With the growing crisis between Israel and Palestine plastered all over the news, I have been thinking a great deal about my trip to Israel to attend my friend's wedding. Not only was my week-long journey a chance to witness the rich cultural heritage of the Israeli-Jewish people and their customs it was also a chance to reflect on the deep divisions that plague this region and its people.
I have several interesting stories from my short trip to Israeli. From attending a rave in the middle of an Israeli desert to visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Israeli was full of interesting and new experiences.
But it is the events which surrounded the wedding itself that I have been thinking of most as of late. Even as the three-day wedding ceremony unfolded, I couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition between the overwhelming love and sense of community felt within the wedding party and the tension and fear that has become a part of everyday life in Israel thanks to the Jewish-Israeli's relationship with their Muslim neighbors.
I guess what surprised me the most about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship was just how close in proximity the different religious groups live to one another. I had assumed that, because of their historical arguments with one another, the two groups would be separated in every conceivable way.
Such is not the case. While walking through the streets of Jerusalem, I noticed that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all walk the same streets. They all shop at the same stores and eat the same types of food. In fact, if it weren't for their clothing and language, I would have had a difficult time differentiating between one group and another.
I wondered to myself if the people living in Israel have any idea how similar they look to one another from an outsider's perspective, regardless of how much they may dislike each other.
I think one of the most special moments for me in Israel came with my friend's bachelor party. It wasn't a big affair. It was just three guys drinking wine in a hot tub in the middle of an olive tree orchard in Israeli. But what made it special was the difference in our backgrounds.
My friend who was getting married is a Jewish man from Russia. With him for his bachelor party was me, an American who was raised in the Christian faith, and one of our Muslim friends from Turkey.
The significance of the moment did not escape me. Even then, having three men from different countries and religions soaking in a hot tub and drinking wine together seemed special. I couldn't help but think of how much anger, sadness, and destruction had occurred in Israel because people of different faiths and cultures couldn't trust or get along with one another.
And yet, here were three guys who genuinely cared for one another and were accepting of each other's differences, choosing instead to focus on our commonalities. At that moment, I sincerely wished that the people of Israel and of Palestine could have seen us that night and realized that all of the bloodshed is unnecessary.
I don't pretend to understand all of the intricacies of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. As an American with friends of every faith all over the world, I feel it is not my place to judge too harshly the actions of those people who are actually involved in the daily struggle.
Still, my friend's wedding, and more specifically his bachelor party, serve as a reminder that there are alternatives to hate and war if we choose to look for them. As cliché as it sounds, the entire week reminded me that there is more that we have in common as human beings than that which divides us.
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