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Today I wanted to focus on a trip that I was incredibly grateful to join. A few of my close friends planned a trip to Israel and the West Bank with the assistance of Israel & Co. and Routes Travel Company. Harris Public Policy has been doing this for a few years now. The trip brought about 50 students from Chicago to the Middle East. It was an incredible experience that really helped me reform my views of the region and public policy.

Being an American, it often appears that there are only two sides to the question. There is one-state or two-state and there are certain monolithic images of what a supporter of each looks like. There is pro-Israel and anti-Israel, pro-Jewish or anti-Semitic, BDS or anti-BDS. These were the realities in my head when I entered Israel and I was exposed to a brand new cast of characters.

The Israel trip introduced me to entire spectrums of political views and Israeli citizens that broke each aspect of these fictitious dichotomies. The question never begets a black or white irreconcilable difference—rather it is the American perspective which demands you belonging firmly in one camp or the other. (It is particularly intriguing to apply this to American politics more generally).  

From learning about the vast and thought-provoking history of the Levant in the old city of Jaffa, to riding ATVs within a kilometer of the Syrian border and discussing modern conflicts, to meeting with several Knesset members the day after visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, each step of the trip was thought-provoking and caused me to reconsider my preconceived notions about Israel and the West Bank.