For a lot of students, Spring Break’s the time to go buckwild. I was supposed to be in Honduras next week as part of a service trip for work but the powers that be had me cancel, argh! Instead, I thought I’d reminisce about my time in Israel/The West Bank and repost a Top 10 I did about a year ago. Out of all my travels, I definitely took the most out of that trip. Learning more about my faith, dialoguing with different groups in all the conflict and politics and then meeting more bright, young people who further confirm why I have a passion for education made it an unforgettable trek. In no particular order and with no particular theme:
– Holy Sites
This was the original reason I signed up for the ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ class on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Growing up in the Catholic Church, I’ve always wanted to visit the holy land so when I saw the trip being advertised I jumped on it. Going through the places where Jesus spent his life and carried out his ministry was crazy for me. Every time we did something I’d stop and ask myself “did I really just swim in the Sea of Galilee? Did I really just walk through the Stations of the Cross? Did I really just pick my nose where the Angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary? Did I really just get told to shut up in the garden where Judas betray Jesus?” It blew my mind. Couldn’t have had better professors to accompany us too. I must’ve asked Lloyd Steffen and Peter Pettit a million questions and they delivered every time.
I don’t know whose beauty idea it was to go straight to a museum after an 11 hour flight but it happened. We literally got off the plane and the first thing we have lined up is a 3 hour tour of the Rabin Center. It was a mean display but we couldn’t appreciate it properly cuz our eyeballs were almost falling out. People were dropping like flies – it got to the point where I would run through a section just to get to the end of it ahead of everyone so I could scab 2 minutes of sleep before they all caught up. The same people who initially looked at me in disgust for doing it were soon following suit. By the end of it people were literally lying all over the floor, bodies sprawled out. Good work, Lehigh. Aside from that logistical nightmare, we got a good dose of history from Masada to Yad Vashem.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is my PLEASURE. Back at Viard I used to yell “WHAT’S THE BUZZ? TELL ME WUTSAHAPPANIN’!” up in everyone’s face on the way to class. In all my excitement I thought it would be a good idea to play it to a room full of Jews in Jerusalem. Prolly not something I’d do again.
If you ever come across an Ethiopian lady who tells you “go to the club called Paparazzi and ask for Matan. Tell them Mimi sent you” DO NOT GO. I can’t remember exactly what happened but somehow Alex and I managed to find ourselves sprinting through the alleyways of Jerusalem tryna escape some bouncer. Now that I think of it, that was pretty stupid of us considering you have people armed with uzis and berettas on every street. I could never get use to that. Aside from that experience, the bars weren’t too bad – all of them tried to coax you in by offering free shots to Birth Right Jews so black, white, Puerto Rican, we were all Jews that day.
I’ve travelled enough and seen enough movies to know I should expect to be racially profiled going through airport security. I was looking particularly Arab when we were set to fly cuz I had grown out my hair so the night before we left I got a friend to braid it in an attempt to look less Arab and more Boricua. That didn’t help. Out of the 20 of us who went, I was put through the wringer. While my classmates took their Macbooks with them in their carry on luggage, mines was confiscated and sent back to my home address, I was asked to wait by myself outside some raggedy ass back office and I was escorted on to the flight. Just when I thought it was all over I was escorted back off the flight again for more questioning. I was LIVID. We hadn’t even left the US yet so I was thinking “what the flip are they gonna do to me once we’re there?” Came close to an altercation but thankfully I got back on board after 3 hours of hell. Coming back was nowhere near as ridiculous but I still managed to attract the attention of security. This time it was because they asked me to open up my checked in luggage and of course, sitting on top of everything I packed is the newsletter of the Pro-Palestinian group we met with the day before. Everybody rolled their eyes, including me. Our tour guide came rushing over to explain it away so I was straight.
PERACH is a huge mentoring initiative running all over Israel. I used to coordinate a mentoring/tutoring programme back home called MATES, which was modeled after PERACH. MATES played a huge part in my life – academically, professionally and personally. It’s what started me on the path to switch to a career in education. I parted ways with the group for a day to meet up with a girl who was coordinating a branch of PERACH in Jerusalem. We spent time at a session and spoke to some students – it was cool to see how different everything looked yet the framework and purpose behind our work was very much the same.
– Golan Heights
We went up to the former Syrian territory to check out a bunker that’s been converted into a playground. That’s messed up. Anyway a bunch of Palestinian kids were up there running around. I picked up a stick and wrote ‘KRIT IS THE JAM’ in the dirt then next thing I had 20 little faces crowded around me, hanging off every word I had to say. Even though I can’t speak Arabic and they spoke little English we hit it off.
– Falafel & Shawarma
Breakfast, lunch and dinner all day, every day. We had it coming out of our EARS – if someone asked, “what’s for dinner?” you’d look at them like they were stupid – it’s falafel and shawarma like every other meal.
The Knesset [the Israeli House of Representatives] was quite an experience. I’ve never seen so many eff off guns up close in my life. I can’t remember how but I managed to bring castration into a conversation we had with a Member of Parliament and his staff. Everywhere we went though, no matter who you talked to, conversations came back to the conflict. It was pretty upsetting. You had groups trying to encourage interfaith dialogue [between Jews and Muslims in particular, Christians seemed to be right out of the equation] but it seemed like all their efforts fell flat. Reminder of how fortunate I am not to deal with all of that everyday.
By our second day, Lloyd had christened me NBT – Nothing But Trouble. I feel like once you give someone a name like that, there are forces that bind him or her to live up to it. There were plenty of Minties Moments but the one that people like to remind me of is when we went to the Safed – the mystical city of Kabbalah. As we walked around I told a few people that Madonna makes her way there once every year to do Pilates but that’s not the story – what happened was everyone was told they had half an hour of free time before meeting back on the bus. I’m not one to be late and I was happy to just play on my phone since we had WiFi for the first time in a couple of days so I went over to the bus by myself to check my messages. The signal was pretty faint though. As I moved around I discovered I got the most bars when I sat behind the back of the bus. So I’m having myself a good time on my phone – replying to emails and updating Facebook when I look at my watch and realise that over an hour’s passed since we were told to rendezvous. I’m thinking, “where the frick is everyone?” I stand up, turn around to look into the back window of the bus and the WHOLE class has already boarded. One of the kids spots me and yells out “THERE HE IS!” They all turn to look and start hollering at me all at once. Come to find out they had sent out a search party for me 40 minutes ago, yelling my name through the streets tryna find me. I don’t know if it’s cuz I zoned out or what but I didn’t hear or see anyone doing all that.
Well that’s it! Everyone have a safe and happy Spring Break.