By Becca Schiller, Baruch College
The David Project was a trip of narratives.
We heard narratives from the students on the trip. We heard narratives from the speakers. We heard narratives from the amazing individuals we met.
Here is my narrative.
Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, I had a very narrow-minded view of Israel. The community I grew up in, emphasized the Jewish connection and experience to the land of Israel. After the David Project, I realize this ideology was neither wrong nor right. It was misguided.
One of our first stops on this transformative trip was the Mount of Beatitudes, the location where Jesus was believed to have given his “Sermon on the Mount.” This was a beautiful church and location that was very meaningful to so many people around the world, but held no significant meaning to me in my life.
We also had the opportunity to visit the holy site of the Al Aqsa Mosque. This is the third holiest site in Islam and is one of the major pilgrimages Muslims are supposed to undertake during their lifetimes. This site, unlike the Mount of Beatitudes, is important to my narrative and is believed to be the holiest site in Judaism.
One of the last major emotional stops was Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Of all the sites we visited, this site had the most significant meaning to my narrative. Knowing it was going to be a very emotional day, I was expecting to cry. I did not anticipate however, what would have the greatest emotional impact. It wasn’t the gruesome images or stories, it was seeing the emotions on my peers that affected me the most.
Seeing people connect to my story and my narrative made the trip come full circle. The whole trip, I had the opportunity to experience Israel and its holy sites from someone else’s narrative. Despite it not being my own, I felt a deep emotional connection to all these places. When I saw others, who do not share my narrative, experience the same emotions instead of feeling despair from the horrors of the holocaust, I felt hope.
I have a new sense of hope, not in the geopolitics of the region or its leaders, but in people. In people’s ability to display compassion and empathy in the same way the 30 of us managed to do on this trip.
The David Project helped show me the Holy Land. Whether you refer to the land as Israel or Palestine is important, not just to me and my community but communities around the world.
It is a place where people can go surfing and play in the snow all in one day. A place where who makes the best hummus is a serious topic of debate. It is a place that I, as well as others, can always call home, not because it is flawless, but because it knows it has flaws and begs to be questioned.