The Holy Land
The other day the front page article of the Daily Universe was titled "The Holy Land." Naturally, I was interested, but naturally, I was severely disappointed. It was one of the worst written articles I have ever read, even from the DU (read it for yourself here). ("Safety was also reinforced by the Israeli soldiers scattered throughout the city..."I never saw them enforcing anything," Roeller said." ??? "I knew they were there to protect us. We'd take pictures with them."--how does taking pictures with soldiers who are not enforcing anything make you feel more safe?)
However, I did start thinking once again about my Arabic journey thus far, which began with my time spent living in Jerusalem.
Before I arrived in Jerusalem, I planned and dreamed and worked for the day when I would live in the Holy City. As an Ancient Near Eastern Studies major, I was more than excited to visit every biblical archeaological site, take pictures of every tel and every Solomonic gate, and most especially finally see and feel and experience all of the things I had been learning about in all of my classes. With my Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia safely packed away in my luggage, I was planning on greatly enhancing my Biblical Hebrew skills and even picking up on some Modern.
For me, Palestinians and Arabs were not even part of the equation. I knew of their existence, of course, but unfortunately my access to biased-American and Israeli news did little to assure me of the existence of Palestinians as real people--they were merely the reason I wouldn't get to visit Samaria, the land of Jacob, and most disappointingly for me, Beth-El.
Even when I got to Jerusalem things did not immediately change. Due to some rather severe warnings from Dr. Kearl at our orientation, I felt that every Arab man who passed within 5 feet of me was about to pull out a knife and stab me (no joke, I really thought this). The Palestinian areas of Jerusalem were littered with trash, the men always welcomed me to "their" country (as though someone could own a country!), and the Arab shopkeepers seemed more than a little shifty. Going to Egypt 3 weeks into the program only heightened my distrust for these strange Arab people, who ask personal questions about your dating life, offer to buy you as their 4th wife, and have absolutely no personal space--something that I prize highly in my own life. I still preferred everything Jewish because I understood the Jews (although some experiences, like the Egyptian girl from Tunta in Cairo, were positive).
However, my attitude slowly changed from intolerance to tolerance, and then gradually to love. I grew to love the Palestinian people and slowly realized that every man was not about to stab me (that was a happy day!). I realized that I loved the things that I understood, and as I came to understand the Arabs, I came to love them, too. (This love is increased exponentially for young Arab children, especially little girls, who are adorable. I wanted to take some home with me!)
After acheiving this state of love for the Arab people, I suddenly found myself in the middle of a new conflict, although this time it was with my own heart. I loved the Arabs and I loved the Israelis, and as I saw them fighting with and hating each other I felt as though my own heart was caught in the battle. When fighting broke out in Jerusalem over a bridge leading up to Dome of the Rock, I looked out from the balconies of the Jerusalem Center and wept. These were my brothers and sisters engaging in conflict!
The deeper I get into my studies the larger the conflict grows in my heart. Although I don't agree with all of the political decisions that either side makes, I love the people on both sides and it hurts me to see all that they are going through.
So, this rambling is leading to one of the reasons I am still studying Arabic. Although as stated before Arabic is incredibly hard for me, takes up all of my time, is very frustrating, and made me lose my eyesight last semester, I feel that I have a mission (yes, and Arabic mission! :) to help the world understand their Arab brothers and sisters as well as their Israeli/Jewish brothers and sisters. Like I said before, I want to change the world.
Whether such a thing is possible for me or not is up for dispute. But, at least I have a goal to work toward when I get sick of translating news articles and vowelling sentences!