Suess ’17 Sees Inside D.C. Political Rhetoric

Jimmy Suess ’17 – On Tuesday, we had the chance to meet with Joseph Pounder of America Rising in the morning, and the FBI in the afternoon. So far on this trip, we have been able to experience Washington, D.C. with more special opportunities than the common tourist. Our opportunities continued into Tuesday.

Pounder, President of America Rising, spoke with us about his job as the leader of this political action committee (PAC). He gave us a new perspective of the political process, a much more realistic perspective. Their job at America Rising is to frame how the people view the candidates; nothing is off limits. Both Democrats and Republicans participate in every election. We see PAC’s work when we see political scandals or flip floppy candidates. An example of this could be Romney’s views on healthcare. It was brought up that Romney had instilled a healthcare bill quite like the Affordable Healthcare Act, so he was framed as a flip flopper candidate by a democratic PAC. PACs do a lot of the unseen work that goes into politics. They are the researchers behind all candidates or nominees, and try to influence politics in favor of their party. I was unaware that this job existed, and I am now very interested in learning more about the process. From a rhetorical perspective, PACs like America Rising, are influencing the audience of their choosing in order to persuade public opinion of their candidate. Since rhetoric is defined as the art of persuasion, applying to work for a PAC would be right down a rhetoric major’s alley. Pounder shared with us some of his experiences working on the Bush and Romney’s campaigns and even opened the door for future internships.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was an especially intriguing site because not everyone gets to see the things we saw. The Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) looked like the scene of 24. It was where everything big happens. For example, the Boston bombing investigation and pursuit took place in the center. The FBI is the backbone for all national crisis events, and serve as an integral part to the United States’ freedom and safety. Countless times I heard from the FBI agents and officers that their job is to protect the Constitution. This experience of going inside the FBI gives me a new confidence in our internal forces that justice will be served, and this nation will keep thriving.

Miller ’16 Enjoying D.C. Exploration

Dylan Miller ’16 – Well it has been another long and fun-filled day in our nation’s capitol. After a long day of traveling, we got to have a leisurely morning with a departure time of 10:30am. From our hotel, the group made its way to the nearest Metro station where we made a quick stop at Krispy Kreme for our free Happy Daylight Savings Time doughnut before piling into the metro train. A few train switches later (oh the joys of public transportation!), we were at the American History Museum. We had about an hour and a half to explore the Americana-filled museum. Not nearly enough time, but we had a busy schedule, and it was off to the Museum of the American Indian. As we approached the museum, Dr. Drury pointed out the stark contrasts between the American History Museum and the Museum of the American Indian. The stone walls and undulating architectural style of the Museum of the American Indian compared to the clean-cut industrial style of the American History Museum showed illuminated how the creators wanted these two museums to be interpreted. With a rhetoric professor by your side, you’re never free from (rhetorical) criticism and interpretation.

ChiliAfter making our way through the two museums, the group split up to further explore the city on our own. My classmate, Josh Bleisch, and I made our way to the National Gallery of Art to check out some Van Gough and Monet paintings like any good liberal arts student would do (I love those water lilies). Next was some much needed R&R in the hotel room after hours of walking around the city and museums.

With empty stomachs, Josh and I headed out on the town for some authentic D.C. cuisine. Naturally, we ended up at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, a local favorite of Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, and a fairly well known D.C. local by the name of Barack Obama. The long, looping line the length of the restaurant was a correct indicator of the amazing chilidogs and fries. From Ben’s Chili Bowl, Josh and I made one final stop to a large eggshell colored house (or maybe it was white, I’m not good with colors). After getting some cheesy touristy pictures and getting yelled at by the Secret Service (apparently we were supposed to stay on the sidewalk?), we headed back to the hotel.

Now it’s time to be domestic and iron my suit for tomorrow’s business-professional excursions!

Legerich ’15 Ponders Cathedral’s Symbolism

Clay Lengerich ’15 – After a day filled with studying St. Julien’s cathedral, one theme remained prominent among the group and myself.  This theme stems mostly from the reading Dr.Hoerl provided us with – which was a segment of The Golden Legend.  This piece argued many different ideas about who Saint Julien actually was.  But, I will be focusing on the beginning of the piece and how it forensically picked apart the name “Julian.”  The section reads, “Julian, Julianus, begins like jubilus, jubilant, and ana means upward: so Julian is close to Jubilans, one who strives upward toward heaven with jubilation” (Pg. 126).  This prominent quotation was looked at from many different angles throughout today.  But, most of these viewpoints were structured around the idea of “striving upward.” We found that the church itself was “striving upward” in many different ways, much like Saint Julian himself.

