Contributed by CAMERA Intern Leeron Ofer:
This past week, the College of Charleston, Kent State University, Cleveland State, Case Western and Skidmore joined together for a Taglit-Birthright trip in Israel. A few weeks before the trip I spoke to a few of the students going from the College of Charleston and asked them if they were excited, I got many different responses. Most of the responses I received were misconceptions about Israel. Comments were made such as: I’m excited to see camels and sand everywhere, what am I going to eat besides hummus and falafel, I’m afraid to get onto the buses, and I’m in general just nervous because I don’t know what to expect.
Security in Israel is top priority. In 2002, construction began on a security fence between Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Since then, suicide bombings have decreased drastically, down to zero today. The metal fence may not be one of Israel’s beautiful sightings to see, but it keeps her safe and that is something beautiful to be shared.
Being nervous to go to Israel for the first time is a perfectly normal feeling. I reassured them that they have nothing to be nervous about and that they were going to come back loving Israel and not want to leave. Now, after 10 days of hummus, falafel, floating in the Dead Sea, talking and meeting with Israeli soldiers, visiting the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, having a meal in a Bedouin tent, going to the beach, planting trees and buying souvenirs at the market, they are back in the United States and their thoughts about Israel have changed.
Robert Goldberg, a rising senior at the College of Charleston mentioned that; “Prior to going to Israel I was a little anxious because I am not very religious and don’t know that much about Judaism. I also had misconceptions of Israel, and these were all due to the media. Being in Israel only proved to me how truly biased and corrupt the media is . . .”
Understanding how Israel really works and feels like can be greatly aided by going and experiencing the everyday lifestyle and realizing how safe and amazing the country actually is. Marla Topiol, a rising junior at the college of Charleston, who went on the trip, wrote: “Having the chance to visit is surreal. During free time I encountered Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs- both groups exerting kindness and hospitality. . . Now that I’m back, I just want another excuse to go back to Israel!“
A trip to Israel can help one understand how safe the country is, and how all of its citizens generally get along on a daily basis, living, working, and eating together. Both Arab and Jewish Israelis typically want the same thing; peace and to make tourists feel welcome and safe.