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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

When a Jewish Kibbutz Neighbors an Arab Village: 50 Years of Cooperation in Israel

by Bethany Firnhaber, Rosalina Nieves, and Robyn Carolyn Price

The relationship between Arabs and Jews in Israel has been strained by failed peace agreements, suicide bombings, and the construction of a separation wall — all which have fostered fear and anger on both sides.

Since Israel became a state in 1948, the road to peaceful coexistence has been, as many people in the region describe it, complicated. Somewhere in the midst of the conflict, however, are two communities — one Arab and one Jewish — that for years have shared a well, harvested crops together, and attended each others’ weddings and funerals.

Map of Meiser and MezerKibbutz Mezer, a collective Jewish community, and the Arab village Meiser are located less than a half-mile from each other and from the “green line” border with the West Bank.

Their relationship began in the early ’50s when Kibbutz Mezer was established. Unable to find a viable water source of their own, the new kibbutz relied on the generosity of its Arab neighbors, who allowed them to share their own small well. In gratitude, Kibbutz Mezer shared with Meiser tips for navigating the new Israeli bureaucracy.

Both communities say that, in time, respect and even friendships grew. And not even the murder of a family at the kibbutz by a Palestinian extremist on November 10, 2002 could dismantle the peaceful relationship the two communities share.

The video above is a tale of Mezer and Meiser, communities that have lived side by side for over 55 years, offering a model of what peaceful coexistence in the region might look like.


Bethany Firnhaber Bethany Firnhaber is a Los Angeles-based freelance reporter and photographer who recently received a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California. She is most interested in reporting on issues of social responsibility and human rights, especially across cultural and international borders.  
 

Rosalina Nieves Rosalina Nieves is a master’s degree candidate in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Southern California. After graduating from Purdue University, she began her career at WFLD-TV (FOX) in Chicago. Since that time, she has worked at KABC-TV and is currently an assignment editor at CNN’s Los Angeles bureau.

Robyn Carolyn PriceRobyn Carolyn Price is native of Los Angeles, California. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University, and studied in Florence, Italy. She is currently a master’s degree candidate in the Specialized Journalism Program at the University of Southern California. Her specialization is American politics and its effects on marginalized communities.

Read more about their reporting in Mezer and Meiser on their website, We would also like to include a link to the projects’s website, Coexistence in Israel: A Tale of Two Cities.

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Life Together: Haifa Cultural Center Builds Community Among Arabs and Jews

PART TWO: CHIPPING AWAY AT STEREOTYPES THROUGH SHARED INTERESTS

by Christin Davis, USC graduate journalism student

Assaf RonAssaf Ron (photo: Christin Davis)

“I was raised in a pluralistic house,” said Assaf Ron, a Jewish man from Haifa, Israel. “An Arab was not cursed, he was a person.”

In a country where separation — even physical walls — between Arabs and Jews is common, Mr. Ron’s perspective stands out. News headlines included the murder of a Jewish settler family in the West Bank as Ron, 51, sat in his Haifa office, flooded by a strong sea breeze. Mr. Ron discussed his work as the executive director of Beit Hagefen Arab Jewish Center, a nonprofit cultural center in Haifa. Though he has no written job description, Mr. Ron said his overall role is to promote a need for mutual respect between people, specifically Jews and Arabs.

“My definition of coexistence is normalization, to respect the other’s narrative,” Mr. Ron said. “This is the biggest and hardest step on the way to coexistence.”

Beit Hagefen, according to Mr. Ron, is a “window to a multicultural community” where Jews and Arabs interact together. Despite living in the same city, he said, the two groups do not interact, so the center encourages and facilitates connections through activities in the local area.

The center has an art gallery, a library, and an Arab theater. It recently began a women’s walking club, a program bringing Arab and Jewish families together in each others’ homes, and a photography class that allows for young people to connect through their work. Founded in 1963, it is a non-profit organization supported by the Haifa municipality; the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport; and private donations.

HaifaBeit Hagefen cultural center in Haifa. (photo: Christin Davis)

“It is important to me to have people respect and accept the other, no matter his religion, nationality, or education,” Mr. Ron said. “There is only one way to live a good life on this globe — share resources and respect differences among people. I truly believe it is in my power to convince people of these ideas.”

