Israel Changed My Life
By Arpine Sargsyan, Baruch College
Ever since I was a little girl, my family constantly talked about traveling to Israel and I kept hearing them use the phrase: “going to Israel changed my life.”
At the time I was very naïve and obviously did not understand this. I grew up hearing conversations about this surreal place, so visiting Israel became a dream planted inside. On January 2019, my dream came true as I was given the opportunity to travel to Israel through The David Project. Before my trip, I had little to no understanding of why the world is so obsessed with what is referred to as the Biblical Holy Land. Since the moment I landed, it was evident that there is something incredible about this place. Something about the air? The water? I still could not figure it out.
Israel is the place I’ve always dreamed of and I stood in calling distance from the Imam’s prayer coming from Al-Aqsa Mosque. I extended my hand and came in contact with the stones of the Western Wall and I rested my head on the cold stone and closed my eyes. I heard the prayers of worshiping women and felt goosebumps immediately raise on my skin. I started to pray, and the tears streamed down my face. I left a note on the cracks of the old wall and slowly walked away. My gaze turned to the men who were singing and dancing together as one which made me smile. My whole surrounding was electrifying, and at that moment I felt very moved. I had a change of character from visiting the Armenian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the place my family has always talked about. I was able to connect with my roots and truly found peace within myself; praying surrounded by the history that was evident in the old walls of the church. I thought about the generations that were here before me. I was emotionally overwhelmed and felt alive at the same time.
I had the opportunity to hear many different people share their stories and perspectives; whether they were Israeli or Palestinian, their narratives helped me realize that regardless of the conflicts and the issues people are facing, they have a strong desire for human-to-human connection. The people are full of life and happiness, and they do their best to spread positivity among others. Israel is a Middle Eastern hub where diversity is encouraged among individuals of different faith, culture and political ideologies, where the best hummus and falafels are made, where you can feel this energy in the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, where you can easily find friends and family on the streets, and where the stranger in the market will offer you food. You will always meet kind-hearted people.
I believe that there is something special for everyone in Israel and that you must go and find it. I can try to explain what I experienced in Israel, but I would not be able to find the correct words to describe the way this country has made me feel. When I got home after the trip, my home was still the same, but something in my mind has changed, and I realized that Israel changed my life.