Middle East

Behind the Headlines

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Middle East

Behind the Headlines

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  • Explore the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while living in Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities in the world.
  • Meet with Rabbis for Human Rights, an organization that fights injustice on both sides of the green line.
  • Hike overnight down to the Dead Sea to catch the sunrise, jump in the Sea of Galilee, and walk along Tel Aviv’s beautiful beaches.
  • Work and stay at a West Bank community centre with Roots, a grassroots initiative led by local Palestinians and Israelis to create a physical space for mutual understanding and dialogue.

Program Dates


May 29 – July 3


July 11 – August 15




Program Fee + Community Contribution  

$3,225 + $750
$2,935 + $615



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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation – Jerusalem

Following airport pickups from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv, we’ll go straight to Jerusalem for our in-country orientation. Our team will settle into our apartment in the city by trying local cuisine, picking up Hebrew and Arabic basics, and seeing local historical sites such as the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock.


We’ll educate ourselves with a crash course on the history, politics, and implications of the conflict and meet with local experts to orient ourselves to the politics and demographics of Jerusalem. We’ll also have a chance to meet with our longtime partners, Rabbis for Human Rights, to discuss the current political situation, to learn about their work to create positive change, and to help us contextualize our own experiences and the direction our work will take us. This first week is an intense but important start to our journey!

Community Connections and Volunteer Projects

We’ll be staying at an apartment or hostel in Jerusalem for the large part of our program where we can look forward to really living like the locals do – grocery shopping in the Mahane Yehuda open air market, sipping coffee in the eclectic, hipster-vibed neighborhood of Nachlaot, spending weekends camping under the stars in the Negev desert, and always being a quick walk away from the Old City, home to some of the holiest sites in the world. We will have front row seats to Jerusalem’s amazing display of contradictions; ancient and modern, religious and secular, division, and unity.


In the midst of all this, we will get deep into our learning and work with one of our main project partners: the Roots Project. A centre in the West Bank run by Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, the project’s goal is to bring the two often divided peoples together. Their farm, where we will be both living and working, is the hub of their outreach program in the West Bank, which includes monthly meetings between Israeli and Palestinian families, a women’s group, a summer camp, language learning, and cultural exchanges. In past years, we’ve worked with locals to plant trees, dig a cistern, and even build a playground in preparation for Roots’ inaugural summer camp.


Throughout our volunteer project, we will explore cities in both Israel and Palestine. In Palestine, we will tour the intense, divided city of Hebron with Breaking the Silence (an Israeli organization of former soldiers speaking out about their service in the Occupied Territories), hang out in the modern and largely secular Ramallah, as well as visit some of the small villages that dot the countryside. In Israel, we will bike along the boardwalk in the liberal, metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, experience the communal lifestyle of the Israeli kibbutz, and hike in the lush mountains of the north. Moving through these very different communities, we will have the opportunity to speak with locals and get a diverse perspective on the region’s tense political situation.

Independent Travel Time (ITT)

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. The wonders of Petra? The enchanting Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum? Hiking the Israel Trail? The mysticism of Zfat or surfing in Haifa? ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interest, whether it’s by volunteering, traveling, or just relaxing!


**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Tel Aviv

Our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. This will likely take place beachside in Tel Aviv where we will tell stories of ITT, reflect on the program, what we learned and our accomplishments, how we can stay in touch, and what future projects we can collaborate on. There are always a few surprises and a few tears before everyone heads off to the airport for our goodbyes!

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What’s Included?


A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region


Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day


All lodging and accommodations throughout the program


Three local meals a day


All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions


All group transportation on the ground


Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience


Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

      • Kick up your adrenaline by rafting along the ancient Jordan River.
      • Explore Jordan’s lost city of Petra and discover its archaeological wonders.
      • Visit an artists’ colony in Haifa and hike in the Galil in the north.
      • Hop the pond over to Istanbul, Greece, Italy, or Cyprus.


With OG, you live like the locals.

We will be staying in Jerusalem in a rented apartment as our home base. The apartment will most likely have warm showers, full kitchen, basic furnishings, and mattresses. But be prepared because some nights we will be camping out under the stars in the beautiful Negev desert (woohoo!). We’ll cook our own food, play, drink, and live together in a cozy Jerusalem apartment.

Meet Your Program Leaders

RobinHey y’all! My name is Robin. I hail from Falls Church, Virginia, studied politics at academic institutions, and then began my study of the world when I joined an inspiring friend living in Cairo, Egypt post-revolution. Eventually making my own exodus, I have been hopping around Israel/Palestine now for the past two years—from living in the Old City to exploring kibbutzim and villages in the North to wandering in the desert, attempting to write a creative-non-fiction book whilst engaging in the various treats, tricks and treasures this amazing place has to offer! I work with various activist groups committed to social change, and take part in constant learning to better know how to makes waves in this world: from the essential, like Arabic and Hebrew, to what, for me, are parts of the essence, Hebrew calligraphy and oud.

Matt WalshMatt, a California native, fell in love with the cultures, history, and religions of the Middle East from an early age. Matt decided that all of the classes, theories, and papers didn’t mean anything unless he got on a plane and checked things out for himself. So after graduating college, that’s exactly what he did…. and the rest is history. Since 2008 he has been traveling, volunteering, and working off and on in Israel and Palestine. He pops back over to the U.S for a year or so at a time, long enough to indulge his baseball fanaticism and catch a San Francisco Giants World Series run (or 3!). Matt led Operation Groundswell’s Middle East programs in 2013 and 2014 so when the opportunity to reunite with OG came up Matt jumped on it, proving that you can take the PL out of the OG but you can’t take the OG out of the PL… or something like that. Matt considers himself an absolute falafel freak and loves to aimlessly wander the streets of Jerusalem in the evenings.

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