Ten politics students from the University of Glasgow are travelling to Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank this August to study conflict, narratives, and peacebuilding.
The students will be travelling as part of The Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a new university-based organisation that promotes conflict analysis and resolution.
The extensive itinerary includes trips to Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, the Golan Heights and Nazareth, as well as others. On top of this, they will meet with stakeholders from various communities, including academics, refugees, politicians and activists. OTI students are aiming to raise £4000 to cover the cost of the trip.
Dr Naomi Head, Politics lecturer and organiser of the expedition, told The Glasgow Guardian: "Alongside an academic focus on Israel and Palestine, the experiential element of the programme - which means that students spend three weeks travelling widely in the region - really brings alive the narratives of conflict they study. The challenges and the intensity of the trip encourage students to critically reflect on their own beliefs and political opinions and to really understand why they hold certain perspectives on the conflict."
The OTI aims to stay apolitical and communicate multiple narratives that make-up the current reality of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The programme is currently funded by Pears Foundation and the University of Glasgow Chancellor’s Fund as well as additional support provided through fundraising and student contributions.
Fiona Ross, a third year Politics and English Literature student and treasurer of Glasgow University's OTI, told The Glasgow Guardian:
"Studying such a range of sources, meeting so many different people, and visiting so many different places has given us all a valuable chance to look at many different sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is so refreshing to be able to form our own, critically engaged opinions from a range of sources, and be able to discuss all the perspectives we hear and form in a critical, dialogue-driven environment"
Wiktoria Uljanowska, Equality Officer of the Glasgow University OTI, said: "I saw OTI as a great chance to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. I didn't expect that the educational part of the programme would challenge my ways of thinking so soon."
"I'm super excited for the trip, my first outside Europe, and I think Naomi's doing a great job in reminding us how we can use this experience beyond self-indulgence, not just to focus on how it can shape us but also what we can do with it."