Studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel has provided me with the unique opportunity to take classes in a city where three major world religions hold sacred ties. In a place like Jerusalem, religion is politics and politics is religion. Learning how to integrate myself into a society that is so heavily influence by religion has been very difficult, yet very rewarding. Living here has enabled me to learn how to really take note of where people are coming from when it comes to tackling on divisive religious issues and understanding why one might view something in a particular way. As a non-Jewish American, I came to Israel in quite a neutral political state of mind. This allowed me to be open to meeting people from all sides of the aisle in regards to the current political situation in Israel and Palestine so that I could develop my own opinion on the matter. Being a narratively driven conflict, I found it to be very pertinent that I met all sorts of people here including Jewish Settlers, Palestinians living in refugee camps, Israeli journalists, and Israeli Political leaders from many different parties. It was very special learning material in class about this country’s historical and political situation, which I could walk outside and see in live action.
This semester I also worked for a nonprofit organization called Jerusalem Peacebuilders that aims to directly connects Israeli and Palestinian youth and adults in their home communities through youth and parent workshops, dialogues in public and private settings, field trips and summer camp, and community meals. I served as their social media and programs intern, while also serving as a teaching assistant for a leadership and peacekeeping course that was taught at a local Arab Muslim school in East Jerusalem.
I have enjoyed studying at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University where I am taking an extensive amount of courses relating to Radical Islamic Movements, Jewish Philosophy, Israeli History, Hebrew Language Acquisition, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. I have been able to meet students from around the world that have challenged me to remain up to date on political and global affairs. Rothberg also provided us with amazing Israeli student mentors (madrichim) that organized cultural activities and school trips for us to experience life in Israel on a more authentic and personal level. I was able to see the Dead Sea, Masada, Ein Gedi, and Mitzpe Ramon through these trips, and I was also able to learn a lot about what it is like to grow up and live in this country.
Studying here was such a great decision on my part, and I would totally recommend Israel to any of my friends back in the States as a place to meet amazing people and to truly grow as a person.