Cathedral1The class noted that one could look at this quotation from a geographical standpoint.  This had to do with the positioning of the cathedral on a certain area of land and also with how the rest of the community was situated in regards to it.  First, Saint Julian’s cathedral is placed on the highest peak visible in Le Mans.  The class talked about this largely.  It seemed that we all believed that it was a depiction of how mankind, like Saint Julien, was striving ever upward towards the heavens – which could also be seen as salvation. Second, St. Julien’s cathedral is placed at the very epicenter of Le Mans proper, or what would have been the city limits during its medieval use. By it being in the center, and also being at the peak, the cathedral was visible at almost all times in the Le Mans proper area.  In this theme’s context, some of the class thought that it was a symbol for the residents of Le Mans to witness at all times.  When one looked skyward they would see the cathedral and their minds could then turn to that need for striving upward towards salvation – continuously providing existential purpose for all citizens.

This quote was also deeply analyzed from an architectural standpoint.  The outer architecture displayed the idea that was brought forth above.  From the earth, this enormous cathedral was reaching higher than any other manmade structure could.  But, I believe that the most prominent architectural correlations with this quote were found inside the cathedral.  The class reinforced this idea during discussion.  When one enters Saint Julien’s cathedral, there are not really any important or prominent symbolic ornaments at eye level.  One had to look up!  When one looked up, he could see a ridiculous amount of stained glass with different symbols – each representing a different story.  These windows rose up so high that many were impossible to actually comprehend with the naked eye.  But, architecturally this made sense if those building had this theme in mind.  With all of the beauty being upward, it would inspire the congregation to gaze upward.  By gazing upward they could feel that close connection with God, the church, and the community that had provided this cathedral.

Wentzel ’14 Questions Cathedral’s Light

Jeremy Wentzel ’14 – On Monday, the class made two site visits in the City of Le Mans.  The first and most in-depth visit was to the Cathedral at St. Julien, and the second being at Eglise de la Couture.  Being written after a tremendous class discussion on the return to Paris this evening, this blog seeks to identify key themes in that were captured by the group.  These site visits marked the first of many for the class, therefore the excitement and intellectual romanticism of freshly observed sites flowed freely in the discussion.  Importantly, the ideas presented at this evening’s discussion and within this blog offer insight into the large questions about architecture, religion, and political power that will guide us through visits to other cathedrals in the week.

LightWhat does light and darkness have to do with the individual’s perception of oneself in relation to God?  No – not good and evil, but quite literally lightness and darkness within the cathedral.  How do the natural elements (or lack thereof) of the exterior of the cathedral engage the senses as to what role the individual has, and what role those above the individuals have?  Finally, how does order make individuals feel, and how does architecture – the cathedrals support it?  These questions illuminated our group conversation at a café during sunset in the heart of Paris.  Ultimately, these questions will aid us in forming a more solid connection between politics and architecture in medieval and gothic churches.

In the role of discussion leader, I took note of these questions and more.  Upon examining the interior and exterior of the Cathedral of St. Julien, I found the cathedral to be living and in harmony with nature.  Sitting atop the highest point in Le Mans, the cathedral is visible by many places in the city, and sits in bright harmony with its built environment.  Some scholars have suggested the cathedral to be robust and lively – a joyful celebration.  I couldn’t agree more.  The light wind sweeps through the elegant structure.  The sun amplifies the elaborate stained glass, and provides reflection off the lightly colored walls inside.  The green exterior surroundings enhance the feeling that this cathedral is alive.

But on to the question of power – does a cathedral that feels alive, both inside and out, give some agency to the individual?  Does the individual feel closer to God if the church is more inviting?  Is the plain style inside the structure (made quite visible through the contrasting high gothic and Romanesque styles fused together) inhibiting of order?  I dare to suggest that the Cathedral at St. Julien provides a closer connection to the individual and God through its architecture.  Yet, because it does this, there are considerations to be made.  If the individual is somewhat empowered – even a presumably illiterate individual from the times – how much power does the church have over that individual?  When examining the question of political power, we see numerous relationships from the individual: an individual/God relationship, an individual/intermediary relationship (the church as an institution and church leadership, both as “intermediary”), and an individual/intermediary/God relationship.  We found that architecture of a cathedral directly affects our perceptions and/or the realities of each of these relationships.

