It was after I was all set to go that I announced my decision to my family, who were utterly floored by my clearly poor choice to enter a troubled region. They begged me not to go, but my resolve was unwavering. It was as if I was programmed, unflinching, unfeeling. My drive overrode my compassion for my own family and their concern for me. The worry of my mother was surmounted by my thirst to know the truth. Looking back now I can't believe the way I disregarded their wishes like some kind of heartless robot.
We didn't speak for days. They must have been in turmoil, not knowing what to do as the days and hours ticked by and my departure neared and neared. The silence was broken as I sat in the airport terminal awaiting my flight. Literally minutes before boarding, my cell phone rang. It was my family. They didn't want me leaving (and maybe never coming back!) without saying goodbye. And so, I said goodbye and boarded my flight all alone, into the heart of the Middle East conflict.
After my group arrived to Jerusalem, we met with Christian organizations and priests with whom we coordinated our efforts. Each of us would be sent to different areas in occupied territories to help provide food and other humanitarian assistance.
One of the first places where I interacted with the locals was a Christian school not far from Jerusalem. The staff and children were so kind and welcoming. I began taking pictures of the children and noticed one Muslim girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, wearing hijab. I wasn't sure if it was okay to take her picture because I didn't know the meaning of her dress. She smiled sweetly and allowed me to snap a photo.