Before coming to Beit Hagefen, Mr. Ron, who has a master’s degree in public administration from Haifa University, was the executive director of the department of education for the regional council in Gilboa, a rural area bordering the West Bank. Functioning much like a superintendent does in the United States, Mr. Ron oversaw seven Arab and six Jewish schools, often bringing together the teachers for collaboration. In his current position, Mr. Ron overseas the departments of Beit Hagefen, initiates new projects, raises funds, networks, and coaches the staff.

Mr. Ron works closely with Ulfat Haider, the program manager at Beit Hagefen and an Arab woman. Together, they promote “neighborliness.” According to Mr. Ron, this means, “We don’t have to agree about everything. If Palestinian is the way you define yourself, it doesn’t mean you want to do anything to me.”

He acknowledged the ever-present Israeli-Palestinian conflict but said that at Beit Hagefen “we reduce the level of fear and hatred and increase the understanding of the other’s narrative. We try to reduce stereotypes.”

HaifaA mother and her son play outside Beit Hagefen community center. (photo: Christin Davis)

It’s an ongoing effort, as Mr. Ron learned when his son came home, excited to have made a new friend. Mr. Ron asked his son if he wanted to invite the boy to their house. “’Are you crazy? He’s Arab,’ my son said,” Mr. Ron recalled. “Can you imagine? My house is one of coexistence, but he still gets this from the outside. Why couldn’t we invite him over?”

Mr. Ron does make clear that he supports a Jewish state, “but not a Jewish state that is against civil rights for all people,” he said. “Ask Arabs, they want to live here because it is a democracy — even if it is not completely equal now,” Mr. Ron said. “We are an ethnic democracy. Jews have some benefits above the rest. In the eyes of the world, this is racism…sorry. My answer might be different if there was democracy in the Middle East. But right now, with the hypocrisy of terrorism, I’m too frightened.”

Assaf RonI trust the Arabs that live in Israel,” he said. “They choose to live here. But you can always find one or two people that are not trustworthy.”

Mr. Ron said he doesn’t consider himself that different from other Jews but has “more structured views and general tolerance.” His friends, however, question his work toward coexistence.

“People call me naïve,” he said. “I insist on being naïve… It’s just believing in people. I learned that if you respect people as human beings and hear their story, most will respect you as well.”


Christin DavisChristin Davis is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Southern California, and the managing editor for Caring, a magazine focused on social services produced by The Salvation Army.

This report is part of a collaboration between On Being and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism in an attempt to add to the public’s understanding of the diversity of stories of daily life in Israel and the West Bank.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Life Together: Bereaved Families Create Social Media Space Aiming at Reconciliation and Not Protest

PART ONE: EXPERIENCING THE OTHER ONLINE

by Christin Davis, USC graduate journalism student

Abuawwada and Barnea Siham Abuawwada and Aaron Barnea (photo: Christin Davis)

With a set goal in mind, social media moves people. This is especially true in our heavily networked world where social media is enabling the spread of popular revolutions across the Arab world — protesters organizing via Facebook groups and Twitter campaigns.

The Parents Circle Families Forum, an organization of more than 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost immediate family members as a direct result of the conflict, now has a plan to use social media as a tool, not for protest, but for reconciliation.

Their Crack in the Wall (CITW) campaign connects Israelis and Palestinians in order to share stories of the “other side.” The aim, according to group member Aaron Barnea, is to break down psychological, if not physical, barriers between the two peoples. The project is set to launch this June.

Mr. Barnea’s youngest son was killed in 1999 while serving his mandatory duty in the Israeli Defense Forces. While explaining the trauma of his loss in a Jerusalem meeting, Parents Circle member Siham Abuawwada, a Palestinian from the West Bank, took Barnea’s hands into her own, “I am so, so sorry for your loss.”

At the age of 14, Ms. Abuawwada took on the responsibility of raising and caring for her five siblings after her mother was first arrested and periodically jailed in subsequent years. In 2000, her closest brother was shot in the head at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank. “All of us have a broken heart,” she said. “I don’t have to forgive or forget, but I have to understand the other.”

