Studying in Israel was a life-changing experience for Mimi Hartmann.
During the fall semester of her sophomore year, the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) student learned about her Israeli heritage while visiting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Gaza-Israel border, and other areas.
While hearing eye-opening stories about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over land, Hartmann knew she would tell her story and make a difference when she returned to the land of Mercer Island.
“I feel like a completely different person. I feel like I’ve grown more into myself far from home and into my community where I felt so accepted,” said MIHS. “In general, it was really amazing to make contact with other Jewish teens my age. After going there, I had a kind of sympathy for both sides (in the conflict). I just wanted peace there.”
Now as a DECA project through its advanced marketing class, the passionate and confident teen is organizing a Local Business Giving Day on November 20 to spread her hope for peace in the Middle East. The Island/Eastside participating companies will donate a percentage of their day’s revenue to the Arava Institute.
“The main goal of this organization is to bring Palestinian and Israeli youth together to perform agricultural tasks, and to give them the opportunity to network and make friends,” Hartmann said.
Companies on board at some point are: Sano Cafe on Island, Island Books, Hip Zephyr, Au Courant Salon & The DEN, and Bellevue’s Seattle Sun Tan. Barb Hovsepian, owner of Au Courant, said her business is proud to support Hartmann, who has dedicated “time, due effort and pure heart” to her vital endeavours.
“In a world of turmoil, I find it encouraging to see the work and rewards drawn from the teachings in the Wadi Araba,” Hofsipian said.
Hartmann wants to promote her cause and the companies she’s joining on the big day.
“They have done an amazing job. I know it’s tough with COVID and everything. For them, giving a percentage of their revenue is amazing,” Hartmann said, adding that the Wadi Araba Institute aims to unite Israelis and Palestinians in a huge and moving gesture by planting trees in Israel is where the conflict began.
“Literally the root of the problem,” she said. “So they come together and become friends and kind of bond together in general, and kind of stop the hate between the two opposing sides because we’re all cousins in general.”
During Hartmann’s trip to Israel, she followed in the footsteps of her brothers and mother, who all participated in the program during their high school years. Following COVID protocols, the students were placed in quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Israel and traveled in a group of 70 people during their stay.
Hartmann, an intern at StandWithUs, said they were safe during their flight. In Sderot, they visited a playground with a large caterpillar skeleton that once served as a bomb shelter. That moment stuck with her.
“It was supposed to be a happy little play area when in fact it was like protecting them from bombs, which is really exciting to think about for me,” Hartmann said.
For more information about the Arava Institute, visit https://arava.org/