This is Rawan, the Jerusalem office director, and I was so excited to get the call from Adaala, one of our alumni who recently moved to Jerusalem for her last requirements of school and she suggested we do a Jerusalem tour for our alumni. As an alumna, I look forward to opportunities to connect with other Building Bridges alumni, and as a staff member, I am always looking for creative ways to do it. I thought the Jerusalem tour was a great idea because it would bring our alumni from different years together, and also allow them to share the experience of their daily lives on the ground. Adaala helped me put a plan together and we reached out to every alumni who lives in Jerusalem and that we have a personal relationship with, and scheduled the tour for June 15th.
When the day arrived, 12 Palestinian and Palestinian citizens of Israel alumni from Jerusalem and parts of the north joined our tour. We started with one of our own alumni’s talking about her experience living in the Old City, where she shed light on the social and political dynamics there. What stood out for me about what she said was her honesty about what she loved there, and what she thought was challenging, and the process she went through to make a decision about remaining a resident in the Old City. Her sharing sparked a great discussion about topics like oppression, social problems, settlements, security, and injustice.
The tour started at Damascus gate, going through the narrow roads to the Christian quarter, the Wailing Wall, and the Dome of the Rock. Then, we visited a community-based organization and finally had a nice breakfast at one of the most delicious and famous hummous and falafel places in the Muslim quarter. You know, it’s Building Bridges and we eat well!
Our alumni talked about the diversity in their lives and talked about some of the challenges they see today after years of participation in Building Bridges. They emphasized the importance of the Building Bridges skills and knowledge and the relationships they made in the program and talked about how they are challenged today and at home.
For me, this day was so amazing because not only did it bring our alumni together, but it allowed talking about our experiences in time and space, the now and here. As a Jerusalemite myself I felt very connected but also educated by the experience of other alumni. The only drawback was that there were no Israeli participants on the tour, mainly because it was a Saturday. However, we are looking forward to more activities designed by and for our Israeli and other alumni.