Prior to my arrival in Israel, I had a very vague impression of the country. My level of knowledge was informed by commonly heard expressions such as “the land flowing with milk and honey.” Having never been to Israel before, it was very difficult for me to have an accurate impression of the country. This being the case, my expectations were very limited. However, there was no way I could have prepared myself for the surprises that lay ahead.
As soon as we landed in Tel Aviv, I was amazed by how familiar everything seemed. I still felt the same way as I did at home. It wasn’t like an enchantment came over me as soon as I set foot on Israeli soil. On the contrary—it felt unexpectedly realistic. It sure didn’t feel like I had just traveled thousands of miles across land and sea. This first impression was only the beginning of my journey into experiencing the reality of Israel and all of its history.
Throughout my trip, I was consistently amazed by the raw reality of everything around me. However, it wasn’t until our group visited a kibbutz in Sderot that I was finally able to fully comprehend this reality. This small community in the bomb shelter capital of the world exposed me to a life of constant fear – a life in which at any moment, a red code alert could sound and a missile could strike. But these people were no different from me. We ate their food, played with their pets, handled the shrapnel, and shared their tears. These people were not living in the years tucked between the pages of history books, nor were they from a land far, far away. These people were talking with me, sitting beside me – even sharing some of the same pop culture jokes with me. Only once I had touched it, smelled it—lived it – for myself, was I able to fully grasp the solemnity of the situation.
Another similar experience occurred when we were visited by soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. Going into our meeting, I had expected to meet senior officers who had perhaps long since retired from the service. Instead, we were greeted by three soldiers no older than me.
In America, I would not have been surprised to see them walking across campus at my school or goofing off with friends. Instead, these brave young men were donned in IDF uniforms and had a demeanor of pure conviction in their cause. These soldiers were just like me, but their lives were so different.
I recognize that we are, in fact, thousands of miles away, but distance does not negate reality, nor does it nullify responsibility. It can only reduce the perception of severity. These people are my brothers and sisters whose stories are so often drowned out by distance. But with one more voice in the United States that can communicate this new dimension of reality, perhaps we are even just one step closer.
BY KATHERINE PERSON
REGENT UNIVERSITY | PASSAGES ALUMNI