Consider the Eglise de la Couture, whose darkness provides a sense of mystery.  The darkness of the cathedral, through fewer windows and its presence in a neighborhood built environment, is striking in comparison to the Cathedral of St. Julien.  While the group had differing interpretations of the darkness, it was clear that in all interpretations was the notion that the eeriness of darkness was powerful.  I suggest that darkness reinforces the power the intermediary has.  In other words, the darker the cathedral, the more one feels small and distant to God.  Thus, the necessity for a priest and church leadership provides a sense of security for the individual in the quest to feel or search for God.  My personal opinion (thus far) is that a successful cathedral incorporates a healthy individual/intermediary/God relationship.  This means that the individual does not feel too close or too far from God.  There is the presence of a priest – and institution that seeks to promote duty and accountability, but does not suppress the role of God.  This model, in my opinion, relates healthily to notions of reason and searching that we see in writers of metaphysics.  As a result, political power is not dominated by one source: the individual, God, or the intermediary.  Instead, while perhaps imbalanced, there is not a monopoly on power, but instead a distribution of it.

Our conversations were fruitful.  Our thoughts were even more so.  The organic nature of the intellectual flourishing that occurred here today is a sure reflection of the power and necessity of immersion learning at Wabash College.  Our uncertainty and bold unabashed idealism will be certainly refined over the course of the week.  Yet, there is a beauty to the excitement of the first full day – an excitement that comes only from a step outside the classroom at Wabash.

Joyce ’14 Moved by Israeli Experience

The Israel Immersion trip class with Jerusalem in the background.

The Israel Immersion trip class with Jerusalem in the background.

Zeno Joyce ’14 – Even with the title of our class being “Contested Sites, Contested Texts”, I wasn’t sure how my life’s contestation would even fit or if it were even applicable. But I too would realized, I am not alone in this struggle of faith.

Zeno Joyce at Mount Olive

Zeno Joyce at Mount Olive

I never knew how moving this experience could be until today. I struggled to sleep in Capernaum, waking up at 12am, 2:30am and finally 5:30am, feeling empty that I had not joined my comrades in their visit to the Sea of Galilee. So at 5:30, I went to the bank at the Sea of Galilee, with hopes that the sun hadn’t risen.

Fortunately, I was able to mediate and pray as the sun slowly breached the horizon. Then immediately my mouth began to sing songs from church, those about the goodness of Jesus and the inability to complain because of His sacrifice. I was filled with so much joy, in that I could feel and hear the words of my Grandmother – whom I know would have cherished this opportunity and is the reason for my religious commitment.

After leaving the Sea of Galilee, we went to the site where Jesus was baptized near Jericho. It was here my emotions would get the best of me.

I was blessed to meet a fellow brother from Uganda, whom too is a Christian. We conversed on our birthplaces and how we both envy one another. He expressed to me that despite the negative image and stereotype of African American – African, we are connected by faith and that is all that matters. I was moved by this candid nature and quickly jotted down his contact information, seeing that I only had 1 minute to make it back to the bus.

Joyce300This interaction exposed me internally. I too have personally contested my African and American identity. As I sat on the bus on the way to Jerusalem, all I could do was think about how much love I was shown by a complete stranger despite all my personal uncertainties. My eyes began to flow with streams of emotion and love, as I was reminded of Jesus and the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee. Our tour guide Habib, had pointed out earlier in the King James Version that the apostles are called children by Jesus. Unlike other translations that say Jesus called them friends, this is not the case because they too learned from Him.

This stood out to me, not only because I learned the ages of the apostles, but in that they too needed to learn and grow just like all of us. Not only have I been exposed to new culture and traditions, but I have learned that we all are children of God—not matter your color, creed, race or religion. As a religion major, this trip to Israel is the apex of my Wabash journey.

– Photos by Ian Baumgardner ’14

O’Connor ’15 Gains Understanding of Conflicts

Wabash men in downtown Jerusalem

Wabash men in downtown Jerusalem

Logan O’Connor ’15 – Jericho is the oldest city in the world, estimated to have been founded in 8000BCE. So it was really really interesting to visit this site. The ruins of ancient Jericho look like a giant mound of dirt, but this is because it has not been excavated very well. The excavations that exist have uncovered the oldest building in the world (10,000 years old) and there is also the remnants of the northern gate of the famous Wall of Jericho. The most interesting aspect about the site is the view. It is located within a valley that is 450 meters below sea level, and the view from the top of the mound is borderline incredible.

