“I got the chance to meet the “other side”, Palestinians, on a personal level, face-to-face, without the media,” said Yaara Tal, an international student from Kibbutz Dorot, Israel, the southern part of the country by the Gaza strip. In 2008 she attended the Creativity for Peace (CFP) program in Santa Fe, NM, where she met some people from Gaza living on the other side of the Gaza strip.
She took part in this leadership program to share her experience from the Israel- Palestinian conflict and hear the perspective of Palestinians living across the border. “We lived together, cooked and cleaned together, laughed and cried together,” said Tal, “by the end of the camp, we saw each other as human beings and not enemies.”
After the program in 2010, Tal was conscripted into the Israeli military, as a part of its mandatory citizenship requirement. In the military, she served as an observer in the Gaza border for two years but she had minimal exposure to the regular civilians in Gaza. “I felt like I was confronting the terrorist, not the people I met through the CFP program,” said Tal.
After the military, she joined the CFP program again where she received a full scholarship to attend the Lane Community College for two years with a Palestinian student named Deema Yusef. In fall 2013 Tal and Yusef arrived together for the first time in Eugene, Ore, and since then they have been classmates, roommates, and friends.
In 2015, the two girls transferred to the University of Oregon to major in International Studies and they are both a part of the ICSP scholarship. “Now we know each other so well that we call tell each other’s story by heart,” said Tal, “I think getting to this deep level of friendship, respect, and understanding with someone from Palestine is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. ”
Tal will graduate in Dec. 2017 with a major in international studies and a minor in political science and the Middle East and North Africa studies. “When I was a kid I dreamt of becoming the Israeli ambassador in South Korea,” said Tal whose mother is a South Korean citizen living in Israel. “Although I am not sure if I want to be an ambassador anymore, international relations was always a field I wanted to study,” said Tal.
After her graduation, she hopes to work for a nonprofit that focuses on building peace and women empowerment in the Middle East. During which she wishes to travel the world and eventually enter grad school for further education in global affairs.