My journey to Israel and Palestine was an experience that I would
never have imagined going on. When the trip was first announced I
immediately said “yes”. I couldn’t explain why my response was so
immediate. However, looking back to my time in Palestine, I wouldn’t
change a thing. This trip took me not only literally out of the
country but it took me out of my comfort zone. Now that I find myself
telling people about my trip, I see how much I have learned. I learned
about the culture, the people and even got the opportunity to learn a
few Arabic words that I use since I got back.
Before embarking on this trip, I wasn’t completely aware of the
political conflict. While there I learned so much about the situation and
the different events throughout history that have shaped what
Palestine is today. At first the stories were overwhelming. I
couldn’t understand why there is so much hatred and so much conflict.
While going to the schools and meeting the different people and
Children, I was amazed at how peaceful and hopeful these people are
despite the political conflict. I admire the hope that they have for
their future. This really put things into perspective for me about how
many times I find myself complaining about small things when in
reality these people have much greater problems than I do.
The highlight of my trip was definitely meeting the children in Palestine.
Like people say, children are always the most innocent in any situation.
These children were so happy and playful. The children that we met in the
SOS Children’s Village were very welcoming despite the language barrier.
Being in that classroom with Michael showed me how difficult it is to
communicate with a student that may speak a different language as their
primary language. While we were there I knew one thing that was universal-
a smile and that was the way we communicated.
The culture and people that we met in the streets were all so
welcoming and eager to help. Meeting with my pen pal was definitely a
great experience. It was a great idea to be set up with someone prior
to our trip so that way we could talk before going to Palestine. While
at lunch with my pen pal, I learned so much and got to meet other
Bethlehem University students. Now I can say that I have many friends
in Bethlehem. The trips to the different refugee camps were very
emotional and overwhelming. It is one thing to read about than to go
personally and hear these peoples’ testimonies. At times, I found myself
being upset because I felt that the situation that they are in isn’t
fair and shouldn’t be going on. I would tell my peers that I wish I
could just bring everyone with me back home. But after reflecting and
looking at the situation, I saw how these people were happy and always
found the positive. I wish I could apply that to my everyday life.
When I came back from my trip I took on a permanent substitute
position with fourth graders. One day I decided to do a lesson on
travelling the world and challenged them to think of places that they
wish they could visit. I told them about my experiences and taught
them different Arabic phrases such as “thank you” “you’re welcome” and
“how are you”. The students were all very interested and wanted to
learn more. I showed them different pictures of the different sites we
visited. My objective was to teach them that they could go to any
place in the world and learn about different cultures. I wanted
to tell them how children, even across the Atlantic Ocean, are the same
as they are. My journey to Israel and Palestine was a once in a
lifetime experience that I will always cherish and that has opened my
mind to thinking outside of my own comfort zone. I will continue to
share my story with everyone I meet.