UVU sociology major Aaron Wood has recently returned from a two-week delegation to Israel and Palestine during which he spoke with both Israelis and Palestinians regarding the ongoing conflict.

The delegation, co-sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) and the National Peace Foundation (NPF), gave 16 American students the opportunity to travel through the conflict zone during President Obama’s visit to discuss the halt of illegal Israeli settlement and the reintroduction of peace negotiations.

With five major goals, the delegation set out to make a difference. The first goal was to observe the situation on the ground and analyze how it affects Palestinians and Israelis in the west bank and Israel, the second, was to listen to Palestinians and Israelis regarding their personal views, the third goal was to support non-violent activism, the fourth goal is to engage in education and advocacy upon returning to the U.S., and the fifth goal is to empower people to become peace builders in their own communities.

One of the organizations the delegation was able to meet with on their trip was the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD). The organization gave them a tour of east Jerusalem so the group could understand what policies were being enforced and how it was affecting the ground situation.

The Israel defense forces issue demolitions to Palestinian homes and are also extending walls around their existing settlements, thereby isolating their communities.

“Palestinian families are forced to leave and find other places to live at which point Israeli settlements are built on the confiscated land,” Wood said. “About 1/3 of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been issued demolition orders. 3,000 orders have been issued in the Palestinian land of the west bank.”

While there are varied opinions on the Israeli side, many consider themselves citizens concerned with human rights and the state of Israel.

“The vast majority, believe that the occupation needs to end, the settlements need to stop and the wall needs to be dismantled similar to the Berlin Wall,” Wood said.

Many Palestinians felt like the only way Israel will truly stop is if international pressure is put upon them, specifically from the U.S. with whom they are close allies. This may need to include the discontinuation of aid being sent to Israel from the U.S.