Monday, January 27, 2014

Continued Service: One Brain Stretched By Two Continents

When met by difficult truths, the instinct to crawl under a blanket and yell “go away!” can be hard to refuse. Even the most passionate and well-intentioned could, upon returning to one’s old life as a considerably new person, fall victim to the seductive comfort of ignorance. I am not above this very human characteristic, nor should I pretend to be. But, even so, I wish to commend my fellow Alt. Break participants as they have risen to the challenge. It is for this very reason that I write this blog entry exactly two weeks after returning to the United States.
I have been asked to discuss the topic of continued service and how the participants of this Alternative Break program will maintain activism and engagement with the asylum seekers community in Israel. As soon as we landed, I would have outlined this game plan:
  • Keep raising awareness in our respective networks and communities
  • Form a formal group on campus to partner with Students for Refugees
  • Through Facebook and email, keep updated and connected with our new friends and family in Arad
  • Finish their website
  • And (for me) finish their promotional video within 2-3 weeks.
Barring scheduling difficulties, we have stayed true to these goals. In fact, this morning, about ten of our participants attended a protest in solidarity with the asylum seekers in front of the Israeli Embassy in D.C. I am amazed with the dedication and energy that my fellow participants have embraced since returning home. As each day passes, though, I find the inner struggle to keep the fire burning grows increasingly difficult. But not for lack of passion.

I had accounted for the surge of coursework, scheduling conflicts, and commitments that come along with the start of a new semester. I had not prepared myself for jet lag that would last three full days. I had certainly not prepared myself for the shock of being dropped back into an environment familiar enough to be comforting and yet distant enough that made all my efforts to stay connected to my work for SRF immensely tiring. One moment I’m sitting in class trying to take notes about Rousseau, the next moment my mind is wandering through Ye’elim, worrying that I’m racing a clock now 7 hours in the future.

The word for our overall experience in Israel, corroborated by the interviews I gathered, would be complex. The word for the experience at home would be overwhelming.

No matter how much we talked about it, how many assignments on culture shock I had to fill out, how many lists and schedules I planned to fulfill my objectives, nothing prepared me for the rip current beneath my feet. The trip was only thirteen days, but in just under a fortnight I made friendships and learned more about the world and myself than I ever could have accomplished in a classroom course. We cleaned and repainted an old bomb shelter turned community center; we ran after-school activities for neighborhood children; we started dialogues and gathered as many perspectives as possible; we were invited into living rooms and dining rooms; we helped organize a community mapping to help asylum seekers apply for refugee determination; we heard their stories and shared in return; and we learned invaluable lessons of humility, service, and community. And then, after this intense and intimate journey, we returned to our separate lives in our over-committed and spread-too-thin networks, clinging to the shores of Tel Aviv while sleepily hailing a taxi back up to NW.

The work we started may be back in Israel, but it was burning strong before we got there - we just left them with a little bit more resources and a lot more support. I am proud to say I have met and worked with such talented, fearless, and dedicated human beings. When the waves threaten to crash over my head, when I feel like a drop in a limitless ocean, I remember we are only as strong as the net we weave. Hand me the next rope.

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.
Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

- David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

This blog is written by Lucette Moran.

No comments:

Post a Comment