May 29: Final Reflections

As a Government major and Arabic Studies minor and a lover of traveling, this summer course in Israel was automatically an appealing way to gain an extra SLU credit. And to be honest, I went into it thinking of it solely as a class. It turned out, of course, to be so much more. For that reason, I would be ecstatic, to say the least, to go on this trip again.

To give a brief overview, we learned about the development and current dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the many cleavages in Israeli politics and society, and how those affect the conflict. More specifically, we focused on the two main opposing narratives and the people themselves. After all, no matter how much you read about a subject, especially this one, you need to see the realities on the ground and talk to the people affected in order to truly understand. Without this experience, you’ll never fully understand the permanency of settlements, the irritation of having to go through checkpoints, or the general devastating effects of Israeli occupation.

You may know the arguments behind the long-term two-state and one-state solutions, but what about solutions to today’s issues like the so-called “security fence,” human rights violations, and ethnic segregation? You may be aware of the daily struggles of Palestinians and Bedouins, but hearing those tribulations straight from them was somehow exponentially more powerful. Each story revealed a new perspective and a new problem within the conflict, from the widespread lack of water to the burning desire to reunite with family after being imprisoned for months or even years without trial.

But don’t fret, for this trip wasn’t all serious. The country and views were beautiful, the food was excellent (especially the gelato), and the marketplaces were bustling. Between readings, reflections papers, and scheduled activities, there was time to lounge by the hotel pool, explore Tel Aviv, and go to the beach. Furthermore, I am walking away from this trip with multiple new friends I might not have met otherwise, and I’ve grown closer with my wonderful, inspiring professor and advisor, Ronnie.

Broadly, every stone unturned on this journey revealed another concern or criticism of what I thought was fact. This idea of continually looking for new counterarguments and readjusting was, for me, one of the most important and most widely applicable lessons from the trip. Pertaining to this conflict, however, I’ve learned that it and its potential solutions are far more complex than Israelis not wanting to give up what they’ve gained, or Palestinians refusing to accept Israeli concessions despite them being much greater than what they have now. Moreover, I’ve realized that sometimes the people most affected by a situation have the least power to change it. Therefore, if I were lucky enough to go on this trip again, I would ask each person with whom we talked, “If you had more power, what would you do to influence the conflict? What can I do?”

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