More important than Jericho though, is the plight the Palestinian people face. When people talk about Apartheid it is assumed that you are talking about pre-1990’s South Africa. But there is Apartheid in Israel as well. The Palestinians are militarily confined to the West Bank by Israel. It is also considered a felony for an Israeli to enter Palestine. In that sense it is Separateness-which is what Apartheid is. The cities in Northern Israel are very affluent and modern, but travel no more than 30 miles south and the conditions the people live in are a world apart. Palestine has the look and feel of a third world country, yet Israel is a very modern pseudo-Western country. While neither side’s hands are clean in the struggle, Israel’s are far dirtier.

Logan O'Connor

Logan O’Connor

The claim that the Israelis have over their land is bogus. You do not get to claim inheritance to a land that you have not been in full control of for 2500 years. The Old Testament is not a valid legal claim to land. Additionally, according to the Old Testament there was/is a contract between God and the Jews. God did not give the ancient Hebrews the land that is now Israel for free, there were terms that were agreed upon. The Hebrews violated this contract many times. In fact, the violation of the contract is a central theme in the Old Testament. The ancient Hebrews were forbidden from worshipping other Gods and human sacrifice, and yet this is exactly what they did over and over. The original Temple built by Solomon had altars to other Gods in it. The standard theology is that the Hebrews were conquered by the Babylonians because of the breach of contract. Furthermore, the Palestinians inhabited the land prior to 1948. What the modern nation of Israel has done is a mix between how the Europeans treated the indigenous population of the New World and Apartheid South Africa. The Israelis stole the Palestinians land, and now confine them to the desert.

The state of Israel is incredibly hypocritical. For a people who have been known for not having a home and being persecuted, you would think that they would not exile others from their homeland and persecute them. Yet that is what is happening here. In that sense modern Israeli’s are incredibly myopic. And America sides with the Israelis in the separation of the West Bank. Which is a shame, because that goes against everything that America is supposed to stand for. But I guess money rules all. Just because you had land 2500 years ago is not a fair reason to treat the people who rightfully live in the land you want like garbage. Both sides could have peace, but unfortunately there is money in war. This is a problem that will go on and escalate for the foreseeable future, and it is a shame because this country is unbelievably beautiful. The land that is Israel should be shared, not fought over. I am fine with the Jews living in Israel, but their claim to the land is much weaker than the Palestinians, who had lived in the land for hundreds of years prior to 1948.

– Photos by Ian Baumgardner ’14

Jackson ’16 on Saint Julien, Trump Tower

churchMichael Jackson ’16 – One cannot truly comprehend the complexity of a cathedral and then relate that dynamically didactic relic to the modern world unless the person physically takes their person to that space.  Having just returned to the hotel from Saint Julien with the experience fresh in my mind, the connections between this strikingly grandiose structure and similar structures within the modern world imitated in this shadow, skyscrapers, creates a stark juxtaposition between human and divine that reflects a restructuring of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ hierarchy depicted in La Somme Théologique
As I reflected upon the excursion to Saint Julien on the train back to Paris, a recent trip I had taken to Chicago immediately surfaced within my mind, more specifically the service I attended at the local church that Sunday morning and Trump Tower I had seen later that afternoon.  I did not think anything of it at the time, but having just seen the immense structure that is Saint Julien, I cannot help but think that the modern era is trying to ‘Trump’ God by ascending to a sphere above him, or in other words, we are attempting to assert our dominance and independence by literally Towering God’s institutions with the structures we build; granted, some of this phenomena is nothing more than humanity testing its prowess in engineering, but a heavy sensation from within feels as if modern humanity might purposely, or accidentally, be striving for this new hierarchy because we believe we have become greater than God.  
imageThis sensation, I believe, comes from the certainty of God’s grandiose existence embodied and personified by the cathedral(s), coupled with the lack of certainty or desire to discern a possible truth in Him by much of the modern world.Moreover, modernity rejects God and tries to ascend beyond His realm of existence, be it fictitious or not, through its use of technology, both in creating almost unfathomable structures in terms of height and complexity and in ameliorating and deducing physiological problems.  For this latter claim, I draw on my time shadowing a heart surgeon: for the first time in a man’s 67 years of living, a machine was keeping him alive by reoxygenating his blood with a machine so the surgeon could perform a double bypass on a now still and empty heart.  Basically we are adopting the role of God as both creator and healer and eliminating the need for Him.  
In summation, I’m claiming the modern man has lost his faith in God and lost the desire to even wrestle with the idea of discerning the truth surrounding Him.  Food for thought: man will inevitably die, so can you afford to not win favor with a Being who can give you eternal life or damnation? And, in the event that He does not exist and to nothingness we go after death, is it that horrible to sacrifice some secular pleasures in life so to improve the quality of life for another?