The idea is to determine how to “translate rage into human words and find a path to work together,” Mr. Barnea said. ”We have a deep feeling that what happened to us shouldn’t happen to other people.”

While mourning for his son, Mr. Barnea said he realized that Palestinians were also demonstrating against the conflict and had lost their beloved. “They were talking the same language of peace. It was a shocking, enlightening new experience,” he said. “As an organization, we give the ‘other’ a human dimension, which is necessary to create the belief that reconciliation is possible, and fundamental to peace. With social networks, we can create an open discussion with millions of people in the region.”

CITW follows the organization’s 2002 initiative, Hello-Shalom-Salaam, a telephone hotline and voicemail system that allowed Israelis and Palestinians to engage with each other. Since its launch, the project has recorded one million minutes of dialogue.

In a virtual venue, CITW offers the space for individuals to express views and tell stories from their community, which will be immediately translated into the other’s language — Arabic or Hebrew.

Mr. Barnea said CITW is not an effort to promote one narrative or the other, but simply to portray to people that there is in fact another side. By targeting youth, Parents Circle hopes to move both peoples toward understanding and dialogue.

“It is necessary to create a belief that reconciliation is possible,” Mr. Barnea said. “Not only is it possible, but it is fundamental for any peace agreement. Without reconciliation, there is no peace.”


Christin DavisChristin Davis is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Southern California, and the managing editor for Caring, a magazine focused on social services produced by The Salvation Army.

This series is part of a collaboration between On Being and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism in an attempt to add to the public’s understanding of the diversity of stories of daily life in Israel and the West Bank.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Making Life Out of Ruin in Ramle: The Work of Sculptor Nihad Dabeet

by Janine Rayford, USC graduate journalism student

Nihad Dabeet

“This is the project of my life,” says sculptor Nihad Dabeet, 43, as he gives a tour of his unfinished home in Ramle, Israel. Built over 400 years ago, the house was in ruins until its newest tenant devoted himself to its renovation. Mr. Dabeet says he and his wife continue to excavate and build upon the land, without permission from the government.

Sculpture by Nihad Dabeet's Mother During Pregnancy

Petite and jovial, Mr. Dabeet is an internationally known artist and sculptor who usually works with iron wire. From his dingy jeans and sweatshirt, it is hard to imagine a man whose art can cost thousands of dollars and is displayed and purchased throughout the world, including a recent exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now Mr. Dabeet’s main masterpiece is his home. Renting from an Arab couple who have owned the property before the State of Israel declared independence in 1948, the Ramle native and his wife have excavated rooms buried under more than 10 feet of sand and rubble.

With an art education from Bulgaria, Mr. Dabeet says that “as a sculptor you understand materials.” This understanding is allowing the Arab citizen of Israel to reconstruct a home out of ruin. So far, Mr. Dabeet has only refurbished a small percentage of the original structure.

What was once rubble has become a modern home with an aged façade. There are flat-screen televisions and jetted hot tubs, with Mr. Dabeet’s sculptures of women and olive trees featured throughout. The new mortar ends towards the back of the house.

Unlike in Jerusalem and Nazareth, the Israeli government and local Ramle municipality have not invested in the architectural preservation of Ramle. It is up to individual residents and shop owners to restore and maintain the centuries-old structures of the biblical city, often without support from the current government.

Unfinished Section of Nihad Dabeet's Home

“They want to clear the old part and to build something new,” says Buthaina Dabit, a Ramle native who is giving a tour of the local ruins. Ms. Dabit points out the remnants of a building from the Ottoman period, which has been partially cleared for a parking lot near local shops.

Today, many buildings in Ramle are dilapidated and unlivable. “It’s Arab culture, so it has to be erased,” says Mr. Dabeet, speculating on why he thinks the city abstains from preservation. Families move on as stones crumble from their properties’ arches and ceilings, burying architecture and artifacts in piles of beige rubble. Stray cats abound amongst relics and materials that could belong in the Smithsonian.

