A Never Ending Journey

Aslam Alaykum. Shalom. Hello. My name is Noah Stashower-Marcus and I was a member of the San Diego group in JITLI this year. There are many ways in which I could start off my experience on JITLI. I could ramble on about the amazing connections I made. I could blabber about the non-stop fun I had. And I could focus on how much I expanded my knowledge on other countries. But what I will do is tell specific memories or as we like to call them, “JITLI moments,” that define not just my experience on the trip, but also define how a seemingly unbreakable barrier between cultures can in fact be broken down.

First night of the trip, I was trying to get to know people but I was uncomfortable. Languages were flying around and people were doing things I rarely ever see in America. Then some voice called me over. It was Nash. He said, “Are you just tired? Because you seem really uncomfortable with this situation when there is no need to be.” Of course I took the easy way out and said I was tired to avoid my true feelings. But that moment was special, because before going on the trip, I thought I would be okay and immediately fit in. It was a wakeup call that said it is time to have an experience that will change your life forever and a call that forced me to look passed the languages flying around and into the heart of each and every single person around me all of whom I can now call my family.

Now I fast forward to the middle of the trip when around 15 Jews begged to get into the Dome of the Rock not because they wanted to see its beauty, but because they truly wanted to get a better understanding of a culture/religion they knew little about. That itself was a JITLI moment be we wouldn’t have gotten in if it weren’t for Ayman. He walked a half kilometer at least three times to practically force the head of security to let us into the mosque. This situation represents the sacrifices that anyone and everyone would make for one another’s needs. Because of Ayman, I now have a special insight on Islam and an experience I will never get again. And then the very next activity we did was go to the Western Wall where the Arab girls were not let in because they were wearing hijabs. But when the world rejects, JITLI accepts. This was demonstrated when the girls walked hand in hand all the way to the wall in a united effort that showed not only bravery, but love and compassion. Together, they formed their own wall that was not made for only one religion.

A final JITLI moment of the trip occurred the last night walking and talking under the bright stars in the Negev. I argued with Munther, Kil, and Mahmod about deep personal values while still being able to maintain the respect between one another of our separate faiths. Never again will I be in a situation where I can challenge people’s core beliefs and still stand next to them with arms lined to chant the words Achim, Simcha, JITLI, and Imperia again. And while these moments we have had together are precious, we are forced to go back into a world that tells us we shouldn’t be together. Don’t let them break our unity. We are JITLI! And if they don’t believe us, we won’t go away, we’ll just shout a little louder.