Cultural Lessons and Making Connections in Israel

Shalom (peaceful hello) from Israel! Fellow Sun Devils and I are nearly half way through our ASU Counter-Terrorism in Israel study abroad program. Time flies by fast when you’re having fun and gaining intellect at the same time! We have been traveling to ancient historical sites, collecting incredible information regarding counter-terrorism, followed by student exercises. Topics include conflict vs. war, terror attack sites and lessons learned, history of Islam and development of fundamental terrorism, security protocols in aviation, intelligence, educational security, and more to come in this next week!

We have been traveling to ancient historical sites, collecting incredible information regarding counter-terrorism, followed by student exercises. Topics include conflict vs. war, terror attack sites and lessons learned, history of Islam and development of fundamental terrorism, security protocols in aviation, intelligence, educational security, and more to come in this next week.

As an ASU Online student, I was nervous to travel across the world with other students I had never met. Almost instantly at the airport, I spotted a fellow Sun Devil. Why? Because of the famous ASU colors. On the plane, more of us came together and met each other on trips to the airplane restroom (when turbulence allowed us). During our 15 hour flight, we weren’t incredibly chatty. After landing, we all came together, and sure enough, most of us are online students! Just about everyone is from a different state in the U.S.

After landing, we all came together, and sure enough, most of us are ASU Online students! Just about everyone is from a different state in the U.S. and flew in from states across the country to Israel.

Being an ASU Online student is no less of a student than being an on campus student; we are just as adventurous, laugh with each other, and roam the beautiful streets of Israel as a big group of ASU study abroad students.

While it may have been nerve wracking at first, it has become an adventure I will never forget, and friends that I will stay in touch with for life.

 

DSC_4611
Our group of Sun Devils at the Dome of the Rock!

 

I’ve grown an understanding of how “whoa-ful” Israel really is. The Jewish, Christians, Hebrews, and Arabs live here because they want to. They do not fear the terrorists/criminals. An elementary school teacher here explained to our group how they are finally taking back their land and operating with strategies that work and will continue to work. The children demonstrated a terrorist attack drill for us Sun Devils. It’s sufficient to say we were blown away (no pun intended).

Last weekend was Shabbat, which is a Jewish day of rest and joyfulness. I was very excited to say, Shabbat Shalom, several times. Students learned on this day that elevators stop on every floor, and no kosher food is served. I chose to take the stairs.

So far, we’ve had the euphoric experience of visiting:

  • The Qumran: an archaeological site on a dry plateau close to the Dead Sea that is best known for its caves where the Dead Sea scrolls. It’s also known for its very ancient Jewish texts. We spotted a few pretty massive sink holes on the way to this site. Oh, did I mention we rode a camel, too? Sun Devil camel rides!
  • The Masada: In the ancient past (notice how often “ancient” is used?), Herod the Great built a palace in 35 BCE. In order to see the Masada, we had to squeeze into a cable car and ride to the top of an isolated rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.
  • The Dead Sea: It’s called “dead” for a reason; nothing lives in this water due to hypersaline. While it might be called the Dead Sea, we felt so alive floating in the water and rubbing the mud all over our face and bodies for its cosmetic and health benefits.

    Desert
    View from the Masada overlooking the Dead Sea
  • Terror attack sites around Jerusalem and how Israel has greatly learned from these tragic events.
  • Mahaneh Jehuda Market: my goodness, so many healthy, natural foods! (While it is incredibly crowded in small alleys)
  • The Old City of Jerusalem where critical conflicts occurred in the 4 quarters: the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. They’re divided in culture, historically, and religiously.

The holy sites:

Hand
My hand touching the Wailing Wall next to several written prayers.

The Western Wall: prayers are written, folded, and left everywhere on the wall. After the Sun Devil ladies and I touched the wall, we had to walk backward and be sure not to turn our backs to the wall. We also had to cover our bodies symbolizing respect.

Temple
Dome of the Rock
  1. Dome of the Rock: the oldest Islamic shrine with a breathtaking gold top and colorful, designed body.
  2. The Via Dolorosa: the street Jesus walked on to his crucifixion.
  3. The Holy Sepulcher: the most sacred site in Christendom.
  4.  Garden of Gethsemane: the garden where Jesus prayed before being taken to his crucifixion.
  5.  Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary, the burial point of Jesus’ mother, Mary.

So far, it’s been a life-changing experience, and with much appreciation. I look forward to more of our journeys!

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