Past the bathroom and through an open quad, the sculptor shows one unfinished room at the back of the house, where the ceiling continues to deteriorate.

“If I am not here to repair this every few years, it will just fall in,” he says.

All of this work will be for not if the city decides to bulldoze the property due to the illegal expansion of the structure. It is difficult for Arab citizens to receive permits to build or expand on their land. If they build without permits, their structures are subject to demolition by the municipality.

Despite lacking a building permit, “he insists to pay the taxes,” said Ms. Dabit. The artist hopes that paying taxes regularly may spare his home from demolition.

One of Mr. Dabeet’s projects is to resurface an entire room using tiles gathered from demolished Arab homes in the area. The artist has no trouble finding these tiles, considering the large number of home demolitions that have occurred in the Arab communities of Ramle and neighboring Lod. In an open-air quad on the property, festive-looking ceramic squares, some broken, stand in piles along the stone wall.

Dabeet’s house sits in the Christian quarter of Ramle, in the shadow of the massive Terra Santa Franciscan monastery and a few blocks down the street from an 800-year-old Arab-Christian restaurant.

Home of Nihad Dabeet

Mr. Dabeet is a self-proclaimed atheist. “I never believed in the b—- s—-,” says the artist, standing next to a small plastic Christmas tree atop his refrigerator. His wife is a Muslim Bedouin from Libya and the mother of his two young daughters. The Dabeets are the only Muslim family in the area.

When Mr. Dabeet’s wife comes home with their girls, he scoops up his eldest daughter Samira Landa. Despite the uncertain future, the father is proud of the home that he is creating for his family, as well as the benefit it brings to the community.

“I was the right person in the right time to come to this place.”

All photos by Bethany Firnharber.


Janine RayfordJanine Rayford is a freelance writer and graduate student in journalism at the University of Southern California. Originally from San Francisco, Rayford obtained her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in 944 magazine, LAmag.com, and the Cape Times of South Africa.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Discovering the Bahá’í Gardens
by Janine Rayford, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
“Wow, what is that?” This question sprang from my mouth the moment I first saw the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, Israel.
My classmates and I had just gotten off of the bus in the German Colony area and were on our way to a restaurant that sits on the street just below the breathtaking monument. Since it was nighttime, all I could make out was an organized pattern of lights seeming to ascend into the sky.
I had never heard of the Bahá’í Faith prior to my visit to Haifa. After a bit of research, I found out that Bahá’í is a relatively new monotheistic religion founded in nineteenth-century Persia and that the Bahá’í Gardens (or Terraces of the Bahá’í Faith, or Hanging Gardens of Haifa) are gardens that surround the Shrine of Bab. Bab was the founder of Babism and forerunner to the Bahá’í Faith.

Intrigued by this new information, I decided to get a daytime look and spend my lunch hour at the brilliant edifice. The gardens are a landscaper’s dream (or nightmare, in terms of upkeep). Layers upon layers of perfectly manicured lawns, sparkling fountains, and pruned foliage scale the side of Mount Carmel. Guided tours take awestruck visitors from all faiths up and down the stairs and throughout the flower-lined terraces.
A colleague and I listened in on one tour guide as she described how the Israeli government dealt with the Bahá’í community during the establishment of the Jewish state. Holy places, like the Bahá’í Gardens, would be preserved, but the Bahá’í had to stop their missionary activities and limit for the number of followers allowed to remain in the new nation.
Leaving the gardens, I couldn’t help thinking that in Israel, religious politics plays a part in everything, even the flowers.
(photos by Ron Almog)
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel    this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the    University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication    & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as     part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations  of   this complex place.

Discovering the Bahá’í Gardens

by Janine Rayford, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

“Wow, what is that?” This question sprang from my mouth the moment I first saw the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, Israel.

My classmates and I had just gotten off of the bus in the German Colony area and were on our way to a restaurant that sits on the street just below the breathtaking monument. Since it was nighttime, all I could make out was an organized pattern of lights seeming to ascend into the sky.