FBI Visit a D.C. Highlight for Tapper ’16

Josh Tapper ’16 – Have you ever met with a PAC before? Have you ever been able to tour the FBI?  If you answered no to either one of those previous questions, I am sorry, and if you ever get the chance you should do so.  Luckily, this small group of Wabash men was able to do both of those things in the same day.  Washington D.C. is very fast paced and it seems that everyone is constantly doing something and that rings true so far for us.

Prof. Sara Drury's class at the FBI Headquarters in D.C.,

Prof. Sara Drury’s class at the FBI Headquarters in D.C.,

We started our Tuesday off by meeting with Joseph Pounder, President of the America Rising PAC.  While in our meeting we were able to learn how tools such as thinking critically are put into use in the real world, mainly politics in this case.  In this meeting we learned what the benefits of close research and application of minor details can do to either make or break a certain candidate’s run for office.  It is interesting when meeting with groups such as America Rising to note that we may not be electing a President this year, but regardless the effort to secure a spot for your candidate to be on top never ends.  It was also nice to get a helpful reminder to be careful about what you post on social media, because that stuff is never fully gone whether you think it is or not.  As you can now see this meeting with America Rising was helpful in multiple areas, and definitely was able to get a good amount of us to ponder our future.

Everybody knows what the F.B.I. is and hopefully if you ever encounter the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you’re not the one being investigated.  Thankfully, we were not in contact with the F.B.I. for negative reasons, but rather we got one of a few rare tours that are given out these days.  We started out at noon by getting to see a brief firearms demonstration that was definitely able to keep us all on the edge of our seats.  The F.B.I. must really know how to grab the attention of young men between the ages of 18-20 if they start out with something like that.  We met with a few different people from the Bureau and learned some pretty interesting things.  One of the coolest things that I personally learned is that the F.B.I. is not looking for people right out of college.  The F.B.I. prefers to have a well – rounded person like the education at Wabash promotes.  If anybody is reading this and you are under the age of 30 and think you may have some interest in the F.B.I., diversify your resume.  At the end of the day organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation are so successful because they don’t just look for anybody to work for them, but they truly do look for people who are the best of the best.

All is going well here in the nation’s capital.  We have all been given opportunities to do many things that will help further our education in and out of the classroom.  My spring break is quite interesting so far, and I’m sure it will only get better.  If you ever get the chance you should make sure you visit D.C. too.

Juthani ’15 Seeing New Sides to Old Dispute

Basilica of Annunciation375

Wabash students at the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth

Kalp Juthani ‘15 – Shalom from the Sea of Galiliee! Today, we had the opportunity to tour Nazareth and learn from a Palestinian Peace Activist in Shefar’am; both of which challenged me to rethink the conflict that has plagued Israel for centuries. We started the day in Nazareth, where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. After weaving our way through local markets to avoid the pouring rain, we entered Basilica and were stunned by its magnificence.  Light from its stained glass windows bounced off of the floors and illuminated the church with an absolutely beautiful assortment of colors. The central dome dominated the hall, protecting a grotto beneath it. Roman Catholics believe that its location is the site where the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would conceive Jesus. In many ways, the beauty of the church induces a feeling of spirituality and left us all with a powerful experience.

Kalp Juthani

Kalp Juthani

We climbed up a spiral staircase in the basilica and found numerous mosaics depicting Mary from different parts of the world. As we explored the main hall, the Muslim call to prayer could be heard in the distance. The sound echoed through the church but it did not seem to disturb any of its rituals inside. A few minutes following the call for prayer, we heard monks reciting Latin chants and large bells ringing from the churches towers. This is when it all finally began to connect for me. The religions were competing against each other with sound. It was clear that both Muslims and Christians wanted to be heard in the city. The competition didn’t just end here. We were then taken to a site holy to Muslims on an adjacent lot and encountered a site of contestation. We learned that the Muslim community had intended to build a Mosque on the site to celebrate the life of a holy man but had been denied permission to do so. The rivalry between the two religions has become central to the life of the people of Nazareth and their fight continues to dominate every scene in the city.

