Highlights from the Holy Land!

The Euphrates team recently returned from an incredible three-week trip through Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Our group enjoyed exploring the ancient lands that are considered holy by half of the world's population as well as learning more about present-day challenges in the region. We heard a wide variety of voices during our visit, ranging from Palestinian refugees to Jewish settlers, to Israeli soldiers, to officials from the U.S. Embassy, to members of government to those working at the grassroots, to economists and environmentalists. These narratives helped develop a well-rounded picture of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and contributed to a more informed understanding of this complex issue.img_5975Starting in Jerusalem, we laid the groundwork for our journey in a place that is central to the three monotheistic faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We dug deep into the layers of thousands of years of history as we toured the Old City. We experienced the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the physical and psychological division created by the separation barrier. We were treated to Arab hospitality over a lunch feast and led through the beautiful ritual of a Shabbat dinner. Here's a video recap of our first few days:[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1nXzIdQ2hs[/embed]We continued on to Bethlehem, the Galilee region in the north, and concluded our time in Israel in Tel Aviv. Each location brought its own stories and lessons to our group as we marveled at the region's diverse landscapes and people.As we spoke with peacebuilders throughout the trip, we were struck by the ways in which each one addressed the concept of peace. Enjoy these snapshots from our conversations in the video below:[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEajeqxUxJo[/embed]After two very full weeks, we welcomed a change of pace in our travels to Jordan. We soaked in the stillness of the Wadi Rum desert and toured the lost city of Petra with a sense of wonder.img_5970Our final day in the Middle East was spent visiting our Visionary of the Year, Nousha Kabawat, and volunteering at her school for Syrian refugee children in Jerash. It was a joy to play with the kids and hear about Nousha's incredible work to offer hope to Syria's next generation through her organization, Project Amal ou Salam (Project Hope and Peace).img_5969From the beginning of our trip, we established a "Circle of Trust" within our group, a method of communication which allowed everyone to share authentically and without fear of judgment. It laid the foundation for our debriefing sessions as a group and encouraged us to ask open and honest questions of the people we met. By building trust among the members of our group, we were able to extend our circle to include those we encountered. In our conversations along the way, we were invited to consider our own narratives and the role they play in our everyday lives. A resounding theme was that in order to solve conflict in the wider world, we first need to address the same causes of conflict that appear on a personal level. Learning firsthand about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the people and places we visited, combined with space for individual reflection, made for a truly transformative experience.img_5972We are eager to share further insights and videos from our trip with you in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information and thank you for taking part in our adventure!