I had never heard of the Bahá’í Faith prior to my visit to Haifa. After a bit of research, I found out that Bahá’í is a relatively new monotheistic religion founded in nineteenth-century Persia and that the Bahá’í Gardens (or Terraces of the Bahá’í Faith, or Hanging Gardens of Haifa) are gardens that surround the Shrine of Bab. Bab was the founder of Babism and forerunner to the Bahá’í Faith.

Israel-Carmel-050508 059

Intrigued by this new information, I decided to get a daytime look and spend my lunch hour at the brilliant edifice. The gardens are a landscaper’s dream (or nightmare, in terms of upkeep). Layers upon layers of perfectly manicured lawns, sparkling fountains, and pruned foliage scale the side of Mount Carmel. Guided tours take awestruck visitors from all faiths up and down the stairs and throughout the flower-lined terraces.

A colleague and I listened in on one tour guide as she described how the Israeli government dealt with the Bahá’í community during the establishment of the Jewish state. Holy places, like the Bahá’í Gardens, would be preserved, but the Bahá’í had to stop their missionary activities and limit for the number of followers allowed to remain in the new nation.

Leaving the gardens, I couldn’t help thinking that in Israel, religious politics plays a part in everything, even the flowers.

(photos by Ron Almog)


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

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Names So Similar
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Mezer, a kibbutz (collective Jewish community) 45  minutes north of Haifa, is known for its reputation of peaceful, productive coexistence with its Arab neighbors in nearby Meiser. The names of the two locales are so similar that on this sign, the Arabic  script in the middle puts the word for “kibbutz” in parentheses next to the word “Mezer” so there is no confusion.

Names So Similar

by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Mezer, a kibbutz (collective Jewish community) 45 minutes north of Haifa, is known for its reputation of peaceful, productive coexistence with its Arab neighbors in nearby Meiser. The names of the two locales are so similar that on this sign, the Arabic script in the middle puts the word for “kibbutz” in parentheses next to the word “Mezer” so there is no confusion.

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Separate But Equal?
by Robyn Carolyn Price, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
These two women, Aumhasan and Muti, were born, raised, and married in the Israeli city of Lod, just a short drive away from Tel Aviv.  In 2010, the Israeli government finished construction on a wall to separate the Arab population of Lod from the city’s Jewish population.  Citing security issues, Israel said that the city, once described as a melting pot, needed to build a wall as a means to protect the Jewish residents from Arab crimes. The Arab residents, however, liken the wall to ethnic segregation.
“Look at the conditions that we are living,” says Muti.  ”Look at the infrastructure.  For our kids there is no garden.  There is no library.  There is nothing they have that makes a normal life.  They play in the street. There is no transportation.  It is very difficult for buses to come in here. And we are paying the same money as the Israelis, but we don’t have any services.”
According to The Economist, a “study by a liberal Israeli group called Shatil (“Seedling”) estimates that 70% of Arab homes in Lod lack legal status.” Therefore, “many municipal services, such as street lighting and rubbish collection, stop at the boundaries.”

On the other side of the wall, there is a different narrative. The Jewish community is not denied the services such as waste removal, paved roads, and a standard quality of life. According to The Economist, “Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, encourages building for Jews to proceed with abandon,” while the Arab residents in Lod say that they are denied building permits and many of their homes are demolished.
“Mixed neighborhoods,” according to Sheera Frenkel in an NPR report, ”have become a rarity. Highly guarded, Jewish-only building projects have sprung up across the city, most of them sponsored by religious Jewish groups.”
“There is one street separating us and them,” says Muti. ”They can build and they have all the services. They have all these streets and infrastructure. It is one street separating between us and them. And look at them and look at us.”
Photos by Robyn Carolyn Price
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel   this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the   University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication   & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as    part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of   this complex place.

Separate But Equal?

by Robyn Carolyn Price, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

These two women, Aumhasan and Muti, were born, raised, and married in the Israeli city of Lod, just a short drive away from Tel Aviv. In 2010, the Israeli government finished construction on a wall to separate the Arab population of Lod from the city’s Jewish population. Citing security issues, Israel said that the city, once described as a melting pot, needed to build a wall as a means to protect the Jewish residents from Arab crimes. The Arab residents, however, liken the wall to ethnic segregation.

