How does the Olive Tree Initiative deal with criticism?


When working with conflicts, criticism is to be expected. The most common critique we get is from individuals who oppose our educational philosophy. It is difficult for some of them to understand that in order to be educated about a conflict situation and to work towards tangible solutions, one has to study its complexity first, including the voices and issues that one might personally disagree with. Excluding the uncomfortable voices and perspectives from our trips would present a misleading and inaccurate picture of the situation on the ground and would limit the participants’ ability to learn about the situation from a 360-degree perspective.

In order not to confront these various at times opposing narratives and perspectives on our trips naïvely we prepare the trip participants in multiple ways. Students attend 30+ weeks of educational sessions on the Middle East, including various classes on related issues (on their campuses), as well as a week-long intense preparation seminar with specific discussions about each speaker/place on the trips. Questions for speakers are pre-meditated by the students to keep our discussions very educational and informative.

People and organizations are entitled to their opinion, however, the majority of media (see list und media) and community organizations that engage with our program come out in favor of our educational efforts (see list of our awards and recognition).   Furthermore, as history has shown, the people most involved in what we do – the students, faculty and community members of differing perspectives that participate in OTI – stand in strong support of the program.

Needless to say, however, working with conflict situations will continue to evoke criticism especially when critics are ideologically and politically motivated.   We continue to invite all critics to speak with our organization and students directly and not to criticize them from afar.