Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Isrealities: Perspectives from Israel #2

A new blog series by Project Interfaith's International Blogger, Emily Muskin

Desert stretches before me, seemingly endless. Miles upon miles of sandy, barren landscape blurs the border between Israel and Jordan. Physical, legal, emotional, topographical; all of these words are associated with boundaries in our modern world. How many of our issues are brought on by real or imagined boundaries?

Being in the heart of the Middle East, in a country that in its short 63 years has had an extremely colorful history of border disputes, I can’t help but consider the impact of boundaries on our modern lifestyle. There is way more to a boundary than that which is legal, physical, or topographical. I am fascinated by the emotional and mental boundaries people put up between themselves and others.

How does one foster an environment in which people approach one another without boundaries? I don’t really know the answer to this question. However, I have spent the last month with a group of fifteen people who began as relative strangers. I will be sharing some of the observations I have had throughout this time, but first, a little background information.

I am currently enrolled in an ecological program on Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava Desert in the southern part of Israel. This program is seven weeks in length, and there are 15 participants involved. Five participants are American, five are Israeli, one is from Italy, one is from France, one is from England, and the last is from Poland. We range in age from 21 to 31, and nine of us are females, while the other six are males. Nine of us are Jewish, ranging from Conservative to extremely secular, while the other six are a mixture of Christian, Catholic, and spiritual.

We are an eclectic mix to say the least. We are all extremely different, yet we are living together in small circular domes, sharing showers, toilets and a small kitchen. We take classes together for at least nine hours each day and share daily meals.

This program has been somewhat of an interfaith experiment in action, and shockingly, it is working! The open interaction within this small and diverse community has been inspiring. Though I came here for an ecological program, I’ve been learning just as much from my fellow participants as I have from the course itself.

Right in the heart of Israel, where the harsh boundaries of a life in which bordering nations are in conflict are ever-present, it has been possible to build a healthy community. This environment is enclosed and intense, yet I strongly believe in the ability of people to break down barriers within many different societies. It is fascinating to explore the different types of boundaries in the modern world while finding new and exciting innovations to break them down.

Emily Muskin was the fall 2010 Development and Communications intern for Project Interfaith. She has graciously agreed to continue with Project Interfaith as our international blogger while she experiences Israel. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2008 with a degree in Latin American Studies. In May 2010, she concluded her year of service with Americorps Vista Program and Goodwill Industries in Kansas City. This was where her interest in the non-profit world began. In her free time, Emily enjoys cookng, reading, traveling to foreign lands, and watching cheesy reality cooking shows.

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