I always wanted to go Israel because I grew up hearing about my Zionist father’s experience in the country. He would vividly recall the roads, the buildings he worked on, the food he ate, and the people he met. The most important memory he has of Israel is praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I felt connected to the country through his stories. As I grew older, I found out about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and I wanted to learn more about it. I wanted to learn more about the conflict because my father never fully talked about the Palestinians. When I would question him about them, he would attempt to deflect.
When I found out about this course, I knew this was an opportunity of a life time. It was not every day that a college student gets the chance to visit the region and learn about a conflict that is one of the most documented in the world.
What I learned from this course was life changing. I always assumed that the Jewish settlements in the West Banks were trailer parks with an Israeli flag over them. This is not the case for those we observed on the trip. The settlements we saw were cities with institutions and infrastructure. I also learned about the tensions between Eastern European origin Jews or Ashkenazi and non-Eastern European origin Jews or Mizrahi. Mizrahi Jews are socially, politically, and economically less than Ashkenazi Jews. However, both are socially, politically, and economically better off than Palestinians.
What we learned about the Palestinian community was truly eye opening. We talked to several Palestinians from various places in Israel proper and Jerusalem about the situation on their community. I did not know that the Palestinian community had restrictions on movement unless they had special permission or permits. I also did not that they severally racially profiled from check outs, being randomly stopped and searched by the Israeli military, border guard and police.
Before this trip for the most part I knew my Zionist father’s point of view on Israel. Now having visited the country and learned more about the conflict I want to go back. I am left after this trip with a sense of wanting to learn more about the conflict and explore areas that we did not cover , like foreign guest workers and foreign military volunteers in 1948 war. This experience meant everything to me.