• Janey Whitney

A College Republican in the Holy Land

In August 2019, I was approached with the opportunity of a lifetime, to go to Israel as a part of AIPAC’s Bipartisan Allies Mission with 14 other College Republicans and 15 College Democrats from across the United States. For a week and a half, I was able to travel around Israel and learn more about the conflict the region is facing from surrounding nations in the Middle East. Living for a week and a half in Israel, I was able to experience different living situations. Whether it be sleeping in a hotel, sleeping in a desert tent village, or staying in a Kibbutz. No matter where we were staying, our time in Israel had a heavily packed itinerary to make sure we got the most knowledge possible from our time there.

From visiting an underground bunker to experiencing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to walking through a tour of Yad Vashem, a Holocaust Museum. Our trip also included many informative lectures and conversations with locals. I even spotted one local wearing a baseball cap with the University of Alabama logo.

Being able to converse with people living in the region and seeing the conflict firsthand, allowed me to gain knowledge a textbook simply couldn’t provide. Seeing pictures and text in a textbook does not translate the same as being immersed in the culture and listening to the natives of the land speak to their own personal experiences.

I believe the moment that had the largest impact on me was our trip through the Holocaust Museum. Through hearing stories of individual Jews that perished during the Holocaust, solely because of their Jewish identity, it further strengthened my belief on why it is so important that the State of Israel is recognized. A specific moment that touched me, was seeing on display the braids of a little girl who was sent to a concentration camp, with the ribbon still tied at the bottom. The story behind them was that the girl always wore her hair in braids, and her mother told her to cut them off in fear of her getting and spreading lice at the concentration camp. The little girl left on the promise that they’d be back for the braids, but sadly she never got that chance.

Going to Israel as a Christian, I was also excited to see and experience the various Holy sites. The Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre were my two most notable religious sites from the trip. Being able to witness just how import the Western Wall is to so many individuals who go there to recite prayers and who leave a prayer in the cracks of the wall. This was eye opening to the importance of the religious culture of the land of Israel, and was something that takes on a whole new reality when you see it first hand. Going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. Being able to be in the place where Jesus was crucified and then laid to rest was an unforgettable experience and I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to personally travel to this location.

This trip overall opened my eyes to the perspective of locals living in Israel, government leaders, and the overall way of life in the Holy Land. This trip helped me to strengthen my pro-Israel beliefs, form relationships with and have conversations with College Democrats, and form friendships with my fellow College Republicans that will last a lifetime. I am forever thankful to AIPAC for the opportunity I was given and highly encourage other College Republicans and College Democrats to apply for their 2020 Bipartisan Allies Mission and experience Israel firsthand.

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