407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

We gathered together for the final time as a group to begin the processing of the entire experience. I learned so much from the others on the trip as well as those we heard from and what I saw throughout the West Bank. One of the things I said in that final gathering was how I knew I needed more time to process and unpack the entire experience. There is much that I have been thinking about that I haven’t written. As I figure stuff out, I’ll write about it.

Four days ago, I met these 35 or so people for the first time (well I did know two of them before and had met one a few years ago). We were strangers in a strange land. After 4 days I feel like I have new friends. We joked how the trip started weeks ago.

Intensive immersive experience is a commonly used term. I’ve used it many times. This was by far the most intensive immersive experience I have ever had. My head is still spinning with all I have seen and experienced. The beliefs I held at the start of the trip, the beliefs that were challenged, the contradictions not only from speaker to speaker but also within the session of a speaker.

As I sit at Ben Gurion airport waiting for my 5:20 am flight (it sounded bad when I booked it and it’s even worse now in actuality), the only thing I am certain of is that this is a very complicated situation and there are no easy answers. Israel has an existential security threat they must address. The Palestinians are suffering and struggling. I’m not into blame and don’t want to go there. I do believe the current situation is untenable and something must change but what, how, who starts, how long it takes, I have no idea.

In the end, just as the Encounter staff told us at the beginning, it’s not my job to solve the conflict. That’s for the Israelis and the Palestinians. I’m not even a citizen so I don’t vote there and have no say in the government. I do believe it’s my job to facilitate conversations. To help people in both my local community as well as in my sphere of influence gain a better understanding of the complexities and challenges that exist. So, as we discussed what our ‘intentionality’ was after the trip, I said mine was to bring this to my community and sphere of influence to do just that.

Now I’m really looking forward to plane taking off so I can go to sleep. The flight home will give me time to rest and maybe begin the processing. Or I may just watch a movie to numb my mind.