Israel/Palestine Preparations

28 February 2017 – Tara Kleponis

After planning for months of traveling to Israel and Palestine, the trip is finally days away, and I’m struggling to fathom just how soon I’ll be abroad. As soon as I learned about an opportunity to travel to an area with a culture so rich and a conflict so deep that the only way to understand is to go, I knew I had to be there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip where I will experience religion and disdain, homestays and hotels, bussing and hiking, new foods, new oceans, and so much more. I’d never imagined that my senior year would include a journey to a region brand new to me, yet here I am, packing my suitcase and gathering my passport.

In Israel and Palestine, I will be speaking to locals to hear their stories and learn about their cultures. As there is conflict ongoing in the area, I will be sure to hear stories that contrast with one another in belief and action, yet every single one will be true. Why is that? Each person has had their own experience, and some have dealt with situations which have caused them to look at the world and their neighbors in different ways. While abroad, it is not the job of us Westtown students to draw conclusions about what we encounter, but to listen respectfully and learn from those we meet.

I cannot wait to explore a place so different from the one I know, and hope to see the world in a new way, or a bigger way, upon my return. Here I will share my personal experiences from Israel and Palestine–talk to you soon!

Day #1: continued…

Nothing hits you harder than seeing the type of poverty you’ve read about, seen films of and researched. The salty desert sand touched my lips and stuck on the busride back to the hotel.

After our talk with Eid we were given time to walk about the camp and school yard. I wandered off on my own a little bit with both cameras (digital and film) around my neck and my backpack hanging behind me. I took an entire roll of film about the camp: from the broken playground equipment to the shack-homes themselves. After a few minutes I noticed I had a small posse growing behind me. Little girls from about 3-7 years old dressed in mis-matched outfits covered in desert dust and smiles kept pointing to my backpack with clever grins. I hadn’t realized we would be visiting the camp: otherwise I would’ve brought something like stickers or notebooks to give but all i had was my cameras, hand lotion, water bottle and hand sanitizer. The girls started grabbing at my backpack so I turned and kneeled in the land to be at eye level.


Westtown, February 28th, 2013

I am sitting in my empty, spotless dorm room as I type this – I will leave Westtown in about half an hour, and my flight to Israel/Palestine departs in a little bit more than 24 hours. The countdown gadget on my computer has finally reached zero, and I could not be happier about it. Senior Project is so close, I can almost feel it in the air!

“Marhaba” means “welcome” in Arabic, a phrase that I have heard so many times when I was in Abu Dhabi last December on a college visit trip. I love Arabic hospitality – they are so warm, welcoming, and always happy to give interested people a slice of their world. That is partly why I am very much looking forward to being in Israel/Palestine this time. But all that aside, welcome to my thrilling journey as I find my way to one of the oldest, holiest, and most complicated lands in the world. Continue reading “Marhaba!”

An Introduction

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m going to Israel/Palestine for my Senior Project.

The start of any student’s enthusiasm for their Senior Project starts long before their Senior year begins. Mine began in the sixth grade when I first came to Westtown and heard of these high school seniors traveling all around the globe for two weeks in the middle of their senior year. Although Senior Projects were a long way away, I could tell that my Senior Project was going to be special. Continue reading “An Introduction”