One of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories involved the day that my father hung a large map of the World on the kitchen wall of our tiny suburban house in Davis, California. I was only 4 or 5 years old, so my understanding of humanity was rather narrow in scope and truly only extended to my closest friends and family. This memory has been ingrained in my mind for a very simple reason: I understood for the first time, on that day, what it meant to feel insignificant. Today, over 15 years later, I am studying Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy at Michigan State University while consistently trying to supplement my understanding of what it means to be human by exploring my passions and interests outside of the classroom. I often times find myself thinking deep into the night about the many issues that our species faces and what my role will be in this perpetually evolving global society. My value system is predicated upon the notion that human potential is limitless and in order to realize our inherent potential, we must diligently strive to learn and understand. When I was given the opportunity to come to Israel with The David Project, I never realized just how much I could learn about myself and humanity as a whole. Within only a few days, I've met individuals from vastly different backgrounds, seen places that I've studied since I can remember, and heard the stories of truly remarkable Israelis.
In Rahat, the largest Bedouin city in the country, I was able to finally understand the effects of rapid globalization and how it facilitated the community’s de facto transition to modernity. During the 1970’s, tent-based communities began to transform into small villages, many of which ultimately grew into relatively large cities over the course of a few decades, a feat that challenges preexisting societal norms and economic structures. The Bedouin communities that are scattered across the Negev desert are some of the most disadvantaged within Israel, which has proven to be a nation of immense economic potential. Education is crucial to any community that seeks to empower its members in achieving their potential, and we were lucky enough to meet Majid, who works to make education accessible to the citizens of Rahat. Although Majid could barely speak English and was communicating to our group through a translator, his passion for education and communal well being was palpable. While speaking, Majid described Rahat as “sin city” for Bedouins; he laughed in bemusement and his work worn face broke into a grin that elicited a wave of laughter from the entire room of students. While very few of us knew what Majid had said before the translation from Hebrew to English, his humor and optimism in a rather harrowing situation did not need translation. In the moment, it is hard to understand the implications of something so seemingly insignificant, but for me, this was a beautiful moment of humanism that truly gives me hope. Regardless of one’s language, religion, political affiliation, or ethnicity, laughter and a smile are meaningful. The world would be a better place if we could connect with our fellow humankind in the same manner that Majid connected to a group of strangers from across the globe.
Our experience in Rahat is simply one example of the many people we have met who are risking their lives, selflessly sacrificing their time, and working for greater conditions for the whole of humanity, simply because they feel an obligation to help those that may not be able to help themselves. I look forward to taking the lessons that I’ve learned in Israel back to the United States and hopefully, over the course of my life, I will be able to impact lives for the better by connecting with them as humans first and foremost.
Bryn Williams is a junior at Michigan State University, majoring in political theory and constitutional democracy. On campus, he is the Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Associated Students of Michigan State University. Bryn is currently representing his campus on Bus 3 of Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission 2015-2016.