The whole thing was a paradox. The people, the goal, the trip. There would always be the wall, a wall that in some cases is a physical border, though many times simply metaphorical. Whether it was made of poured concrete or just poor feelings, it did its job. There’s no mystery of what a wall is supposed to do; alienate and define. Israelis and Palestinians live this everyday. Two peoples in such close proximity, yet completely divided by a barrier. This barrier is thousands of years old, so what were 40 teenagers going to do about it? Better yet, what was I going to do about it?
Ten American Jews, ten Israeli Jews, and twenty Israeli Bedouins, handpicked by their benefactors to do one job…break down these walls. It wouldn’t be easy. In fact, I had no idea how a 17 year-old from sunny San Diego could contribute. Sure, I had read articles and done research on the conflict, but this wasn’t your everyday school project. It was real and I was worried.
It hit me, though, on the fifteenth of eighteen days in Israel. My realization came post-hike in the desert. We were in an unrecognized village, meaning there were no resources provided by the Israeli Government. This was my new friend Eman’s house. Although she spoke very limited English, I was able to connect with her because she was so genuine. To us it was merely a shack, to her a home built by her father from nothing. They didn’t own the land, at least not by Israeli code. Any construction in these unrecognized villages would set off a red flag. They were stuck, between laws and feelings; their passion and perseverance resulted in a sense of loyalty I had never seen before.
When we reached her father, outside the collection of structures, there was nothing but warmth radiating from him. He told us we would eat, but first assist in work.
I found myself working tirelessly on the other side of the globe for someone I didn’t know, someone I wasn’t supposed to know. I learned the age-old practices of building a Bedouin wall. The mortar was made and the stones were laid.
It was evident what had happened in that short period of time. We had redefined opinions, but most of all a word. No longer did a wall seem like a division. Instead, building that wall brought us together. In every oxy-moronic way, it was perfect. Sure, all forty of us broke Israeli federal law, but most importantly, we did it together. The days leading up to the program I had no expectations. I thought that when the couple of weeks were through there would be nothing to take back home, but I was wrong. The group I was with, their families, and the setting proved to be the greatest teachers of all. Today’s world is centered around perspective. Those who can understand, adapt, and ultimately co-exist with others are able to prosper and what better way to learn this than living with two of the most differing perspectives in the world? For a while I struggled to find a connection beyond my background that tied in with this program, but soon I realized I was merely being closed-minded. The true sign of impact is the crossover something makes in one’s life and I can testify to that.