Students David Phillips, Shane Hoerbert

Students David Phillips, Shane Hoerbert

We continued our afternoon in Shefar’an, an ancient town that overlooks Haifa. Despite sharing a history that is shrouded with myths involving events in the life of Jesus, the town was completely isolated from other pilgrimage sites. We drove through narrow alleys, passed an abandoned synagogue, and arrived at the House of Hope, where we met Elias Jabbour, a Palestinian peace activist. For many of us, he immediately shattered our presumptions about Palestinians in the region. Mr. Jabbour was a Christian and argued that the earliest Christians were also Palestinians. What surprised me was the large number of Christian Arabs in Israel. I have met a few Christian Arabs in the states and have always assumed that the vast majority of them fled persecution and ended up settling outside of the Middle East. This is definitely not the case. They receive very little recognition from other Christians and continue to be fragmented by the Arab Spring.  I am certain that the pilgrims that we encountered in Nazareth have similar assumptions if not worse ones regarding Arabs.

Before I begin preparing for tomorrow’s exciting day in Jericho and Jerusalem, I wanted to thank everyone that has made this experience possible. It has been beyond anything that I could have imagined.

Bradke ’14 in Awe of Israel’s Holy Sites

Ramsey Bradke ’14 – Today was easily the most fulfilling and engaging day so far on the trip. Before we left the beautiful and quiet city of Haifa we enjoyed yet another delicious and colorful Israeli breakfast. Breakfast in Israel is my favorite meal of the day because of the diversity and color of the food. Green and purple cabbage, freshly squeezed juice, bread spread with hummus and paprika, watermelon, steamed carrots, and beansprouts. Although breakfast entrees are fundamentally different than one would find in America, Israel wakes us up with fresh vegetables and fruits rather than meats and eggs. A different but enjoyable change of pace.

Bradke375Our first stop today was a Greek Orthodox Church where Mary allegedly was informed by the archangel Gabriel of her mission to bear Christ, then a Basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the city of Nazareth. The Orthodox Church was a historical spectacle. As we moved closer and closer to locations where Jesus and his mother may have walked and talked the significance of the trip really began to sink in. It became easy to sympathize with the holiness and spirituality that this country projects. The Basilica of Mary was equally as impressive. Outside the church were depictions of Mary and the young Christ from at least 50 different country’s perspectives. The Chinese and Ethiopian depictions, for example, used paintings or mosaics that depicted the Virgin and Christ as native Chinese or native Ethiopian. Although this seemed odd and blasphemic to me at first, Dr. Royalty assured me that this was completely acceptable within Catholic dogma. Catholics, who wished to become a universal faith, saw these different depictions as no different than translating the Bible into different languages such as English and Spanish to relate to peoples all over the world.

Prof. Royalty's colleague Elias Jabbour spent time with Wabash students.

Prof. Royalty’s colleague Elias Jabbour spent time with Wabash students.

My favorite part of the day though was our lunch and conversation with Dr. Royalty’s colleague from the Palestinian House of Hope. This organization, which was based out of a small home, was a run by a Palestinian Christian family and leader, Elias Jabbour, whose aim was to bridge the division between native Palestinians and Israelis who have been unable to come to a territorial or spiritual consensus over the years. This man’s conviction, kindness, and positivity was unnaturally contagious and engaging. His smile and family’s hospitality truly impacted me. We were able to ask him questions about the peace process and he gave us some striking and surprising answers. His main concern was the persecution and diminishing population of Christians in countries like Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran. Although he applauded the Arab Spring’s movement for democracy, he decried the silence from the West with respect to its voice for the Christian minorities being killed and persecuted through the process of revolution. He also was very convicted in the assertion that Christianity had its roots and origin in the land of Palestine, a notion myself and others have seemed to forget or not recognize. His firmness coupled with his positivity and kindness were unbelievable. Not to mention the delicious homemade Palestinian lunch his family made us!

To finish the day we traveled to the shores of the Sea of Galilee where I am writing currently. This is where Jesus is said to have performed miracles and walked on water. Being able to put my feet into the Sea of Galilee and look at the two sides of land where Jews and Gentiles once lived during Jesus’s mission reaffirmed my excitement and awe from this trip. It is impossible to ignore the spirituality and history this land provides. I am anxiously awaiting our journey to Jerusalem tomorrow.

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