Dwelling in Unity: Shevet Achim (#israeluncovered bus 3)

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Micah Petersen is currently a sophomore at the University of Delaware where he is majoring in International Relations and Chinese. As an Army ROTC cadet, the majority of his time is spent working toward his goal of commissioning as an Infantry officer upon graduation. Outside of ROTC and school, the rest of his time is consumed running his online bowtie business (mdpbowties.com), managing UD’s men’s basketball team, practicing for the debate team, or crossfitting. Micah has a huge passion for civilian-military relations and started an organization with five fellow ROTC cadets called Reviresco to raise awareness about the importance of bridging the civ-mil gap. He is pictured at left  with Nathan Novaria, another Israel Uncovered participant.

Snow in Jerusalem is like the Cubs winning the World Series: it just doesn’t happen. However, on the rare occasion it does snow, the entire city shuts down. Roads, stores, everything. With the snowstorm in full force, our original plans to visit Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Museum – and several other events, had to be cancelled.

Which brought us to Shevet Achim. Never part of the original schedule for Israel Uncovered, visiting this organization impacted me the most during our trip. Started in 1994 by an American, the Christian organization employs Jewish doctors to perform life-saving cardiovascular surgery on Arab children from places such as Iraq, Iran, and the Gaza Strip.

Shevet’s foundation is built upon Psalm 133, which states, “Behold, how good and how pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity." In a country that Western media often portrays as completely divided religiously, politically, and culturally, Shevet Achim provides an environment of love, understanding, and unity. Not only does the organization facilitate operations for desperate children, but they house the children and their families for the duration of the child’s recovery. Muslims, Jews, and Christians; Arabs, Israelis, and Americans; all giving a true example of what it means for brothers to dwell in unity.

The people who are part of Shevet Achim not only prove that coexistence can occur, but that it can be present even in times of desperation. I saw a beautiful 5 year old girl awaiting heart surgery play with an iPad as she sat with her Iranian mother. If you weren’t told, you would never guess that they were in Israel being helped by a Christian non-profit, and that the child’s operation meant life or death.

As I contemplated what I could bring back to the US from this experience on Israel Uncovered, it amazed me how this family seemed so content when the girl’s life was in jeopardy and they lived in a “dangerous” country. Being content is a concept so many of us in the States fail to understand, myself included. But Shevet Achim taught me that being content isn’t about material goods, or prestige, or reputations, its about doing the right thing. When I say the “right thing”, I mean taking care of your brothers and sisters despite any labels that might be attached to them such as Jew, Muslim, or Christian. Each person yearns to be understood and loved, and Shevet Achim provides that in the most spectacular manner. Shevet Achim puts aside stereotypes or labels, and focuses on people for who they are: humans. All equal. That is what I hope to remember from my time in Israel, and imitate back home.