I was asked to describe my experience on JITLI in a few words. In my opinion it is impossible to describe such an experience on paper, if at all. And still, I am answering the request because I am sure that the exposure among teens and individuals more generally to JITLI is not enough and we must do the maximum to increase the awareness and understanding of this project.
On the first day of the trip, we came a the building of the local municipality of Shaar Hanegev which is located in Ibim, where we were picked up by a bus. I couldn’t help feeling the fear that took hold of us all. So many questions without answers; what can we say to the Bedouins? How can we say hello? They will probably hate us… can I approach the girls? Will they want to talk to me? Will I want to talk to them?
Aside from the Bedouins, even within the Israeli group the knowledge of each other was very limited. We met of course before the trip, but the relationships were very cold, without saying much to one another. I think my biggest fear was not to get along with my own group.
On the first day we also met the Americans, and the fears towards them were less intense. They are, after all, one of “us”, and our connection with them was very fast without too many problems.
On the first days the counselors did everything to connection us to the Bedouins; activities, group games, forced us to sit with them on the bus… I have to say that in the beginning I found it oppressive but after the second day I understood that after all, they are “guys” just like us with the same fears and worries. We put our political opinions aside for a moment and got to know one another without thinking too much about [political] right or left.
On the third and fourth day, we were already united. The process was very fast, this time, the method of the melting pot proved itself as efficient.
Within all the emotional craziness was also toured the country, in places that I as a teenager who defines himself as a lover of the Israeli country and her landscapes have never visited before. Beautiful views and touching and very powerful historical places with their own stories. We heard stories of all kinds with all possible opinions.
There wasn’t a moment in the trip when I wasn’t drowned with thoughts, about myself… about the stories of others and how that changed my thinking. I will repeat the sentence that was said in the beginning of this essay… “In my opinion, it is possible to describe such an experience on paper, if at all”. Everything written here is nothing. It’s a miniscule touch upon the most powerful journey that I have gone through in my life. I laughed, cried, screamed, was quiet, angry, loved, learned, and taught. JITLI turned me into a different person. JITLI opened my eyes and made me step out of my bubble… to learn to listen and respect, to know how to express myself, and how not to hurt and get hurt. The friends from the journey will be lifelong friends, I have no doubt in that.
JITLI is not a journey for left-wingers, not for right-wingers, not for army-haters or Arab-haters. JITLI is a journey for people who are ready to open up to new worlds, to broaden their horizons and get to an insane level of understanding that they never thought they could succeed getting to.
So don’t give in to yourselves. Go on the journey, take your kids to the journey, recommend your friends. Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime.