UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative
Last night, I along with two hundreds or so other students, staff, faculty and community members gathers at the UCI student Center to hear about the latest efforts of the Olive Tree Initiative. The name of the event was titled: Looking into the Mirror. Critical reflections on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Since its creation in 2007, the Olive Tree Initiative at UCI has been responding to tension on its campus regarding the Israeli – Palestinian situation by forming a diverse group of students and traveling to Israel and the surrounding areas to gain firsthand experience in the region.
According to UCI information put out about the program, student cross physical and mental borders, engage with ordinary people, academics, politicians, religious authorities, community leaders and others. The students that went on this trip were made up of Jews, Muslims, Christians, non affiliated members or a religious organization. it included mostly UCI students with two students each from UCLA, US Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz.
Upon their return, students share their experiences with peers and community members in forms like the one I attended last night.
Each student was provided the opportunity to address the audience on an experience or two they had during their 18 day trip.
A few thoughts about the event.
** The most important takeaway I saw as a community member was the opportunity for real dialogue on campus between students of different backgrounds. That my friends is called hope.
** Instead of reading or using information from news reports, these students saw what was taking place on the ground.
** The chances for improved relations on campus grows if the students can translate the experience in the Middle East to influencing others to join a discussion.
** The idealistic student views were met with the harsh reality from members of the community when questions were taken from the audience after the student presentations.
** The impact of what UCI is doing is now being felt on other campuses. As a result of this ongoing initiative, it was announced that similar programs are launching at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz.
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