Thursday, November 6, 2014


How was this past summer in Israel different from your other summer experiences? 
This summer adventure was similar to other summers as I love to travel (Central America and Middle East) and volunteer with youth (counseling summer camps, coaching ultimate, doing nonprofit work).
My first visit to the Middle East was in 2012. My sister and I went on Taglit and we extended our stay to explore the countryside together. We were able to travel freely with our backpacks so we moved from place to place, hiked far distances, and experienced the authentic Israeli life and culture. It was different then as the country was not in the midst of war.
Two years ago, I did not have the same challenges I faced this summer. This summer I had to be cautious of traveling to certain areas and the potential risks (demonstrations, protests, missiles, etc.). I often traveled with a buddy and I always told friends or neighbors where I was going and when I was to return. It gave me a sense of security to have someone watching out for my safety. I also was acutely aware of how I present myself to others. In the past, I felt more comfortable to freely express my Jewish identity and this summer it was something that I concealed when I traveled from place to place.
Two summers ago, I was at the tail end of my study abroad program in Costa Rica. I spent five months studying, volunteering, and traveling around the country. It was pura vida. During the summer, I usually have the freedom to be who I am and go where I want. I have learned that this kind of freedom is a privilege not to be taken for granted.

Ultimate Peace Camp 2014
What made your summer in Israel special? 
The Middle East is my home away from home and always will have a special place in my heart. This summer was more eventful in comparison to my first visit two years ago. My experiences staffing a Taglit-Israel Outdoors trip, coaching for Ultimate peace, and spending extended periods of time in the West Bank have made this summer stand out from years past. I had an incredible summer in the region even during this time of conflict. I arrived to Israel with an amazing group of Jewish adults as a staff member of Taglit. I am grateful I was able to share their first experiences of Israel and travel with them after our trip to unconventional places and events (i.e. Burning Man Israel).
Once I finished the Taglit trip, I volunteered with an organization called Ultimate Peace. Ultimate Peace is a nonprofit that brings separated groups by conflict together to create peace and friendship using the unique sport, ultimate Frisbee. Arab Israeli, Israeli, and Palestinian youth work all year round in their own communities learning and practicing the sport, and then these groups come together on multicultural teams at Camp Ultimate Peace. It has been groundbreaking in promoting acceptance between people and renewing dialogue to many families and communities in the region. My commitment to the organization is fundraising before camp, coaching in communities in Israel and the West Bank, and helping with camp preparation. I have been a volunteer coach of Ultimate Peace since 2012.
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
In summers past, I had the opportunity to coach communities in the West Bank: Bethlehem, Beit Sachur, and Jericho. The ultimate practices in these communities were a few hours long and in the past we only stayed for the practice and dinner. This summer there was a mentor coach living in Beit Sachur and working with these communities. This provided a unique opportunity for me to spend quality time in the West Bank learning and understanding the Palestinian people and culture.This summer has been very special by the strong relationships and lifelong friendships I made throughout my journey. I especially feel very grateful to have many friends in Israel and the West Bank whom welcomed me openheartedly into their homes as a member of the family. These things have made my summer special.  

How did you see life in Israel with the events happening in Gaza this summer?
 This is a tricky question. Everyone was experiencing the conflict differently. In general, I would describe life in Israel as tense. I had neighbors who would not go too far from home because they fear missiles raining down and they would not be near a shelter. I have friends who have strong relationships with Arab-Israelis and Palestinians and could not share in the celebration of breaking fast during Ramadan. There were and continue to be many Israelis who were separated from their families and called from reserve duty to serve in the war. These experiences are the reality for a few local Israelis and Arab-Israelis. However, most of the people are going about their lives and praying for peace. They want an end to the war.

What have you learned or experienced that you never thought you would?

I spent three months in Israel this summer. During this time, four innocents boys were kidnapped and murdered, three Jewish and one Muslim. The whole region had heard too many sirens and witnessed hundreds of rockets on both sides. The IDF lost over many young men fighting to protect Israel's right to defend itself. Thousands of Palestinians have died in Gaza in Israel's effort to end Hamas. Everyone is paying the deathly cost of this cycle of hate and violence. As a promoter of peace in the Middle East, this war has been a rude awakening to the large capacity of hate and violence in the world.
I believe this war has caused irreparable damage socially, politically, and economically for the State of Israel and the future state of Palestine. I believe renewed dialogue between the people is necessary to make peace. All groups separated by conflict have the right to live in peace.  

What will you miss the most about Israel when you return to Omaha? 
I already miss it knowing that I will not return for some time. It will be after my Peace Corps service until I can reunite with my friends and family in the Middle East. This summer has been eye opening and life changing for me. The light memories of falafel every day and Frisbee every night will be missed dearly. The darker times of missiles overhead and news of death and destruction; I wish it had never happened. Praying for peace in the Middle East.
Julie Sadofsky is the Communications Intern and the newest addition to the Project Interfaith leadership team. She graduated May of 2014 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor's degree in Communication Studies and Global Studies, with regional specializations in Latin America and the Middle East.
Her research of identity, religion and non-religion, and intercultural and intergroup communication is foundational to her experience with Project Interfaith, not to mention her longstanding commitment to non-profit work.
Once Julie returned to Omaha after volunteering abroad, her passion for learning and understanding people of different religions, beliefs and cultures encouraged her involvement in the organization. She is excited to be working with Project Interfaith until her Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic come March, 2015.

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