A guest post by Lindsay MacGillivray, a Carnegie Mellon University student and attendee on Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission "Let's get together and be alright."
It's simple. The words are simple, straightforward, and obvious. I, however, did not reflect any of this peace of mind yesterday while touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As I walked in circles and admired the beautiful architecture, my mind ran in even faster and confused circles. Having been raised as an Episcopalian, church became a time for family and reflection. I used the bible as a place to draw morals from but tended to stray when it came to the literal translation and beliefs.
Because I see the bible in more figurative terms, as a way to learn how to be a good person, religious extremists scare me. They scare me mostly because, to me, their extremity goes against the words of the bible or whatever other religious guide they may follow. As I stood in the church, everything from questions about my own religion, to the power of religion around the world, echoed through my brain just as the sounds of the boys choir echoed throughout the incredibly high ceilings of the church. As I walked out, all I could feel was concern and confusion. A calm didn't set in for sometime, however, today brought an even more calming and reassuring peace.
This peace came from a rather unexpected place. While exploring the top of Masada in a windy day, our group stumbled upon a Sofer scribing the Torah. Secluded in a small room adjacent to a ruin, the Rabbi invited us to view his work. After explaining what he was working on, he blessed us as travelers, however, this blessing was particularly special. Instead of addressing only the Jewish people in the room, the Rabbi took the time to bless a representative from each of the religions that our trip participants carry. This simple act brought tears to the eyes of many from our group. It was an act of kindness that reached over the boundaries of religion and recognized the blessings that can be given and understood by all.
This theme of connections across the table continued through to our dinner conversation with Forsan Hussein. While speaking on his opinions on the current state of Israel as an Israeli Arab, Hussein, encouraged us to understand the similarities between the guiding morals of major religions--morals that allow us to be good people and make good decisions.
These words were incredibly powerful for me on their own but especially powerful in conjunction with the actions of the Sofer. The fact that a successful businessman and a religious leader can spread the same word offered me the peace of mind that I missed when I stepped into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
This peace was reflected in our final activity of the day when musician Roi Levy, came to speak with us. As he sang the popular Bob Marley's, One Love, all I could think about was the hope that can be found in the simple idea of coming together. For me, this hope lies in putting aside the technicalities and specifics of religion in order to find the raw love that can unite. In this raw love, I have faith that it will be alright.
Follow the trip on Twitter at www.twitter.com/david_project using #IsraelUncovered; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/davidproject; on The David Project’s blog at www.davidproject.org/connect/blog, where students and staff members will be submitting updates during and after the trip.