By Avi Scharlat
We can learn a tremendous amount from books, but the knowledge that is attainable through those means is limited. There exists a whole other understanding of reality that is impossible to obtain through reading.
One can only be exposed to that reality through personal interactions and experiences. Interactions and experiences like staying up all night and talking with someone belonging to a people that you have been taught to fear and avoid since birth. Interactions and experiences like explaining your perspective to a group of people from a foreign land who probably haven’t even ever met anyone from your country and actually getting positive responses. Interactions and experiences like listening to someone who, according to the media, sits on the opposing side of a conflict with you and actually finding common ground. Interactions and experiences like hearing opinions from real life people from different cultures and different backgrounds instead of just relying on hearing them second-hand through the media and your community.
These interactions and experiences that I encountered on my trip to Cyprus are only the beginning of a long list that completely changed my perspective on the world. I could have stayed at home for those three days and read every single book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people, and the information I learned would have been nothing compared to the wisdom I gained in Cyprus. I will never forget this trip, and I will never forget the friends that I made along the way. Not Jewish friends. Not Palestinian friends. Just friends.