A grassroots organization’s educational and travel opportunity program that seeks to solve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now accepting applications.
The Vision Program – a 10-month fellowship for Jewish American, Palestinian American, Israeli and Palestinian university students sponsored by Abraham’s Vision foundation – explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict academically through individual and group relations. First launched in 2006, the Vision Program seeks to inspire unity and understanding among students of different backgrounds and ideologies.
The four-week summer educational excursion, which takes participants to Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, hinges around the Balkan wars of the 1990s. As the students travel to each new location, they are given the opportunity to meet local people, politicians and academics in that region, as well as participate in discussion-based workshops on topics such as religion and nationalism.
2008 Vision Program participant Avi Smolen, a fourth-year political science major at Rutgers College, said his experience with the Visions Program has aided in his understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I was able to understand the Palestinian narrative and explore the privilege I enjoy as a Jew in relation to Israel,” Smolen said in an e-mail. “I now have a much greater understanding of the suffering caused by the oppression of the Palestinians, and I refuse to let it be done in my name.”
Smolen said that following the program, the students are reunited a year later in two weekend retreats where they further discuss the work they did in the Balkans as well as new viewpoints on conflict resolution.
Students in the program take part in various workshops that deal with current issues and long-term decisions to help solve conflict for future generations. Smolen said the program is a microcosm of potential international relations solutions that could one day take place between Palestine and Israel.
“We had a role-play where we had to take part in a trial where a Palestinian militant was killed by Israel in a missile attack and we had to either prosecute or defend the Israeli general who sent the rocket,” Smolen said in an e-mail. “It showed a lot about the power disparity between Israelis and Palestinians and it helped me to step outside of my comfort zone, challenge my views and expand my understanding of why such things occur.”
Abraham’s Vision is currently accepting applications for participation for the 2009-10 Vision Program. The application can be found on the organization’s Web site www.abrahamsvision.org.