Outside in: One Foreigner's Perspective - take a study tour

- by Alex Dunbar Jones -

While studying at university last year, I became almost unhealthily obsessed with all things related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When I wanted to relax after class and watch TV, I would watch Fauda.

When friends wanted to have a weekend away, I would suggest visiting Shuhada Street in Hebron.
Instead of reading Harry Potter like a normal person, I would reach for an academic tome discussing the politicisation of the geography of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

Then just when you think that you’re finally beginning to understand what’s going on here, or when you think you see a viable solution coming out of the fog of distrust, you are reminded of how little you know. It seems as though every few weeks I learn something new about the conflict that totally changes my perspective! A chance meeting or visiting an unexpected place can open your eyes to aspects of the conflict you had never imagined. It’s also very humbling to look back on the things which were shocking to learn for the first time but which now seem tragically normal.

This happened to me again last week while on my first ever Green Olive tour. I joined Yahav and an engaged bunch of Kiwi and Swiss travellers for a full day Greater Jerusalem tour. We covered topics as diverse as the flagellation of Jesus and the settlement of Israeli Jews in provocative neighbourhoods of the Old City. But it was the last section of the tour which most challenged my perspectives.

Yahav stood us with a panoramic view of both East and West Jerusalem and broke down the differences in quality of life for residents of each side. The methodical way in which he described life for most East Jerusalemites was not judgemental but I was so moved that when we got back into the van, I put my sunglasses on to hide my eyes and needed a moment to compose myself! Between impossible-to-obtain construction permits and revoking residency rights, one of the points which most struck me was that people from East Jerusalem know West Jerusalem, because often they mow its lawns, build its houses and cook its food. But people in West Jerusalem might have never been to neighbourhoods walking distance from where they were born.

As an obsessively curious person I find this hard to imagine! Although every few weeks something seems to change my mind regarding one aspect or other of the conflict, I am a firm believer that exploring the world, meeting people and actually talking to them is a universally good thing. Whether you have just a casual interest in the Middle East, or if you think of you already know everything about it, I wholeheartedly encourage you to come and explore as many sides of this fascinating area as you can, for yourself.

Better yet, join Green Olive for a tour!
Alex is Vice-President of Administration for Green Olive Tours. He originates from New Zealand, has worked in tourism in several countries, and recently completed his Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University.


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