manager who led the trip, said:
‘This year’s Manhigut trip was an excellent one. The students who participated all engaged in intelligent, thoughtful discussions and debates, provoked by the fantastic range of speakers that we heard from and sites that we visited. The group are returning to campus equipped with the knowledge and skills to further their involvement in conversations about Israel, Palestine and the conflict, enhanced by the week they spent on Manhigut.’