Saturday, June 14, 2014

End of Trip Reflections

Today is already the last day of our trip to Israel! I guess it is true that time really does fly by when you're having fun. Reflecting on our time here, I can honestly say that my eyes have been opened. Though I have a much better understanding of Israel and the conflict with Palestine, I am no closer to having a solution. I think this trip has been one of the most enlightening experiences I have had. We've really learned about a plethora of issues, ranging from water governance to U.S. foreign policy to Druze and Bedouin hospitality (and delicious food). I feel like Dr. Ziv did a great job planning a well-rounded, multi-perspective curriculum.

A few of the more recent activities we have had that really stood out to me include talking with Gabe, an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldier. This was a spur-of-the-moment meeting that Dr. Ziv planned, and it turned out to be one of my favorites. Gabe is an American Jew who did "Aliyah" (immigration to Israel) and decided to join the IDF after graduating from college in 2012. I was so fascinated by his choice to join the IDF instead of the U.S. military. He justified this choice by describing how Israel needs more help and that by growing up in a Jewish household he feels like his values align well with those engrained in Israel. One thing that I found interesting about our discussion with Gabe was that he wasn't very political and therefore you could have a real, unbiased conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I asked him how women play a role in the IDF and if they are ever subject to sexism. Since Israel has mandatory military service, which includes women, I wondered if this made any difference. It was fascinating to hear his first-hand experience and realize that he's just a normal, 23-year old American guy who felt very passionately about Israel.

A fun thing that a group of us did last week during our free time was visit the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center (at Dr. Ziv's recommendation). This ritzy church/hotel is a rooftop restaurant just outside the Old City with one of the most beautiful views that I have seen. We ordered some wine and cheese (which is one of their specialties) and watched the sun go down over Jerusalem. It was one of those moments where you just soak everything in, and I'd completely recommend this place for any future Israel trip-goers. Here are some pictures of the breathtaking views and delicious food:

So here's to a great trip with great people who became new friends. I definitely won't forget everything I saw and learned here!

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