our teachers ended the dialogue and hustled us back to the bus

“On my 8th grade class trip to Israel, I remember we met with a group of Arab-Israeli youth to talk and ask questions about their experiences. We talked about music and other surface level topics until one of the Arab-Israeli children said something about “Nakba.” I can’t recall what exactly he said because my classmates and I were trained to shut down at the utterance of that word. Immediately, our teachers ended the dialogue and hustled us back to the bus. On the drive back I remember my and my classmates’ anger. We were upset for a few reasons. First, if the point of this dialogue was to engage in “tough” conversations, then why did our teachers have to shut down as soon as we faced (what we interpreted at the time as) conflict? Second, my classmates and I felt well trained to defend Israel. Surely, we could convince him that “Nakba” was a misunderstanding. Looking back on this moment now, I see it as just one of many times my institutions purported to do “interfaith work” or “build bridges” while insisting that the conversation stay on the surface. We were never taught about Occupation, and we were never able to engage in critical debate about the Occupation, or really about Israel at all. I wish I could go back to that dialogue from my 8th grade Israel trip. I wish we had a chance to continue the conversation.” -Sophia Waldstein, Perelman Jewish Day School, BBYO, USY