I had a custodial job at my old college. I worked one hour a day and had nowhere to spend the meager money I made (my college was in the middle of upstate New York, surrounded by forests; the closest McDonalds was a half an hour away).
I received an email in class one day that said my school was going to partner with an organization called Passages and take a group of selected students to Israel for $600. My mom had told me to save up the money I wasn’t spending and not blow it all at once. I whispered a small, “Sorry, Mom.”
Israel turned out to be the best $600 I ever spent.
Our days included touring around the country, seeing the beautiful culture, and finding out that Americans pronounce “hummus” completely wrong.
Every night we were there, Passages brought in a different speaker to share the different perspectives found within Israel. We heard from Muslim, Jewish, and Christian speakers. Every night, there seemed to be different opinions that opposed the view and contradicted the points of the previous night’s speaker.
As someone who isn’t very aware of politics, my head would be spinning as I realized the sheer complexity of the issues in relating to Israel. I began to feel rather hopeless that any disputes could ever be solved.
But there was one moment on the trip that brought me hope.
To provide some context, our bus driver was a kind Muslim man, and our tour guide was a lovely Jewish woman. We were a group of Christian college kids. Because of the language barrier, we didn’t get to converse much with our bus driver; however, we made sure to greet him with a big smile and attempt the few Arabic words he’d taught us.
One day, we got on the bus and our tour guide told us that it was our bus driver’s birthday. We stopped at a beautiful overlook in Nazareth, Mt. Precipice, and sang him “Happy Birthday.” Meanwhile, our tour guide translated some questions from us for him.
We asked about his family and about Ramadan. Because of Ramadan, he was fasting and couldn’t eat, but that didn’t stop him from bringing cookies and drinks for us all to enjoy. As I sat on the hillside, I couldn’t help but watch in amazement, as a Muslim, a Jew, and a bunch of Christian college students all laughed together and enjoyed learning more about each other.
I saw it there, a glimpse: hope for this country and for the massive challenges that it faces. Hope for peace, no matter how small.