If you bring up Israel/Palestine conflict with me, I hope you’re ready for a meaningful conversation. While most people in my “community” of Jewish friends and family already have their deep-rooted opinions, I have mine… and, usually, many people in that community don’t agree with them.
After being raised in a family that followed the Jewish faith, I chose to study abroad in Israel in 2011. Upon my arrival at the Tel Aviv airport, I came with all the baggage of a young Jewish-American woman who thought she understood it all: who was right (and wrong), who the enemy was, and who could be trusted. I think back now on my opinions and how much they changed as a result of my study abroad experience. Though I chose to study abroad in what many people consider a “dangerous” destination, I took away lessons from my year abroad that showed me how much I still had to learn from the world.
Study abroad is an opportunity: you move to a new country for a term, semester, or year, usually live with other students you may never have met before, attend classes, and participate in social activities in your new “home.” It’s a bit like roulette -- and you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll experience. In my case, I learned upon arrival that I would be living with a Palestinian woman, Lina. I had even never met a Palestinian before, having grown up in a conservative, Jewish community. To say it was eye-opening is an understatement.
Living with Lina and in Israel not only taught me to reconsider my opinions and biases from home; it taught me that when we study abroad, we have a unique opportunity to learn from our hosts and try and create a more peaceful world. Here’s why studying abroad can help cultivate peace.