A Journey to the Mosaic Land

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By Brenda Montecinos Villa, Rutgers University

 When I first applied to Israel Uncovered, I had some reservations. I thought that being sponsored by Jewish or Israeli entities, it was going to be very biased. So, I did my research and came with a lot of questions.

 I’m glad to say that I was gravely mistaken.

 Yoav, although he’s Israeli and pointed out that this creates some bias in how he sees the situation, was an amazing tour guide and overall an amazing person. He always gave us different perspectives and did his best to be as holistic as possible.

 Along with our other leaders and even the students, we had meaningful conversations about different topics. We also dove into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and had the opportunity to speak to some Palestinians. This opportunity was a once in a lifetime experience. However, this was only part of what we experienced.

 We learned about food — a lot about food. Coming back to New Jersey was the hardest thing I had to do because nothing tasted the same. The fresh vegetables and spices still haunt me whenever I eat out. Nothing compares anymore. In Israel, even the junk food is still pretty healthy. I had never devoured as much hummus in my entire life than in those 10 days. I only wish I could go back to the delightful markets filled with spices, herbs and dried fruit, which added a pop of color to the bustling markets.

 We also got to see all the different religions in the area. Although a Jewish nation, there is a mix of religions and it is truly a beautiful sight. I am not too religious, but going to the Mount of Beatitudes was incredible. I had never felt so much love and serenity ever before. No matter what religion you practice, there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes Israel so amazing.

Students on Israel Uncovered visited numerous religious sites, including Mount of Beatitudes, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount.

Students on Israel Uncovered visited numerous religious sites, including Mount of Beatitudes, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount.

 More importantly, we learned about the people and their lives. Although it seems like the area is dangerous, and to an extent it is, the people just continue on with their lives. They serve their time in the army, explore the world, go to school and continue on.

 Even the people in Gaza adapt to the reality of their situation. I’ve never felt so much respect for the people, the real people going on with their lives and not letting a situation like the one in Gaza keep them from how they want to live. Of course, if they have it hard, I can’t even imagine what the Palestinians go through. However, it’s up to the people to change the narrative and find a resolution so that all the people in the region can enjoy the beauty of the land.

 Overall, this was not just a trip to Israel, but a journey. I met amazing people and got to learn so much about the land’s beauty. More importantly, I got to hear about everything whether it be politics, wine, religion or where to get the best hummus. It’s a mosaic of good, bad and everything in between.

Israel UncoveredTDP