“Look at the conditions that we are living,” says Muti. ”Look at the infrastructure. For our kids there is no garden. There is no library. There is nothing they have that makes a normal life. They play in the street. There is no transportation. It is very difficult for buses to come in here. And we are paying the same money as the Israelis, but we don’t have any services.”

According to The Economist, a “study by a liberal Israeli group called Shatil (“Seedling”) estimates that 70% of Arab homes in Lod lack legal status.” Therefore, “many municipal services, such as street lighting and rubbish collection, stop at the boundaries.”

On the other side of the wall, there is a different narrative. The Jewish community is not denied the services such as waste removal, paved roads, and a standard quality of life. According to The Economist, “Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, encourages building for Jews to proceed with abandon,” while the Arab residents in Lod say that they are denied building permits and many of their homes are demolished.

“Mixed neighborhoods,” according to Sheera Frenkel in an NPR report, ”have become a rarity. Highly guarded, Jewish-only building projects have sprung up across the city, most of them sponsored by religious Jewish groups.”

“There is one street separating us and them,” says Muti. ”They can build and they have all the services. They have all these streets and infrastructure. It is one street separating between us and them. And look at them and look at us.”

Photos by Robyn Carolyn Price


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.


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It is like being totally paralyzed. The most important thing is stability, without it I cannot think. I feel saddened every day.
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Fatmeh and YousefFatmeh, an Arab Palestinian resident of Barta’a, Israel.

Fatmeh, who was born in the West Bank, and her husband Yousef, an Arab born in Israel, are unable to visit her family who live minutes away on the other side of the separation wall, reports USC’s Christin Davis. They married before Israeli law disallowed Palestinians born in the West Bank from freely living and moving about inside the state of Israel and outside lands ruled by the Palestinian Authority. In order to stay with her husband, Fatmeh must go through the “grueling process” of reapplying for temporary identification every year since she cannot become a citizen of Israel.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Arabs Lead Peaceful Demonstration in Nazareth

by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

A small group of Palestinian-Israeli demonstrators gathered Tuesday evening in Nazareth to call for the reunification of the divided Palestinian parties of Hamas and Fatah.

"We are demonstrating here to push on both parties. They must sit and reunite and confront the Israelis in politics. I’m not talking about violence," said Mubada Gargoura, a member of the Israeli Communist Party (ICP).

The ICP and Hadash, which has four members in the 120-seat Knesset parliamentary government, organized this peaceful candlelit demonstration. It supports the evacuation of all Jewish settlements and the right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees. The event was part of a larger set of coordinated demonstrations held inside the Palestinian occupied territories of Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza.

An example of violent tensions between the two groups occurred last week. Five members of an Israeli settler family, including a baby, were stabbed to death inside their home in Itamar, a village in the West Bank. Some members in the Israeli-Jewish community were outraged and called the assault a Palestinian “terrorist attack.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

via USC: Reporting on Israel

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I don’t love to speak about politics, but we live here. We eat and breathe politics.
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Dr. Sharif Sharif, archaeologist in Nazareth, Israel

(via reporting-on-israel)

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A Palestinian Nest with No Babies

by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Robyn Carolyn PriceRiadh Abu Eid checks his mobile phone while standing on the rubble of his demolished home in Lod, Israel. (photo: Robyn Carolyn Price)

A hummingbird’s nest sits in a high branch of the ficus tree on my porch in Los Angeles. Knitting together twigs, leaves, and small scraps, a mama bird has prepared a home for the babies she expects this spring.

I thought about that nest when I saw the ruins of the Abu Eid home in Lod.

This past December, the Israeli police demolished the Abu Eid’s home, and six others on the street, because the families did not have building permits for an area that is zoned “agricultural” instead of “residential.” Authorities acted despite the fact that the families have lived in the neighborhood for years and have repeatedly sought but been refused permits. Meanwhile, adjacent sites have been reclassified as “residential” for an Israeli housing development and a Jewish school.

Standing on the ruins of the Abu Eid’s home, I imagined the slabs of broken cement, bound together by a tangle of brown steel rods, as the building blocks of a nightmare nest. Its hollows are filled with a brown door, a flattened washing machine, and a plastic chair; its sides built up with a white sneaker, a tattered blanket, and a pink blouse with lace trim.

