Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
Students from the United States, Canada and Germany began the third term of the 5-month MASA Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester this week.
The students, pictured left meeting with Givat Haviva teaching and administrative staff in the madaffi (guest room) of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace & International Department, are settling in at their new home away from home - the neighboring kibbutz of Barkai - and eager to start their studies.
The International Department staff is equally eager to once again pick up the gauntlet of challenge laid down by enthusiastic university graduates with insatiable appetites to learn Arabic, Hebrew, Middle East studies with so many varying topics, to participate in special study tours, engage in community work in neighboring Kfar Kara – and oh so much more.
Following the informal gathering of students and staff, the Arts Center and exhibition halls of Hashomer Hatzair were visited and after lunch, the first introduction to the region surrounding their community of residence, Barkai – a kibbutz founded in the late 1940s by North American members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement and Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe.
The first port of call for the newcomers was the village of Umm al-Kutuf nestling on 2 hilltops just down the road from Barkai. A village of some 1,000 residence, Umm al-Kutuf commands an impressive view over the Dotan Valley, Harish, Mitzpe Ilan, Barta’a and deep in to the West Bank.
A quick visit to Harish and on to a vantage point where more of the West Bank and view of the course of the security fence in the area; then on to the Barta’a-Reichan checkpoint passing by a group of Palestinians from Yabed creating charcoal in the Dotan Valley.
The opportunity arises to speak with a number of Palestinians either on their way home from a days work somewhere on the Israeli side of the fence, and in the opposite direction folks from East Barta’a returning from a visit to Jenin and Salem – the latter in order to renew a magnetic security card about to run out.
Continuing on to the Shaked settlement bloc, driving by the Reichan forest of natural oak trees, passing through the two hilltops on top of the Amir Mt. range that make up the community of Katzir – and then down the mountain for a refreshing drink and some tasty falafel in Barta’a village – to be visited again in the near future in order to engage in conversation with local residents and learn more of the daily realities of living in a divided village.
A rather long, hot but very successful day, and we promise there will be many more over the coming months. Promise!