Monday, December 19, 2011

The Middle East

When I told people I was going to Israel Palestine to study abroad, I always got different reactions. Some were jealous and begged to be squeezed into any extra luggage space I might have (I had none), and others tried to mask the concern and shock on their face.  Most of this was thanks to the media in my country.

It's always been important to me to look at everyone the same. It's my fundamental belief that all humanity is equal.  And I have always done my best to keep in mind a constant check of any presumptions or opinions I had of a place, a people or an experience. My own family has some diversity and I live in Philadelphia, so I'm used to encountering people with different customs than my own and a different kind of beauty, but I also found myself a little bit scared to be entering into a territory even more foreign than South Philly. I'd be lying to say that the media attention on Israel Palestine didn't affect my state of mind going there to stay for several months.

The college I attended even went out of their way to instill what they call a "healthy fear". Yes, it's smart to be aware of your surroundings in a city, but I do that in Philadelphia...why should I be more aware in Jerusalem? Yes, I'm a tourist, and yes I stick out with my distinct Western appearance, but I never felt overtly threatened or targeted.
Whenever I see the Middle East in the news it always seems to be portrayed in the negative light. People groups, ethnicities and religions get thrown into that negativity and it frustrates me. Misrepresentation leads to ignorance which leads to fear which leads to irrational behavior and unjust prejudice. That's why I'm passionate about the Middle East. The people living there deserve a second chance. They deserve to be heard, understood, and not judged. I'm not asking anyone to cover up anything that's happened, ignore the past, or validate wrong things done in the world, but I simply ask you to open up your heart a little bit, remember that we're not perfect too, come with some understanding and inch towards forgiveness and look for peace.

My travels will once again take me to the Middle East.  But this time I want to focus on writing down the stories I hear and documenting what I see. What's really going on in the lives of these people that matter a whole lot to God.


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