“Are there any volunteers to help us organize Borders Week?” These were the words our principal, Gili Roman said in one of the CARDO meetings as a weekly announcement. Those words started the long journey of twelve students to create a three-day trip to emphasise the school’s mission.
There were five borders altogether, Jordan, Gaza and Egypt, West Bank, Lebanon and Syria, with up to two organisers each. As soon as the organisers were allocated to their border, they were introduced to their first task of investigating and finding places to visit along with the purpose of each visit. The work needed to be submitted by the end of the first week and so all of the leaders rushed to do the tasks that were set for them. After long hours and even days of working, everyone submitted their first plan on time and were then asked to find contacts of the places they were planning on visiting. Even though some of the organisers were Hebrew speakers, there were students who had the challenge of contacting people and trying to settle everything in English. Countless of emails were sent to different parts of Israel, and despite the sleepless hours the organisers spent in trying to find contacts, the results were satisfying and on-track with the deadlines.
This type of procedure went on until all the details were perfectly written and approved and slowly, the big trip came. To most of the students in EMIS this trip meant an excursion where they would get a well-deserved break from their busy academic life, but to the group of leaders, the trip meant the end of their organising journey. Needless to say, each and every leader was a bit nervous and extremely hopeful that their organised plans will turn out entertaining and worthy of the work they put into it.
So, Borders Week began, and the organisers were finally going to see how their work and ideas would turn out to be in practice. The first day went extremely well for the five groups and at the end of this day, each border went into different places to sleep and have their planned activities for the first night. One activity which was interesting was the one organised by the Jordanian and Syrian leaders, who decided to do it together since both of the groups slept in the same place for the first day. While they had different activities in the afternoon, during the night the two groups merged together to play group games and unleash all the exhaustion from the long bus rides.
The second day was even more interesting than the first one, because at the end of the day, all of the groups met in the Nokdim farm to experience sleeping in bedouin tents. During dinner, the dining hall was bustling from the small talks of the students who were sharing their experiences of their borders which was soon followed by the silence of hungry teenagers eating their food. While everyone was enjoying and reflecting on what happened during the first two days, the organisers released a sigh of relief that everything went well and that their group was happy from what they did. They were happy that their work had paid off and sad that it had ended in a blink of an eye.
Nevertheless, they learnt a lot from this experience and that was reflected during the Borders Week Committee’s meeting. Everyone was eager to share something that had impressed them in the trip and about the relationship Israel had with all of their neighbours. What was touching was one of the situations that one of the West Bank’s organiser, Sebastian Cordero, had experienced in the trip. He explained that some of their speakers had shared some ideas in their discussions which had made him understand more about how the Palestinian side would feel about the conflict.
Those simple and yet radical words of the speakers had made him, an outsider, feel connected and angry about the current conflict the Israelis and the Palestinians are facing each day. With his words, we understood how important it is to understand and get out of our comfort zone of EMIS to see what the situation is in the outside world. That is the main reason Borders Week was so crucial to each student who participated in it and for its organisers, it was even more important because it was something they had contributed themselves to create.
By: Junis Ekmekciu