• A Truly Holy Land - 07/11/2017

    This post first appeared on Israel Campus Roundtable.

    After nearly a month of living in The Holy Land I’ve been able to learn more about what makes Israel so holy. Through my previous four trips to Israel I’ve always experienced the holiness of Israel from the Jewish perspective. I’ve visited Safed, the home of Jewish mysticism, the Western Wall and many other holy sites throughout the country. However, on this trip I’ve been able to learn about different ways in which Israel is holy to a variety of faiths and peoples. Just over a week ago, our group went on a trip to the West Bank to learn firsthand about the Arab-Israeli conflict. We heard the perspective of a rabbi who is a settler of one of the Jewish villages in the West Bank. He explained the historical ties between the Jewish people and the lands of Judea and Samaria (which comprise the West Bank). We then heard the perspective of a Palestinian describing his people as a stateless group living in the Levant. He went on to explain that throughout their history the Palestinians have been under the control of numerous political entities (Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, Jordan…) but never under an independent Palestinian government. Later in the trip we met a group of Ethiopian Jews and a Bedouin woman who was the first woman of the Bedouins to go to college abroad. This collection of people was just a small taste of the ethnic and religious diversity present in Israel.

    One of my favorite parts about living in Haifa is that I am living in a melting pot of different communities and faiths. Over the past couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to explore some of these communities. Last weekend my roommates and I took a trip to the Arab city of Nazareth to visit sites of historical significance in Islam and Christianity. We visited the churches built on the sites where the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believed that the annunciation occurred. Closer to Haifa, we visited the Baha’i gardens in Haifa as well as the Stella Maris Monastery. Both of these sites occupy a prominent spot in Haifa serving as a poignant reminder to all about how Israel is much more than just the Jewish Holy Land.

    Josh Usiskin, Worcester Polytechnic University ’19, participated on Birthright and is interning this summer with Carmel Olefins as a Boston Onward Israel Haifa 2017 participant.