Tragic yet compelling, the smashed house bespeaks the home/no home predicament of Israel‘s Palestinian citizens. An art project befitting an inscrutable God, this nest will hold no babies come spring.


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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The Next American Idol in Jerusalem
by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Like most 14 year olds, Rivka Bayene has big dreams.
“I’m going to America, I’m going to sing, I’m going to be on American Idol,” she told a roomful of guests at Kedma School, her home away from home in Jerusalem’s south central Katamon neighborhood.
Katamon looks similar to LA’s South Central neighborhood. Houses are neat but need a fresh coat of paint, grass pokes out from cracks in the sidewalks, and trash chokes weeds in large, empty lots. Katamon also is home to the city’s people of color, and Kedma School is a safe haven for black and brown Jews.
Rivka’s parents immigrated to Israel when she was a year old. Her father wanted her to have a better life than the one awaiting her in Addis Ababa. But when she started school, Rivka learned it was hard to be different in Israel. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. In the 1980s, the Israeli government mounted “rescue” operations to bring home these “lost” and “forgotten” African Jews. But many Ethiopians say they have faced discrimination, if not outright racism, in their new country.
“People didn’t want to be close,” Rivka said, describing life at her old school.

Happily, things are different at Kedma where the faculty works to create a loving and supportive atmosphere. The only school of its kind in the city, it welcomes children who have had difficulty fitting into public schools. Rivka said she was relieved to find people at Kedma who looked like her, and teachers who wanted to hug her. But she says the journey is not over. She’s planning to be the next Rihanna and she expects she will need to move to the U.S. if she wants to succeed big-time.
“In America, they have many black people,” she told us, adding with a sly smile, “It’s going to be good.”
Diane Winston holds the the  Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for  Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A  national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes  religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the   entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current   research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media,  and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog  called the SCOOP and tweets too.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for  possible  publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

The Next American Idol in Jerusalem

by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Like most 14 year olds, Rivka Bayene has big dreams.

“I’m going to America, I’m going to sing, I’m going to be on American Idol,” she told a roomful of guests at Kedma School, her home away from home in Jerusalem’s south central Katamon neighborhood.

Katamon looks similar to LA’s South Central neighborhood. Houses are neat but need a fresh coat of paint, grass pokes out from cracks in the sidewalks, and trash chokes weeds in large, empty lots. Katamon also is home to the city’s people of color, and Kedma School is a safe haven for black and brown Jews.

Rivka’s parents immigrated to Israel when she was a year old. Her father wanted her to have a better life than the one awaiting her in Addis Ababa. But when she started school, Rivka learned it was hard to be different in Israel. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. In the 1980s, the Israeli government mounted “rescue” operations to bring home these “lost” and “forgotten” African Jews. But many Ethiopians say they have faced discrimination, if not outright racism, in their new country.

“People didn’t want to be close,” Rivka said, describing life at her old school.

Rivka Bayene

Happily, things are different at Kedma where the faculty works to create a loving and supportive atmosphere. The only school of its kind in the city, it welcomes children who have had difficulty fitting into public schools. Rivka said she was relieved to find people at Kedma who looked like her, and teachers who wanted to hug her. But she says the journey is not over. She’s planning to be the next Rihanna and she expects she will need to move to the U.S. if she wants to succeed big-time.

“In America, they have many black people,” she told us, adding with a sly smile, “It’s going to be good.”


