“In Their Own Words” ZOA Student Mission to Israel

We toured the Jordan River Valley and saw how geographically paramount the valley is to Israel and the security challenges that are posed to the Israelis living in the border of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Israel shares the longest border with Jordan, therefore maintaining peace with the Jordanians and keeping control of the strategic land along the Jordan river plays a key role to assuring the existence and security of the state of Israel.
The Jordan Valley also provides the perfect conditions for growing the world’s best date. The conditions are also ideal for growing figs and argon. The high temperatures, abundant sun, and water from the Jordan River is the secret to harvesting the world’s best date. These ideal conditions are unique to the Jordan Valley. G-d promised Moses that he would return the Israelites to “a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey.” The land being Israel and the honey referring to fruit nectar, more specifically the date. Today we had a chance to taste the “honey” and travel through the land. We visited the Arbel Family Farm in the valley. We enjoyed a tour of where the figs and dates are grown and also got to see where they are all packaged for exportation to many countries all over the world. 90% of the farms delicious fruits are exported for the world to enjoy the “honey” from the Holy Land. The farm not only produces the world’s best date, but also employs many Palestinian Arabs creating a working environment that supports coexistence. It dispelled all the myths floating around in the world that Israelis and Palestinian Arabs can’t have any peace. We saw them working together, sharing meals, and stories with one another.
In addition we visited the Kedma Student Village in he Jordan River Valley area. Kedma is dedicated to bringing young people to live in and help strengthen Jewish communities in the Shomron, Jordan Valley, Judea, and the Negev. It was very inspiring to see young students in there twenties so committed to the Zionist dream. Living in the Jordan Valley is not the easiest place to live for a young person. Many of the students commute long distances to go to school and to work, but despite that they still choose to live there because they know how important it is for young people to also be apart of the Jewish communities all over Israel. These students also volunteer 300 hours a year on top of working and going to university. They have all worked very hard to build a successful, young, beautiful Jewish community in the Jordan Valley.
After our visit to the Kedma student village we traveled to Nofei Prat, a Jewish community in Judea/Samaria right outside of Jerusalem, for Shabbat. We were hosted by incredible families who welcome us into their homes with open arms for Shabbat. It was really nice to see how different Jewish families in the community celebrate Shabbat. The community is mixed with many different types of Jewish families, ranging from Orthodox to secular and everything in between. They live together and respect each other’s differences. We have a lot to learn from this community. There is a lot of talk in he media and peace talks in Washington about communities like Nofei Prat saying that these “settlements” are the obstacle to peace, depicting them as crazy religious radical settlers who are trying to take over the land. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. These are families who wish to live in a suburb and a quite community away from the city. They want their kids to run around and play in the streets together and travel from one house to the other with an open door policy on Shabbat. They wanted to move there because they wanted a neighborhood and community that felt like a family. They want peace with their next-door neighboring Arab village. In fact the two communities share a water spring in the canyon down bellow the mountain of the two communities. The kids swim together and they seem to share the space peacefully. These Jewish communities, or “settlements” as the world likes to call them, are not the obstacle to peace. The obstacle is the governing leadership such as the PA, Fatah, and the PLO  who are all saying that it is evil to live in peace next to a Jew and threaten the life of any Palestinian Arab who speaks of peace with Jews or makes any sort of attempt to build coexistence. Separation and segregation only leaves more room for brainwashing and incitement to take place and furthers the distance from achieving some sort of peace. The PA’s incitement and brainwashing of young children to hate and kill the Jews is the real obstacle to peace– not a Jewish neighborhood on top of a mountain that was simply desert 25 years ago and has since turned into a thriving family friendly community.