This was our first jam-packed day, between saying goodbye to our first Israeli home at Kibbutz Ma'agaan, learning about the historic significance of Tzipporah, deepening our understanding of diversity in Haifa, and arriving at our hotel in Jerusalem. Not only did we have a lot to do today, but this excursion also gave us much to think about in establishing a relationship with Israel and understanding what life here is like for all citizens.
For me personally, hearing about the hub of difference found in Haifa was incredibly powerful, although it further complicated my connection to Israel. We listened to our tour guide speak of Haifa as a place of escape for refugees from all sorts of persecution and exclusion. Then, we visited a representative of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who spoke about his religion and values. While the majority of our conversation with him was engaging and interesting, the one statement that has not been able to leave my mind has been how he does not see Haifa as representative of all of Israel.
After hearing stories of the acceptance shown towards people of difference in Haifa (even with an understandable level of conflict), as well as a conversation and reflection as a group about difference, today has been a very personally challenging one. It started with feelings of love and appreciation for what I had seen in Israel and the land's history, but it transformed into a day of questioning my own values and wondering whether I can work through all of these new perceptions of what Israel truly is.
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,000 Jewish students on Grounds.