This blog post is by Daniel Pearlman, a junior studying Political Science, Judaic Studies and Art History at the University of Michigan. Daniel recently returned to campus following his journey on Israel Uncovered.
It is hard to believe that over a week has passed since I was in Israel with The David Project. Maybe it is because I have constantly been reflecting on my Israel Uncovered experience since boarding the flight back home. Maybe it is because I have continued to fuel my addiction to (Sabra) hummus and other Israeli foods found at my local supermarket, despite the geographic challenges I otherwise face. Or maybe it is because of my steadfast determination to stay in touch with everyone on the trip, allowing me to pretend that we are still on the bus, heading to Jerusalem before the snow starts to fall. Adjusting back to my normal routine has proven to be significantly more difficult than imagined. After ten jam-packed days exploring the nuances of Israeli society with 35 of my new best friends from campuses across the US, it seems unrealistic to expect me to focus on my classes the very next day. Where are those early wake up calls to hop on the bus with Josh and Lexi, our extraordinary campus coordinators, and our fantastic tour guide, Avigail? Where is the count-off? Number 21 is nostalgic over here.
Dozens of people have since asked me what I thought about my time in Israel, and I have struggled to find a satisfactory answer for that question. How could anyone possibly expect me to sum up something so incredible, so beautiful, so complicated, into a short reply? “It was awesome,” I always find myself murmuring. But that doesn’t do it justice.
Israel Uncovered wasn’t just awesome; it was fabulous, informative, challenging, exhilarating, emotional, delicious, diverse, demanding, rainy, sunny, snowy, sacred, stunning, peaceful, and fun. It was old and new; ancient and modern; religious and secular. It was Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It was the Land of (Kosher) Milk and Honey, infused with a healthy serving of democracy. It was the blue and white, the colors of the Kinneret below and the sky above, with the flag waving loud and proud in that brisk winter breeze. It was Eretz Yisrael, warts and all, exposed for us to inspect. It was Israel, Israel Uncovered.
By the end of the trip, it became clear to me that anyone – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, religious, or secular – can connect to Israel in his or her own way. For me, the most rewarding experience was visiting Shevet Achim, a Christian charity based in Jerusalem that brings Muslim children with life-threatening heart conditions from across the Middle East to Israel, to be treated by Jewish doctors. It is the epitome of coexistence in a land often seen as contentious. Seeing a shy, young Kurdish girl benefit from this charity brought tears to my eyes. When I learned that the head doctor is a graduate of the University of Michigan, it filled me up with pride.
Now that I am back at school, I am excited to share what I learned with the campus community. From Shevet Achim to Tel Aviv’s hi-tech startup scene, there is so much positivity in Israel that impacts the entire world. My faith in humanity has been restored as a result of this trip. The relationships I built with the 35 other student leaders will last a lifetime, as will the memories I made on Israel Uncovered.