This past summer, while working as an intern for the JPB EXCEL adult program in Vermont, I had the privilege of listening and participating in daily workshops, dialogues, and activities. For two weeks, I was surrounded by twenty-five Israeli, Palestinian, and American role models who don't just believe in peace, but are spending their life actually doing something about it. I learned about politics in the Middle East, I challenged my personal values and stereotypes about the "other", and I heard inspiring personal stories about persevering through difficult and trying times.
At times, I struggled with not always feeling able to fully contribute because I lacked sufficient knowledge in Middle Eastern history to share in sessions with the adults, and it was hard for me to thoughtfully formulate beliefs and opinions about what is going on in the Middle East today. This experience motivated me to return home and learn more.
"Studying history gives me optimism and hope. I f more people learn their history and not just the cultural stereotypes and stories of suffering that blame others, then I believe peace is possible."
Back at home I decided, for several reasons, to study the history of the Jewish people and the history of Israel/Palestine. First, I wanted to strengthen my ability to speak up when I hear people making statements and jokes containing prejudice and misinformation regarding Israel/Palestine. Second, I didn't want to be in another situation where I felt that I couldn't contribute to a conversation about the Middle East as much as I would like. And third, I wanted to deepen and develop my Jewish identity by studying ancient and modern Judaism, which is closely tied to the study of Israel.
Today, I am studying Jewish and Israeli/Palestinian History at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Every time I learn about an event in history, my class travels to where the event actually took place. Over the past three months, I have journeyed all across Israel/Palestine, and I even spent a week in Poland studying the Holocaust and my European family roots from before the time of the Holocaust.
If you would like to hear more about my experiences in Israel/Palestine and in Poland, here is a link to the weekly blog I am keeping: http://blog.amhsi.org/BostonImpact
Studying history gives me optimism and hope. If more people learn their history and not just cultural stereotypes and stories of suffering that blame others, then I believe peace is possible. That is why I am so glad to be a part of Jerusalem Peacebuilders and Kids4Peace Boston where we do set aside blame, and focus on human connection and understanding. I am not sure what my future holds when I return to the United States next month, but what I do know is that Jerusalem Peacebuilders and Kids4Peace Boston will be a part of my future. Peace, Salaam, Shalom.