Before we went to Bethlehem, we stayed in Jerusalem at the clean, comfortable Eden Hotel, owned by Line, a gracious and efficient Jewish woman; friendly Muslim women cooked our yummy buffet breakfasts. Throughout our trip, we experienced many such examples of Jewish/Arab cooperation and interaction within Israel.
We tour members met that Saturday evening to say farewell to our Servas Israeli hosts. For ten days, they had housed and fed us, shared their lives, shown us important historical and religious sites (especially Christian for this Christmas season); we know them as wonderful, generous people. Many of our Israeli hosts and their family members had incredible stories of suffering, survival — and miracles — in order to be alive –and live in Israel.
That night, we all met at a Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem, one of the five Hand in Hand schools in Israel: A Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXE4ofvd9vk>. Hand in Hand students learn to read and write in both Hebrew and Arabic — and from third grade on, in English, too. The schools are public and open to all children. Besides teaching the languages, the schools are committed to respecting all who live in Israel: “Learning Together, Living Together.” <https://www.handinhandk12.org/inform/our-schools>
The setting was perfect for our Servas interactions, which are to promote peace and understanding around the globe. That night we again enjoyed presentations, games, dancing, and singing. My favorite part was making a necklace from the beads contributed from each of our tour members. There were amber beads from Poland; green beads representing the Belarus flag, pretzel beads, silver bicycles, Jewish flags ….. I love my necklace and the friendships and connections it represents.
Some Servas members arranged the beads by size and shape; I made mine in the order in which I could reach the bowls that held the beads. I added Muslim prayer beads, Buddhist prayer beads, and a Christian Coptic cross so that my necklace connects not only countries but also religions.
Again, we’d had another wonderful evening experiencing fellowship together.
Then on Sunday morning, those of us going to Bethlehem met at the hostel where some of the tour members were staying.
For full text see https://reneeriley.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/servas-israel-tour-bethlehem-palestinian-authority-servas-goodbye-and-evolving-thoughts/