On our sixth day in Israel, the students visited Givat Haviva, an educational learning campus with a focus on peace in the Middle East. After a short presentation, our guide Lydia Aisenberg took us directly to the Green Line (the 1947 UN Partition Line) that divides the town of Barta’a (or Barta) between Israel and the West Bank. Rather than speak of the conflict that surrounds town as a negative force, Lydia explained the history of the Green Line, the cultural richness of town of Barta’a, and what the division means for the future of the conflict.
Student Ellen French shares her thoughts:
We visited Givat Haviva and learned how the education center teaches about peace and acceptance. Our presenter Lydia began with a fascinating discussion regarding why she made Aliyah from Wales to escape anti-Semitism. Through these experiences, Lydia came to Israel, started a family, and began working as a journalist. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her speak about the drawing of the Green Line and how it affected the people of Barta. As those drawing the Green Line were not present in the individual towns, they ended up dividing Barta along of drainage ditch believing it to be a valley.
We then had the incredible opportunity to visit Barta. [The picture above is at the boundary.] The breathtaking views from a rooftop truly illustrated the arbitrary divide that the Green Line caused in Barta. Lydia also spoke about the friendships that she formed with Palestinians, which put the conflict in a much more personal context. No longer was the Israel-Palestinian Conflict a dispute between nations, but rather a crisis that affected the individual people in those countries, who were able to coexist in peace. It gave me hope that a peaceful resolution could be achieved in the conflict and I look forward to that day.
Student Morgan Galusha gives more detail:
Givat Haviva was my favorite activity during the Israel trip. After her detailed presentation on peace and acceptance, Lydia took us to a cliff overlooking Barta, so that she could show us exactly how the Green Line divides the town. In addition, Lydia showed us how the line has changed; [the security fence now unites Barta within Israel.] Barta was once divided very differently than it is now.
The visit made everything so much more real. It is one thing to have someone explain to you about the division of the town, the Green Line, and borders, but it is a completely different thing to see it for yourself. I felt an immensely different impact when I was actually shown the town; Lydia was able to point out locations of previous bombings and the security gates that people have to pass through just to get to work. The experience was very eye opening and really drove home the point of peace and its importance.
Finally, Lydia took us into the actual town of Barta. At first glance, the town seems very divided, like there is a large separation from both sides of the line. However, Lydia began to explain how there is much more cooperation than anyone ever hears about. She talked about how many people on the Palestinian side cross the line to work. Also, both sides trade produce and other products to sell on both sides of the line. It may be a small start; however, these are great steps on the way to peace. This was a very moving presentation and one that I feel like was very beneficial and important for us to see.