Perspective, by Natalie Goldshtein, Israel

One of my main motivations in choosing to continue my studies and complete a MA Program was the knowledge that it was a cooperative program, with colleagues from both Jordan and Palestine.

It was a two-year Program: one year in our home country, and one year abroad – Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian students all studying and living together.

I had envisioned great group sessions, discussing the issues we all face on a day-to-day basis and getting to know each other’s perspectives and hardships. Maybe even reaching a grand understanding of the challenges and similarities between us all.

But it was nothing like I had imagined. It was a fun year spent hanging out and doing various school projects, which deliberately ignored the politics of the Middle East and generally were meant for passing the time. All in all, I was having a pretty fun time with about half of the group.

At some point – relatively early in the program – we had come to the mutual understanding that people were not interested in having any meaningful communication with people who came from different countries.  Often, the national divisions seemed to be the main and only driving force among us. It pushed away any hopes I might have  had of changing people’s perceptions and predispositions.

I assumed that my cohort was a relatively unsuccessful year of the program. Only about a third of us actually chose to befriend each other and enjoy each other’s company. Choosing to carry on with conversations about the issues we face, and the hardships of living where live.

We could feel a small grey cloud hanging above the entire experience. The feeling of falling short, of failing at reaching an a mutual understanding.

During our reunion, I met and spoke with other students from the previous years. They talked of their experience as if they were only studying with people from their own country. I saw people who refused to speak with Israelis – during their year and even now, at the reunion. On the contrary, I also saw friendships crossing borders and sustaining for years beyond this experience.

looking at both my year abroad and the reunion I realizes that they were both very representative of the current situation in the Middle East. Nobody is right or wrong, and there are many ways to react to the situation.

Each day living in the Middle East can be seen an opportunity for peace making. But it can also be seen through the eyes of its citizens, people living their lives and trying to get by. We do not all have the privilege of grand-scheming. We cannot all be peace-makers and activists during every second of every day.

We should understand our limitations, understand the forces which are keeping us where we are. We should understand that we are all human. We all try our best. We all try to get by and hope for better things to come.

I’ve come to realize that the little we have achieved wasn’t nothing. Although it was small, it made a dent. Each person I tell the story about my program to is another small piece, another dent, maybe leading slowly to a day when we might be able to accept our enemies as our neighbours.

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