Trip to Israel prompts reflection

Zakariya Abdullahi, Contributor

Back in December, I had the opportunity to go on a ten-day leadership trip to Israel through the help of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota with 38 other students from around the United States. The trip was beyond amazing, and getting to spend time in all parts of the country from the sea of Galilee to the Negev desert showed how religiously and ethnically diverse Israel is.

Aside from visiting ancient sites and conversations about conflict in the region, we got to look at a more recent event in history. The most emotional day of the trip was our last day in Jerusalem. The day was full of reflections as we visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and the different exhibits it had on display. The hardest-hitting part was at the end of the tour when we went to the children’s exhibit. We were led into this huge room where we couldn’t see anything except for little stars above us. After the exhibit, I couldn’t help but think of all the amazing things these kids could’ve done one day. I also thought about how numb with cruelty and evil one has to be in order to kill an innocent child during the day, and then to return to their own life at night.

When we got to our hotel room later that day, our group got to debrief and talk about our experience at Yad Vashem. Many of us weren’t able to put our thoughts into words, and this resulted in lots of tears. As I hear about the hate rhetoric and fear-mongering happening around our world, especially, in the past couple of years. I think back to that early morning in Jerusalem, walking around the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations in Yad Vashem and learning about the stories of courageous non-Jews who sacrificed their lives to save that of their fellow human being. There, we learned about the Jewish tradition which goes, “If you save one life, it is as though you have saved all.” I remember thinking that we have the exact same thing in Islam. In Sura Maidah, verse 32, God says to us, “If anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”

I want to leave whoever reads this with a sense of urgency to stand up for others, though it may not be easy. I hope that you do not feel safe and comfortable with the status quo. I hope you can remember that even if something doesn’t affect us directly, it is still injustice and we must fight it with everything we have.

This article was originally published in the March 1, 2019 issue.