Ali Issa is a second year Economic History undergraduate. Here Ali shares with us some of the challenges he overcame during the LSE interfaith trip to the Holy Land…
By the time I was on the coach after departing from Ben Gurion airport, I had an almost sinking feeling, that I was behind enemy lines, that I didn’t belong. All my life I had heard of the plight of the Palestinians and the precarious situation Al-Aqsa’s local people were in, so to be in trendy Tel-Aviv, Israel alongside ‘the other’ made me feel uneasy and that I was taking the wrong route to the Holy Land.
There were several things on our trip that started to show me glimpses of the ‘Israeli mind-set’ (if ever there is such a homogenous body). The main event that helped me understand the Jewish feeling regarding Israel was our visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Hearing how Jews viewed the survivors in the immediate aftermath and the esteem resistance held in the Jewish narrative was something I couldn’t help but compare to the view of ‘resistance’ and ‘martyrdom’ within the Palestinian people. Overall, what I saw in Yad Vashem felt really novel to me which was rather surprising for someone who had quite a definitive view on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Venturing into the reality of the other is something that I didn’t see much of in Israel and Palestine but I have learnt to always try and see where the ‘others’ history originates from in my own life.
The holy sites we visited gave me an education in itself. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Annunciation and Golgotha were places I hadn’t even heard of before the trip, but I saw them and witnessed the excitement and veneration amongst our Christian friends. I learnt a lot about the Western Wall and the history of the Jewish temples too. Seeing the worship at these holy places in between my frequent visits to Al-Aqsa were a reminder to me that others can be just as devoted to their religion and feel what I feel.
My time in the holy land was the best trip I have ever had in my life. I learnt so much about different religions, different people and the potential for reconciliation. It gave me a sense of responsibility to display the beauty within our different religions. Despite religion playing a part in the conflict, the tradition, worship and belief in God is what can ultimately heal wounds and let people live in peace.
LSE encourages us to try and tackle the world’s problems and to become the future world leaders, but if ever there was a place in the world where foreign and domestic agents needed to heed the LSE motto it’s the holy land.
This trip was run in conjunction with the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel
With many thanks to the Annual Fund for their generous sponsorship of this trip