Israelis and Palestinians Learn Each Other’s History on the Ground

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tags: Israel, Palestine



As the bus approached Aaida Refugee Camp, Amichai Korda remembered the last time he was there. It was 2003, and Korda, a combat soldier in the 931st infantry battalion of the Nahal Brigade, had just finished medic’s training. The Second Intifada was in full swing, and the soldiers were called from Bethlehem to treat a female border policemen who had been pummeled with stones by Palestinians near the entrance to the camp.

“It was complete chaos,” he recalled. “When she was wounded, the soldiers began shooting in the air, and we thought [the Palestinians] were shooting at us.”

The bus inched along the concrete security barrier separating Bethlehem from the outskirts of Jerusalem, arriving at a large gateway adorned with a massive sculpture of a key, symbolizing the yearning of Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes. “I always thought it would be scary to come back here without my weapon and the armored jeep, but it’s not so scary. Times have changed,” he said.

Korda, 33, was visiting Bethlehem on a tour organized by Tiyul-Rihla, a grassroots educational initiative that brings together Israelis and Palestinians for a two-day excursion where they can learn about each other’s historic narratives. The trips, which take place every few months, alternate between Israel and the West Bank. This trip began in Samaria, where the group of 50 visited the ancient Israelite city of Sebastia and the small Samaritan community overlooking Nablus. After an overnight stay in the Christian town of Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem, participants toured the Church of the Nativity in downtown Bethlehem and cautiously ventured into Aaida Refugee Camp.




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