On January 2nd, 2017 I will be traveling with 24 other classmates to Israel through the Jewish organization, Hillel. The trip is intended to expose us to Israel so we can learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first hand and develop our own opinions on the situation. I have a number or mixed emotions about the trip.
I’m so excited! As the date approaches, I can’t help but get more and more excited for this all expenses paid trip abroad! This will be the first time I’ve left the country since I was born in Guatemala (Unless you count the four hours I spent in Canada).
Is it safe? In the United States, the media has skewed our perceptions of what the Middle East is like. When I was first introduced to this trip I was overjoyed at the opportunity to travel since I knew my chances of studying abroad were minimal due to costs. I called my mom to share the great news and she was far from pleased. She expressed her concerns and after that, I was discouraged to apply because I believed it wasn’t a safe place to travel to.
After meeting a number of members at Hillel I learned that the safety concerns I had weren’t legitimized in the way I thought they were. I kept meeting so many people who had been to Israel or who had relatives in Israel and that significantly put my worries at bay. FYI, we won’t be traveling near the Gaza Strip or any conflict zones.
What will the culture be like? As much as I’m looking forward to the learning aspects of our trip, I cannot deny how excited I am to experience the rich culture and history in Israel! We will be traveling to the cities Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Haifa.
Will I get along with the people? I’ll be attending the trip with 20 non-Jewish students and 5 Jewish students, 4 of whom are already good friends. They’re all student leaders on campus in their own respects and I’m greatly looking forward to spending those 12 days with everyone.
Most importantly: How will I feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upon departure? As of right now, my knowledge of the conflict is very limited. The organization I’m involved in, Associated Students, passed a resolution (Department:Government > Category:Resolutions > Search all:Divestment) in 2015 demanding that the Tower Foundation at San Jose State University divest from companies that violate international humanitarian law. That resolution was a major subject of controversy among the SJSU community.
Personally, I noticed that there was a lot of support and evidence stacked up in support of the resolution to divest. Although, in order to make an informed decision, I need comprehensive details from both parties to truly understand a situation. The testimonies and information being shared came out in such a way that made Israeli people seem unethical and oppressive of the Palestinian people.
In this instance, I, and many others in the audience, were in awe by the information we learned and took the stance in favor of passing the divestment resolution. It ended up passing with a 10-5-0 vote, with one board member dismissing herself prior to the final vote.
Since then I have not learned any other information regarding the conflict. It is my hope that my Spartans2Israel trip will not only show me what it’s really like in Israel firsthand, but that I will also form a greater appreciation for different people, their stories, religions, and cultures.