Israel Immersion Trip: Reflection
Spencer Elliott '10 - I can’t endure the open ocean for an extended period of time. I’m often overwhelmed by a sense of an incomprehensible depth that threatens to envelop me. I somehow sense that underneath the relatively humble vessel there is an unimaginably large and alien world, and that a simple turn of fate could plunge me into its foreign depths. The situation is out of my control. It’s the flash of an objective mindset where I perceive my existence as a subject in an unimaginably expansive universe. These thoughts run contrary to my basic human instincts because individuals don’t regularly acknowledge that they are part of, and governed by, a much larger natural system. It can be a somewhat tormenting realization. I found that Israel awakened these odd feelings not unlike the ocean has in the past.
I grew up in Indiana and, until last week, I hadn’t left the country. To put it simply, Israel was a trial by fire of sorts. I often felt out of place, plagued by a certain disconnect I had never experienced with my culture at home; I was struggling with my naiveté. I wasn’t Jewish or Arab and, honestly, I didn’t sympathize with the endless droves of religious pilgrims (I am a Christian who despises commercialized religion). Some Americans are privileged with a comfortable lifestyle that affords the opportunity to think purely as individuals- to not have to take radical stances or form radical groups for the sake of self-preservation. I am one of them. I thought that Israel, on the other hand, was a diverse state where many choose to strictly associate with a group that avoids interaction with other segments of the population. So I found myself wandering the streets of Jerusalem in a state of bewilderment. Overwhelmed by an unseen burden, I felt as if I was alone and afloat in a sea composed of the depths of human history. Time in Israel is measured in millennia, the legacy of only a few individuals survives the test of time; a small nudge (walking in front of a truck, falling off of Mas’ada’s steep cliffs, a suicide bombing, etcetera) could plunge me into the depths of obscurity.
What brought me out of this negative mindset and back down to earth? Bargaining in an Arab market; Gorgeous landscapes; Turkish coffee; Female Israeli soldiers with M-16’s; Falafels; Mud from the Dead Sea. These things provided a temporary fix, but it was spending time with my family that showed me the error of my thought process. My uncle, Michael Elliott, has lived in Israel for 25 years. He met my aunt Maija-lissa (from Finland), got married, and raised five girls(pictured, from right to left- Shlomit, Shiriel, Tikva, Tohar, and Yohanna.) Spending time with real Israelis with whom I had a strong familial bond made me finally comprehend that life goes on in Israel much as it does in Indiana. People get up, go to work and come home to their families. Most importantly, most also desire to peacefully co-exist with their neighbors. We will all die and plunge into the afterlife. What counts is how we spend our short time on this earth.
One of the first things that struck me as I returned home was the blandness of Indiana’s landscape compared to Israel’s, but I looked upwards and realized that our sunset was equally gorgeous. You don't know how much you appreciate home until you've been somewhere else for a while.