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

Comments
Educational Inequality Divides Israeli Jews
by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Aside from Israel’s ongoing conflict with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, it must also deal with the internal complexities that exist in most modern societies, like immigration and racial discrimination.
An example of this can be seen inside the immigrant and impoverished neighborhood of Katamonim of Jerusalem. There, the Kedma School serves Jewish students that come from countries such as Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq —  called Mizrahi Jews. Kedma’s mission is to combat the educational inequality these students face at other schools where the dominant population of students are Jews of Eastern European descent — called Ashkenazi Jews.
It’s a small school for 160 seventh to 12th graders. Many of these Mizrahi students were unpopular at their previous schools. Some say they weren’t accepted socially, seen as outsiders by their classmates and troublemakers by their instructors.
The Kedma School provides smaller class sizes — two teachers for every 26 students — than the typical public school, which has one teacher for more than every 40 students. According to the school’s website, only 10 percent of students from the greater Katamonia community complete high school. Many of these students come from single parent homes and are not encouraged to pursue professional careers in other schools.
Yardena Hamu (pictured above) grew up in this neighborhood and faced the same discrimination as these students. After receiving her bachelors’ degree in art, she returned to be a mentor and teacher at the Kedma School.
Having migrated from Iraq, Hamu can relate to her students. She keeps them motivated as though they were her own children: “We hug them, we kiss them, and we shout at them.”
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Educational Inequality Divides Israeli Jews

by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Aside from Israel’s ongoing conflict with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, it must also deal with the internal complexities that exist in most modern societies, like immigration and racial discrimination.

An example of this can be seen inside the immigrant and impoverished neighborhood of Katamonim of Jerusalem. There, the Kedma School serves Jewish students that come from countries such as Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq — called Mizrahi Jews. Kedma’s mission is to combat the educational inequality these students face at other schools where the dominant population of students are Jews of Eastern European descent — called Ashkenazi Jews.

It’s a small school for 160 seventh to 12th graders. Many of these Mizrahi students were unpopular at their previous schools. Some say they weren’t accepted socially, seen as outsiders by their classmates and troublemakers by their instructors.

The Kedma School provides smaller class sizes — two teachers for every 26 students — than the typical public school, which has one teacher for more than every 40 students. According to the school’s website, only 10 percent of students from the greater Katamonia community complete high school. Many of these students come from single parent homes and are not encouraged to pursue professional careers in other schools.

Yardena Hamu (pictured above) grew up in this neighborhood and faced the same discrimination as these students. After receiving her bachelors’ degree in art, she returned to be a mentor and teacher at the Kedma School.

Having migrated from Iraq, Hamu can relate to her students. She keeps them motivated as though they were her own children: “We hug them, we kiss them, and we shout at them.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments

West Bank Killing No Reason to Stop Talking

by Andrew Khouri, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

A family was killed Friday night. A husband, wife, and their three children died in Itamar, an ideologically driven Jewish settlement deep inside the West Bank. In response to the suspected terrorist attack, Israel approved 500 new housing units inside the occupied territory.

Peace isn’t a popular conversation topic at the moment. News of the stabbing has dominated the news here, and thousands flocked to Jerusalem Sunday for the funeral.

Saturday night, well-known Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi said the latest violence was shocking in its brutality. “This will have, I suspect, a long-term imprint on Israeli discourse and how we view trusting the Palestinian side,” he said.

But both sides can’t now retreat into their separate corners, especially among everyday people. That was the message of Aaron Barnea and Siham Abu Awwad during an hour-and-a-half discussion over their attempts to finally bring peace among the two peoples.

Both Barnea and Abu Awwad lost family members to the conflict. Those losses pushed them to join Parents Circle, a grass roots organization that seeks understanding and peace through dialogue. Members have all lost loved ones to the violence.

“When an event of this kind, this quality happens … then we have to find the words and to find the ways how to translate actually our rage into human words,” Barnea said.

The key to solving the conflict, Barnea and Abu Awwad say, is reconciliation between individual people. Abu Awwad mentioned when she speaks to Israeli children, it is often the first time they have met a Palestinian. One boy was even shocked she didn’t have horns. Even Barnea only interacted with the other side during army patrols before protesting with Palestinians the occupation of southern Lebanon, where his son Noam was killed.

Barnea cautioned Israeli political leaders not to inject Friday’s horrific killing into a larger political debate over Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the two state solution. That, he said, should be decided on a “human basis.”

Of course, Friday’s killing was not the first, and sadly won’t be the last from either side. But Abu Awwad said, despite this, the choice to continue is simple. “What else can we do? We have to keep talking.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.

We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.

As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.

In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.

The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.

As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.

“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.

So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.

About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)

Correction
An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments