The Encounter facilitator's evaluation is long. It took me something close to two hours to fill out. The last question (section V) asked each facilitator (pet name: Fac) to write a testimonial about their experience on the trip. So I told them that I'd write a blog post and send it to them instead.
Here it is, my...
If Encounter changed me the first time I participated then it created me the second time. The first time - three years ago, as a student in Migdal Oz- I entered Bethlehem from my refernece point: Northern Efrat. There I stayed alone in a cold, dark hotel room leaving Al-Jazeera on the television just for the comfort of the background noise. There I met Palestinians for the first time. There my curiosity was sparked. And then I went to Hebron where I walked from Area C to B to A and back again, walked from fear to anger to entitlement, walked from entombed silence, utopias and curfews to a stifling bustle, crowds and foreignness -- all of this was my first Encounter experience. I returned to America after a gap year in Israel changed. I studied Arabic. I got involved in Middle East politics on campus. I went to Egypt and Morocco to live the culture first hand. And then I came back to Israel.
And I was asked to become a facilitator for Encounter. I was asked not to only be changed, but to change. To experience and guide experience. To built and be built (livnot u'lhibanot). So I came to the facilitation training. And I met new people there who are wise, open, and caring. And then I came on the program. And I met new participants who wanted to see, to hear, to listen. And I lead small groups. And I met new people who were grappling with concepts like compassion, fairness, and honesty who reminded me of my own values. And I heard from speakers who brought hope, anger, and passion. And I met Palestinians again -- and I was able to talk with them. In their own language.
And all of this created me. This time Encounter wasn't scary. It was safe. This time Encounter wasn't lonely. It was a community. This time there was no need for Al-Jazeera. I slept well.
Song of the moment: Aisha by Kheb Chaled