What an adventure studying abroad in Israel has been! It is certainly not for the faint of heart. In the words of my professor: “No one moves to Jerusalem just for the heck of it. Everyone here lives with a purpose.” With an election right around the corner that could determine the political and economic direction of the country, protests and security have amped. I have been exposed to the wildest stories, the craziest opinions from Israelis and Palestinians alike, and each conversation pushes and challenges me.
My daily life consists of interesting classes taught by brilliant, accomplished professors such as my International Law and Foreign Policy taught by the man responsible for many of the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. I am a short ride from the beautiful downtown area that contains markets where you negotiate for fruits and teas. Traveling into the West Bank is eye opening and the best education often comes from listening to and watching all that surrounds me. The history here is so rich and I still can’t believe that as a Christian I can stroll by so many meaningful places like the Temple Mount and Garden Tomb on a daily basis as well as learn more about other cultures and peoples. While the entire country shutting down from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday for Shabbat is eerie, I have had the opportunity to enjoy traditional Shabbat dinners as it is custom for Jews to invite anyone into their home. These huge feasts with families and their friends make me feel welcome and are a great way to participate in such a different culture
The opportunities here are endless! I attended a conference to hear the Russian ambassador speak on Russia and the Middle East, I ran a marathon, I’ve explored ancient ruins, and just last week celebrated Purim. Purim is a religious holiday celebrating Queen Esther’s rescue of the Jews from massacre, but it is celebrated just like a combination of our Mardi Gras and Halloween. Soon, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan seasons will begin, and I am so excited to continue to learn and challenge myself every day I’m here!
I am sure you all have been staying up to date on current events and have noted mounting tensions in my area. I experience first-hand the implications of all things US-Israel and Israel. Jerusalem is relatively safe, but conflict is never far away and, in many ways, normal in this country. While I am not worried for my personal safety, there are so many people here on both sides affected daily by tragedy. So, continue to work hard, brothers, because we need the kind of people this fraternity is cultivating to be global leaders, get their hands dirty, and create impossible solutions for peace in the Middle East.
Brother Madison Finley
SOU Bros Abroad
This blog serves to highlight the experiences and tips that Brothers studying abroad have.