In December, the Solutions Not Sides Team visited Birmingham with our Palestinian and Israeli speakers Dawoud and Meron. Having visited Birmingham a number of times in the last few years we were very excited to return, revisiting some schools we’d already been to and meeting students and teachers from some completely new ones. As well as visiting schools in Birmingham, we had a chance to meet students from Warwick University’s International Relations Society.
The tour was a great success, with the students from all schools, and Warwick, really actively engaging with Dawoud and Meron’s experiences of life in Israel-Palestine, and their message of peace. In particular students’ picked up on Meron’s experiences of the army. Many were shocked to find out about Israel’s compulsory national service and that if they lived in Israel, instead of going to university after they finished school, they would first have to become soldiers. It highlighted, for many of the students, how ingrained in the national consciousness issues of security are, and the complex relationship some Israelis can have with the idea of conscription.
When asked what they most liked about the session, students were quick to assert it was Meron and Dawoud’s personal perspectives:
“I liked the fact that you could talk to people with real life experiences that had changed and affected them” – (a student from Hillcrest School)
“I liked the fact that we had the opportunity to listen to a Palestinian and an Israelis story about their lives and views on the conflict” - (a student from Yardleys School)
This could easily tell as students’ also really wanted to hear about Dawoud’s experience of studying in an Israeli university, how he found it, and what his journey from his home to university was like every day. This gave a real insight into how much the conflict an effect Palestinians’’ and Israelis’ daily lives, and what life would be like for them if they lived and were growing up in the region.
Aside from conflict, one of the biggest shocks for students’ was that, despite being surrounded by desert, it can snow in some parts of Israel-Palestine!
Asked what they learnt from the session, students came out with a huge range of responses:
“that there's always a peaceful solution, people just need to be more aware of it, and stand up for it” - (a student from Small Heath School)
“Palestinians and Israelis can be friends too” - (a student from Cockshut Hill School)
“that the media doesn't always tell the truth - it is biased” - (a student from Cockshut Hill School)
“I learnt that you should never take for granted the fact that there is no conflict going on around us” - (a student from Yardleys School)
“I learnt no matter what religion you are or what skin colour you have to treat each other equally” – (a student from Yardleys School)
“that Peace and change is possible” – (a student from Small Heath School)
“I learnt that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace and harmony” - (a student from Yardleys School)
At Hillcrest School, one student asked: How would you try to fix the situation? [The current situation and general conflict], prompting both Meron and Dawoud to respond with two really positive messages:
“We need to stop blaming and trying to see who did the most wrong. Our responsibility is to try and make change in our communities – to be critical – and to make sure dialogue happens.” - (Meron)
“I wake up every day and try and do something that relates to the conflict. Webinars are one thing, dialogue like this situation is another.” - (Dawoud)
During a conflict resolution workshop at Hillcrest School, one group of students had a very interesting vision for shared access and use of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem as its own independent city-state, with its own government and control. Two independent states around it – Palestine & Israel – would have access.” So overall, the team here is very happy with our tour to Birmingham, not only did we received excellent feedback from students (many of them asking for more sessions like ours), we thoroughly enjoyed being back in the city, and are looking forward to seeing it again in 2017!
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the sessions last week. They were brilliantly done and I know they really made the pupils (and staff) think deeply about the issues.”
– (a teacher from Cockshut Hill school)
We also want to say a big thank you, to our speakers Meron and Dawoud, the teachers who invited us into their schools, and the students for really getting involved in trying to understand the conflict from a new perspective.