Is there hope for Israel

They don't give up hope yet

Münster students organized a "trip to Jerusalem"

Wenzel Stählin was deeply impressed by the "walled-in city" of Qaliqilia. He experienced the Palestinian city like a prison.

Photos (3): private


"There is so much hostility between Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land. Nevertheless, many of them have not given up hope of peaceful coexistence. That moves me very much: the courage and moral courage of our young hosts." Anil Kunnel, student of communication studies, remembers his visit to a young Palestinian in Hebron with wide eyes. The 22-year-old was one of eight literary travel reporters who traveled three weeks on their own across Israel and Palestine for the "Reise nach Jerusalem" project in March 2007. They recently returned.

Carolin Wohlschlögel, Florentine Dame, Elisabeth Weydt and Lisa Winter, all students of the University of Münster, concocted this unique event. Their goal: apart from the well-known news pictures - attacks, evictions, curfews - to get their own, close-up picture of everyday life in the Holy Land. The quartet of female students cast young authors nationwide and sent them on their journey to Jerusalem in a star shape. The organization team from Münster also set out for the Middle East and served as SOS stations and coordinators. In so-called blogs, the travelers and the members of the organization team shared their impressions promptly via the Internet.

Political student Florian Schwarz, for example, met Noa, an ex-secret service agent and current coordinator of the peace initiative "Peace Now", at the Tel Aviv bus terminal. She reprimanded his verbal advocacy for Israel and asked him to get an objective picture of the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time she arranged a conversation with her friend Fadi in Ramallah. But the Israeli, who was proud of her military service, did not travel with her: "They would shoot me over there." It was precisely these conversations that caused Florian "that planes were constantly flying in my stomach".

Recorded like your own children


Florian Grosser always had "planes in his stomach" in the city of Hebron. He was received with great hospitality in Haifa.

Some refueled spiritual peace in the small Franciscan monastery in Tabgha on the Sea of ​​Galilee. The biblical place names remind communication scientist Florentine Dame "that this is not only holy land (and bone of contention) for Muslims and Jews, but that Christianity also has its roots here". One of Anil's most beautiful impressions was the visit of Hannah and Abraham, an 80-year-old married couple with eight children and 22 grandchildren: "We took part in the Sabbath and enjoyed kosher food, so lots of salad and houmus. We were welcomed like our own children - fantastic." Their warmth was very moving, especially because they live on Jaffa Road, the street where most of the attacks in Jerusalem took place.

The 22-year-old from Münster was also amazed at nature, for example in the Negev desert: "Why is it so green here?" ”He kept asking himself. The solution to the riddle is a natural spectacle: Due to heavy rain, everything blooms for a few weeks, green grass, cuckoo-herb and poppies grow on otherwise withered slopes. "But when you see that water sources are protected by high fences and barbed wire, it becomes clear how valuable water is in this region at other times of the year," explains Florentine. The young student is one of the four committed travel initiators from Münster.

Hospitality despite the memory of missiles

It was then irritating when, while walking in Tel Aviv, locals kept shouting almost casually to Germans at cafés: "A few years ago a number of people died here." On the other hand, they soon realized that western travelers often had to go through security checks in front of shopping centers and supermarkets and that soldiers ran around on the beaches with machine guns ready to fire. Less, however, are the impressions that the tour participants Florian and Wenzel got in Haifa. There they met people full of hospitality, even though they were still sitting in their shelters last summer and hoping that the Katyusha missiles would burn up in the sea instead of hitting the coast.

One of the generous hosts was Yotam, a film student from Tel Aviv, who was only a few meters away from the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin during a demonstration when he was shot. He told the students this more casually - during a trip to the beach against a blue sky. "You swallow deeply," says Elisabeth, formulating these and other travel impressions.

Also because some things were not entirely safe. Anil lived with Fawah Abuaisheh in the Jewish settlement within the Palestinian city of Hebron. This is guarded by 3,000 soldiers to protect the 450 Jewish settlers. Fawaz and friends work to protect the way to school for young Palestinians who live on the territory of the Jewish settlers.


Snapped everything that came before the lens: the Münster student Anil Kunnel in the old town of Tel Aviv


The two students Florian Grosser and Wenzel Stählin count their visit to the city of Qaliqilia in the West Bank to be one of their most haunting experiences. There they got to know the young committed Palestinian peace activist Natasha Aruri and experienced the walled-in city like a prison: "Palestinian residents are languishing who are not allowed to go to Israel. The whole infrastructure is collapsing." Associations with the Berlin Wall arise and a "biting feeling of powerlessness". The wall is part of a gigantic fortification that is soon to enclose all of the Palestinian territories.

Even in Münster, Germanist Elisabeth Weydt can't get the impressions from the occupied territories out of her head: "There remains a feeling of anxiety and perplexity - from growing housing developments and a life under occupation." What moves Florentine above all is "that the people in the Holy Land - despite the often seemingly hopeless situation - have retained a great deal of rationality". They looked for solutions and believed they would find them - without damning the "other side".

Literary scholar Simone Sofia Stirner had great difficulties keeping track of things - too many stories from Israelis and Palestinians: "The more you listen, the more threads of wishes and demands are spun from both sides. But nobody meets the other, everyone runs past each other. " Back in Germany, everything now has to be structured. "Not an easy undertaking," admits Elisabeth. She has contracted a flu-like infection: "Nobody expected it to snow in Hebron in March! Otherwise it will be closer to 20 degrees."

The travel experiences of the "literary authors" are to be published as a 250-page book in winter. A publisher is still being sought. It is already clear that the reading tour will start in Münster, not least because the city and the Protestant student community also support the project. With many memories of an unforgettable time, which are also documented photographically.

Meanwhile Anil has his exam in front of her chest, but she can't really switch off yet and get involved in everyday university life, "the impressions of the trip are so overwhelming". With the other students, he shares the deep certainty that it was worth exploring Israel and Palestine with your own eyes, in order to be able to look beyond the usual horizons and broaden your own political awareness. It is not without reason that five of the literary authors have voluntarily extended their trip and are currently on vacation in the Holy Land, which they seemingly will not let go of.

Peter Sauer