This summer—and for the first time ever—we sent a delegation of students who graduated Mabat’s programming to Hamburg and Berlin. The delegation included 9 students—Jews and Arabs—from the University of Haifa and Beit Berl College. The purpose of the trip was to meet German students in order to learn from each other about some of the challenges that arise from living in a multicultural society both in Israel and Germany. We were privileged to experience unique and interesting meetings- in community projects, refugee camps and university campuses. And now, we are preparing for the German delegation’s visit to Israel.
This relationship started two years ago, in the Living Diversity Conference which centered around educators working with issues and challenges that arise from living in a multicultural society—both in Germany and Israel. After Mabat’s workshop presentation, we connected with our partners from Hamburg — social workers who operate cultural centers and work with diverse populations in Hamburg. A year ago, we hosted a delegation of professionals, and we traveled with Mabat’s facilitators and coordinators to Germany in turn. This year was the first time we sent a student delegation.
Our group of students—Jewish and Arab graduates of Mabat’s dialogue programs from Haifa and Beit Berl — were hosted by their German peers, who were mostly Social Work students and activists. In Germany, these students hosted us in their homes and city. During the week we conducted photography and social identity workshops, we were introduced to various community projects across the city, and of course, lots of interesting conversations and discussions. Thinking about social challenges through by seeing problems on the ground, as well as the process of explaining the reality of the situation to our delegation was fascinating.
One of the most memorable experiences we had occurred during Tisha B’Av fast, which fell on Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday. We heard the news from Israel about tensions that were rising in the Temple Mount, then were hosted by Muslim refugees for the Eid. Even those fasting joined us.
Hamburg took in about 50 thousand refugees in the last ten years—from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Refugee absorption is similar to the way Israel receives its Olim- aid with residence, language, schooling and work initiatives. Some of these initiatives are spearheaded by our partners. The refugee camp we visited is a complex of new apartment buildings—small and tidy apartments. Four families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan generously hosted us. Their personal stories are heartbreaking, but their biggest wish is to live in a world devoid of hate.
We returned from our delegation full of experiences and revelations. These days, we are preparing for the student delegation from Germany—who will be joining us here in Israel for a week, during the holiday of Sukkot. To be continued…