As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane back to New Jersey. Thankfully, I have no weird stories about Big Brother watching to report from this time in the airport, though I’m grateful to have been fully prepared by one of my friends on how to get through without making anyone suspicious. Israel gets such frequent terror threats that they have a notoriously extensive process for people who are flying out of the country (including the main reason why I waited to post until I was home: They’re looking out for people who have spoken against their politics in any way).
We’re now about halfway home. My mind is full, and my heart confused, but content. We’re headed back to a very different country from the one we left: When we land, Donald Trump will have been inaugurated the 45th President of the United States. We spent part of our last day yesterday thinking about how to bring what we’ve seen home, or, as one of my classmates put it, not let the hopes of either home or the Land be washed out by the cynicisms in either. To stubbornly learn from and emulate the best of what we’ve seen and to leave behind the rest, though to not forget it. Hope isn’t naïve. We all want to come home with this hard-fought hope “on our hearts… [and] tied as symbols on our hands and bound on our foreheads” (Deuteronomy 6:6b & 8, NIV). We have seen people who have every reason to hate each other come together to make the world around them a little less hateful and a little more hopeful. We need to give our siblings of different political persuasions the same chance, even though many of us are scared of what’s to come in the next 4 years on a national level. We must work together when there is any common goal, and we must find common ground where there is none readily apparent. We must not give up on doing good when politics won’t solve the problem at hand (or even when our government is explicitly against what we hope for), but find the patience and compassion in our hearts to work on personal and organizational levels instead. We should support the president and oppose him when we must. I’ve put some thoughts together about how to add light in these times in simple ways; hopefully, they’ll keep getting clearer as I keep processing.
When asked yesterday about what was the biggest thing I had learned in the Land, I wrote to myself, “How much more I need to know. And how much I don’t think I’ll ever fully be able to know. And I still don’t know what to do with that other than let it help me to have a softer and more open heart.”
I hope to write more about my reflections at the 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year marks. I know that this is a trip that I will be processing for a long time. May what I have seen, heard, and experienced be as much of a blessing for those I interact with as it has been for me already.
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
– 1 John 4:16b, 18-21 (NIV)