I’ve wanted to go on this trip since 8th grade, when I took Middle Eastern History with T. John McKinstry. He had just gone on the trip and was telling us all about it. I remember sitting there and thinking how amazing this trip sounded. I was ready to stop sitting in a classroom and go visit these places. Unfortunately I would have to wait four more years.
The purpose of the trip is to learn about the religious significance of the region and the ongoing conflict. We will be visiting many religious sites along with sites of conflict, such as the Separation Wall and the Aida Refugee Camp. We will be talking with people from both sides of the conflict to hear their views and opinions.
Our many pre-trip meetings have provided excellent information. I feel so much more knowledgeable and prepared to delve into the region’s issues because of our research and discussion. I have been aware, however, that everyone in our group tends to see the issues similarly. That’s fine of course; it’s great to be traveling with people who share values and perspectives. But I do want to be careful that I never get stuck in group think or feel pressure to conform to a certain opinion. I won’t be a valuable contributor to the group if I fail to promote and respect independent thinking.
Something I’ve realized with the recent election is that some people fundamentally see the world differently than I do. It’s easy to become frustrated and angry and blast my political opponents with what I consider persuasive information. That doesn’t work. What I’ve tried to do recently is more fully understand what they think and why they think it. I’ve got to carry this new approach with me to Israel/Palestine. I can’t go in thinking I know how people should feel or act. People have lived different lives and have different perspectives. It would be incredibly arrogant to think I know how to solve the region’s centuries-old conflicts. I’m going there to listen to everyone with thoughtful respect. I will learn everything I can, and then come home and process the information. I will then be able to develop a much more enlightened and nuanced understanding of this globally important region with its rich culture and complicated, sometimes terrifying problems.