[Israel, Palestinian Territories + Jordan ’14 Preview] Bev Perry: “Nothing is ever black and white”

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2011 Middle East Alumni Summit in Jordan. [The author is second to right in the first row.]

Today as I read the latest news from the MENA region, I think back on the two trips I’ve been blessed to take with ACYPL to the Middle East.  The first was to Israel in 1994 and the second to Jordan in 2011.  Both profoundly moved me and allowed me to learn from those residing there that nothing is ever black and white.

My journey in 1994 gave me the chance to see the beauty of Israel and its people.  The geography of the country is one thing I recall being in stark contrast to it’s representation in maps and books. You can read about the Golan Heights, look at it on a map, but nothing really prepares you to understand its strategic location until you stand at the top and see how all of Galilee is spread out in front of you and how close you are to the Mediterranean Sea.  I can’t imagine living in a place where you are so exposed to others, especially if they might be hostile to you.  America is such a big place—so it’s hard to imagine that kind of constant threat.

We also wandered through the city of Jerusalem and I felt how sacred it was to three of the largest religions in the world.  While there, I had the opportunity to reflect on the beauty and peace of what this city means to people from these religions, and later, I contemplated the bitter battles between them over the ages…battles that continue today.

I think the memory that sticks with me most from my trip to Israel was listening to a member of the Knesset tell us how excited he was to call a friend on his cell phone and say that he was standing on the Allenby Bridge with one foot in Jordan. This was an unthinkable act just the day before until a peace treaty was signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994.

Because of that wonderful trip, I was elated to be able to travel back to the region as part of the Middle East Alumni Summit just after the Arab Spring in 2011.  The participants were from all over the US and multiple countries in the region. To hear the hope in their voices as they talked about the changes in Egypt and other countries was amazing.  To talk, to joke, to laugh with one another was a miracle to behold.

Because of the positive work that ACYPL does, I hope the next group of delegates who journeys to the Middle East are as enriched as I was in my understanding of the region– since it is truly a unique place.

Bev Perry is the Executive Director of Southwest Megaregion Alliance.

 

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