Our visit with Riman Barakat, a former Marquette Fulbright scholar who has worked in many different Palestinian-Israeli peacebuilding NGO’s is always a highlight of the trip. Student Adrianna Hromadka reflects on the questions and answers of her talk.
East Jerusalem offers a unique type of citizenship. After 1948, East Jerusalem was not included in the Israeli held territory. However, following the Six-day War, Israel extended permanent Israeli residency to Arabs that were then living in Jerusalem. Others not then residing in Jerusalem were not extended the same right of residency. Today, East Jerusalem serves as the capital of the Palestinian territory. While all of the territory’s citizens have Israeli residency, only a small percentage of East Jerusalemites have Israeli citizenship. Without Israeli citizenship, residents can only vote in municipal elections. Additionally, East Jerusalemites can lose their right of residency if they live abroad for more than seven years.
On our fourth day of the trip we got to dive deeper into the complexity of East Jerusalem. We had the opportunity to have a discussion with Riman Barakat, the CEO of Experience Palestine and a social activist. Barakat is an East Jerusalem citizen that has played a significant role in the peace movement in the East Jerusalem community. Barakat spoke about the importance of building bridges between the different communities for the betterment of Jerusalem as a whole. She appreciates the diversity of the city and feels that the citizens of Jerusalem can find unity by embracing their differences. She works to unify the city and state of Israel by giving those interested a glimpse into Palestine and its diverse people. Experience Palestine seeks to expose its participants to different opinions and ideas while also showing the potential and talent lying beyond the Green Line.
Barakat’s passion for her city was inspiring. In the age of social media, it can feel like there is a new “cause” every month. At times it can be difficult to tease out what is truly important to a person as an individual. The discussion made me think seriously about my own passions. Barakat not only gave me a new insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also into my own activism.