Israel, Summer 2013 Jack Powers '15

I had never been to the Middle East, so it was quite the experience going to the one non-Islamic nation in the region. Seventeen Muslim nations, surrounding one Jewish nation. This was cool.

Anyway, my adventure to the center of Judaism started and finished in none other than Jerusalem. Home to some of the oldest and most historic religious monuments in the world: there is no debating it. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all claim to be founded in the same spot.

It wasn't hard to get in touch with my ancient Jewish roots in Jerusalem - Hasids practicing Tefilin, praying at the Wailing Wall, and constantly eating kosher meals. However, these activities were all to be expected. What I gained most from the trip was discovering, first hand, the dynamic relationship between Jewish Israel and Muslim Israel, or Palestine.

Israelis are prohibited from entering the West Bank. My brother and I, being Americans, had pretty much no trouble getting in. It was a bit sketchy, however, because we are both Jewish. Once inside the heavily Islamic territory, we discovered that the only buffer for conflict between Jews and Muslims was the Israeli Army. Even though we were halfway around the world (in what felt like a set from Zero Dark Thirty), in reality, we couldn't have been safer. This is when I realized that security is the crown jewel of Israel. Emphasis on military and clandestine activity has allowed the nation to survive through some difficult times in the Middle East.

Overall, the trip was a blast. We were able to hang out on the beaches of Tel Aviv, swim in the Dead Sea, and hike the winding path to Masada, along with many other culturally stimulating activities. None of these activities would have been possible, however, if Israel did not continue to maintain its defense capabilities and ensure the peace and security of its citizens, which I witnessed, up front, in the West Bank.