Read all about the UJS Manhigut trip to Israel and the West Bank (April 2023)!
In April, UJS led a delegation of student leaders from across the UK on a Manhigut (leadership) trip to Israel and the West Bank. On the trip, students had the chance to meet with leaders of Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations to learn about wide range of perspectives from across the two societies. The trip took students to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Alon Shvut, Tel Aviv and Jaffa, so that they could meet with as broad a range as possible of different people. Below, we’ve included some thoughts from a few of the trip’s participants, describing their highlights of Manhigut.
Gabi – Birmingham JSoc
My time on the UJS Manhigut trip was illuminating. I would say I was one of the least politically-minded on the trip, yet I still felt like I learned a lot. My favourite parts of the trip was hearing from Mahmoud Muna (a Jerusalemite bookseller) and Rav Hanan from Roots. The talk by Rav Hanan in Alon Shvut was a particular highlight of the trip for me.
The reason for this is his nuanced viewpoint - as a Jew living in the West Bank. His story of efforts to humanise and give nuance to the ‘us vs them’ oversimplification of the conflict struck a chord in me. How many times in my own life do unconscious biases affect the way I treat others? Rav Hanan’s compassion, eloquence, and bravery to do what he feels is right is admirable. His peace efforts are unlike anything I’ve heard, and I would urge people to check his story out.
Yoav – Manchester JSoc
As someone who was born and raised in Israel, I went on the UJS Manhigut trip searching for a different perspective on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. It was an amazing experience, as it opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the situation. I found it really enlightening how I lived in the country for two decades but never really took the time to delve deeper and hear out all sides of the argument. The contrast between the talks we had with the settler, who lived in the West Bank, and with a Palestinian living in East Jerusalem showed the whole spectrum of ideas and took me out of my ideological comfort zone. The talk with Mahmoud Muna was especially noteworthy, as I have never really spoken face to face with a Palestinian in this way, and heard about his experiences first hand. Overall, I feel like the whole experience really gave me a new outlook and I appreciate UJS and especially the speakers and the team that accompanied us for their hard work.
Josh – Nottingham JSoc
The day that really had the biggest effect on me was our day travelling around various areas of the West Bank. We started in Bethlehem, where we visited Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel. I’m not the biggest fan of Banksy, even when he’s not wading in on complex foreign international conflicts, so I didn’t find his part of the exhibition to be anything too special. The part that was far more interesting to me was the final section, which featured a range of Palestinian artists, each with their own unique narrative.
We then travelled to Alon Shvut, where we met with Rav Hanan Schlesinger, a founding member of Roots, an organisation that aims to build bridges between Jews and Palestinians living in the West Bank. This was a particularly eye opening experience for me – he was the first voice we'd heard on the trip (and for me in general) who seemed to share my cultural connection to the land and history of Judea, but still with the same concerns around the moral and political issues of living in the area.
Louis – Edinburgh JSoc
On Manhigut, I was struck by the power of different perspectives. The conflict touches everyone in different ways; as Jews on campus in the UK we are affected, of course, but hearing from people who live in the thick of it was deeply moving. It gave us a rich understanding of the depth of the conflict, and how it is ultimately a human tragedy for all sides.
The breadth of speakers on offer was amazing. We heard from a former IDF spokesperson and a Palestinian Authority official; Jerusalem-based journalists and numerous inspiring peace activists. We observed a pro-democracy protest, an incredibly uplifting demonstration of the deep care Israelis have for their politically divided country. Through it all, we were encouraged to reflect critically on everyone we met and everything we heard; it really empowered us to build our own views and activism.
I returned to Edinburgh with a newfound commitment to dialogue on campus. Campuses are often really polarised, and so we only talk about conflict and difference, not what brings us together. For me, creating spaces to speak to people as human beings, and understand our different perspectives, is one of the most important roles of a JSoc. I’m really grateful that Manhigut gave us all the experience and confidence to make this happen.