On January 15, 2008 I found out that I was chosen to be apart of an ambassadorship program for high school students sponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League (http://www.aifl.org/index.asp). I and eleven others would travel to Washington D.C., New York and Israel where we would represent the United States.
While in Washington, D.C. and New York City, we visited the World War II Memorial (http://www.wwiimemorial.com/), the Lincoln Memorial, where I was overcome with emotion thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech. We also saw The White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) and visited the Holocaust Museum. It was upsetting to see the injustice and cruelty that took place not so long ago. Next we went to The Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center, where we watched a play called Fuerzabruta. (http://www.fuerzabruta.net/website/fuerza_eng.html) I felt the excitement of being in New York City. (http://www.rockefellercenter.com/index.php/section/2).
As a part of the American-Israel Friendship League we also took classes about tolerance and acceptance for all people. The programs were about how we need to be more open-minded towards people with different beliefs and religions. The tolerance programs that I participated had a profound and lasting effect on me. I do not want to be a bystander. I want to take action when I see wrong doing and injustice. Now when statements are given to me as facts I’ve learned to do my own research and form my own opinion. I want to be a conscious and critical thinker.
There were twelve ambassadors from Tucson. We started out as strangers but quickly became friends and looked after each other. We ate, roomed, and talked constantly to one another. While in New York and Washington D.C. we huddled around each other to keep warm. Our tears from home sickness stopped once we began to comfort one another. Before we left for Israel my eleven friends became my family.
The places we went in Israel and the people we met were truly spectacular. We visited Tel Aviv (http://www.tel-aviv.gov.il/English/home.asp) and walked on the boardwalk where I discovered the most delicious waffles. We traveled to Haifa where my friends and I watched the sunset at the beach. We also visited the Holy Sepulchre. (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/jerusalem-church-of-holy-sepulchre.htm), the religious city of Nazareth and waded in the Dead Sea, which I found beautiful and thought it ironic that something so beautiful couldn’t support life. (http://www.extremescience.com/DeadSea.htm).
This trip opened up my eyes to the world and I know it will not be the last of my travels. Things that used to seem so important, became superficial and petty. Didn’t my friends realize that there were more important issues going on? Their eyes were open but they weren’t taking anything in. Going to Israel wasn’t just about getting out of school for three weeks. It was about getting people my age to wake up. Becoming aware of the haunting shadow of prejudice and bigotry was, in my opinion, AFIL’s goal. I’m a living example that that goal was accomplished.
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