By Nikki Tecco, The Ohio State University
When you’re sitting in an American classroom, the conflict seems far away.
Last year, I was reading about Israel and working in a small group to decide how to best execute a two-state solution. It was easy, sitting over 6,000 miles away, to mindlessly decide which pieces of land would best suit Palestine and Israel. We joke about living in a bubble, but you don’t understand what that means until you’re standing in Sderot. As I was looking around to make sure I knew where the closest bomb shelter was, I realized that everyone in this town was living with more awareness and bravery than I had ever seen. Despite being less than a mile from Gaza, these people were welcoming us into their community to share their culture, stories, and to send us home with an understanding that the conflict is different when it’s in your backyard.
In the middle of his speech at the Knesset, Ambassador Michael Oren recited his favorite piece of advice, given to him by Former Vice President Joe Biden, “Never sacrifice yourself on a small cross.” In America, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appeared to be a small cross to my class, my university, and my country. Yet, after speaking with Israeli college students, it was clear that everyone has an opinion on this intricate situation and that it is impossible to remain oblivious. Suddenly, the small cross we fought for in our International Studies classes had become much larger and much more complicated.
Meeting with activists, families, students, and journalists, not only opened our eyes to how difficult a solution would be, but showed us that Israeli’s are some of the most genuine and kind-hearted people we would ever come to know. And now that we are back on our campuses in America, we are all trying to process exactly what we have seen and heard, amidst the ever-growing bubble of ignorance. However, if one thing is certain, it’s that Israel is a big cross and it is worth carrying.