I was living with teenagers who had been destined to fight an apocalyptic war against me. The simple idea of knowing these people seemed catastrophic to my society, my leaders, and my parents. At one point, we were less than a mile from the Israeli-Gaza border. The occasional plane or helicopter passed above us; it was standard protocol. I, along with nine other American high school juniors, had been chosen to go on this program, the Jacobs International Teen Leadership Institute or JITLI. We were living with twenty Palestinian teenagers, and ten Israeli teenagers, traveling throughout the State of Israel for a month long program. Each one of us was chosen for one reason, to understand each other and mend our seemingly broken future and relations. Now, after the trip, after I visited the homes, mosques, schools, and families of Palestinians living in Israel, I have a more firm grasp of this seemingly remote religion and way of life. The commonalities we share and the boundaries that exist seem simpler now. I have taken the first step to a solution in this war, a step of comprehension. In retrospect, a particular idea keeps swirving its way through my mind, an idea seen in the Talmud, a spiritual set of regalements of Judaism, “Once you acknowledge that you are responsible for the whole world, only one question remains: What will you do about it?” To me, this question can be answered in endless amount of ways, but it can only be started with one, JITLI.
JITLI 2010 SAN DIEGO PARTICIPANT: EDUARDO
July 23, 2010