For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I have been traveling around Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank with a group of Bethel and Tabor students. The focus of the trip is on expanding our understanding and awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict and to visit different sites important to the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian faiths, as well as other tourist sites in the area.
Thus far in our travels, we have visited Petra (an ancient city hewn out of solid rock), ridden camels (!!!!!), the Church of the Nativity (where Jesus was born), the Wall separating Israel from the West Bank (tragic), the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Gaililee, the Dead Sea (we floated!!!), the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques (we were able to go inside, which is HIGHLY unusual), the Western Wall of the Jewish temple destroyed in 70CE, and many, many other sites mentioned in the Bible.
We’ve also spent quite a bit of time listening to the various points of view in the Israel-Palestine conflict. We’ve heard from Jewish kibbutzim members, Israeli settlers, and rabbis, as well as Palestinians whose lives and livelihoods have been drastically altered by new Israeli regulations upon them. It has been very difficult to constantly switch gears between Israelis and Palestinians and back to Israelis and then to Palestinians again, and even more difficult to discern the “right” or “wrong” viewpoint in the conflict. It’s becoming more and more apparent than each viewpoint is right to some extent, and that it will take a lot of time to sort all of it out.
Interterm is another one of my favorite Bethel traditions. It allows students more free time than usual and gives us all a bit of a break from “traditional” schoolwork, as well as giving students a chance to see the world and experience new cultures and expand their horizons.