Riding the afterglow of our Red Carpet event, our team embarked on a four-day excursion across the Kingdom of Jordan for one last adventure together. After spending a night in the capital of Amman, we traveled down the border, where we spent the morning and midday floating in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. After a rejuvenating mud bath, our team headed to the village of Wadi Mousa, just outside the ancient city of Petra. Thursday found us journeying through the wonder of the modern world, between vaulting sandstone canyons and into miraculously-crafted tombs carved into the rock. To end our adventure, we traveled out into the desert of Wadi Rum, the Valley of Sand, where we spent the night sleeping under the stars and sharing a final memory as a team. We reflected on the adventures of the previous month, and what it was we had all learned.
All of us had grown in ways we could not have expected. We had learned from our students as much as they had learned from us. We had had our expectations exceeded, and our eyes opened. We had formed strong bonds with new friends and found ourselves with many new places to call home. Perhaps most importantly, through our shared experiences with the people of Nazareth, Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, Ar’ara, and Jordan, we had all had our misconceptions about this part of the world, its people, and its culture, eliminated.
What we hear and see of the Israel/Palestine region, in news, in pop culture, in politics, even in academia, is overwhelmingly negative. Conflict, violence, division are the images that become associated with the Middle East, far beyond Israel and Palestine. And yet what we experienced through the last month could not be farther from that image.
Every day, we saw connection. We saw sharing, community, and happiness. We were offered kindness and hospitality almost everywhere we went, and witnessed first-hand the people’s desire for peace, on both sides of the regions many conflicts. We reflected on why it was so important for us to have done our work in this region: despite the division, in this part of the world, there is so much potential for connection. And we were able to be apart of that connection.
We wished our team a fond farewell once we returned to Amman. Though most of our team will return to our lives and routines back home, we will certainly never forget the wisdom we learned here. We will continue to seek out connection wherever it can be found.