Tala

My Experience My experience in this program has been a truly remarkable, and memorable one. I have learned such an extended amount of things about the world around me. My experiences visiting the United Nations, Unicef, The MDG headquarters, and various museums has opened my eyes to a whole new world of global partnership and has broadened my horizons of knowledge. I grew as a person mentally and emotionally. It’s definitely amplified my passion and desire to help the world, and make a difference. Meeting people who share that same inspiration and drive was an amazing experience itself. As small as the group was, every single person had a different culture, different family situations, and different lifestyles.

In my opinion, some of the difficulties of socialization between people here refer to the fact that the American society is a heterogeneous society. As a result, there are several cultural and economical segregations that create boundaries between people. For example, I met a Jewish person who was never exposed to any person of another ethnicity or religion besides his own. This was very striking for me because we live in the most diverse place in the world. He attends a Jewish parochial school, lives in a primarily Jewish neighborhood, and is completely surrounded by people who follow his same beliefs, with almost no exposure to other races, let alone Muslims. His lack of knowledge about Islam and Arabs was very disturbing to me, and had a tendency to get me extremely frustrated and sad at times. I couldn’t contemplate how someone from New York could have so little education or even lack the desire to be educated about other cultures and religions. The only information or ideas he had about Arabs or Muslims was extremely negative, and completely bred by the media. Until he met me, and the other Muslim girls in our group, he imagined every Muslim woman in a black veil with very little education living behind the shadow of her father, husband, or brother.

Before his entire perception of Palestinians was based on assumptions, and now he can relate more to what’s going on with Palestinians and Muslims with facts. What I found very remarkable was that he said 99% of terrorists are Palestinians. The next day, one person in our group came in with statistics from the U.S. Government stating that about 23% of terrorists are Muslims and the majority of terrorists have no religious cause. He was completely shocked and changed. He had a sudden realization that these statistics that he pulls out of his head, which are bred by media are completely inaccurate and false. Little by little it began to strike him that he wasn’t always right. Despite our constant political arguments and heated discussions about religion and society, we still somehow got along. We were both teenagers living in New York City with similar interests in clothing and music and all sorts of topics. I was glad that he learned so many positive things about Islam and Arabs and saw someone from the Palestinian side. Although I have never visited Palestine and I’m in so much in tune with my culture as I’d like to be, I still follow up with the country’s politics and I try as much as I can. I found myself getting very emotional when we had our discussions and I was defending my country. Although I consider myself an Arab- American, I realized I have such a deep pride and emotional attachment to my country.

Initially I always had interest in other peoples beliefs and customs, so I came into the group with much knowledge about Judaism. Yet, there was always still room to expand that knowledge. One thing I learned further learned about Jewish culture was eating habits. I was exposed to kosher food before, and I thought I understood the rules, but I learned so much more. Having a strict kosher diet, is so much more than not eating pork. I learned that people who follow the strict dietary rules of culture have an unbelievable amount of discipline, and I have a newfound respect for these people. Besides that, during our discussions about religion, we noticed a significant amount of similarities.

Every single person I’ve met all shares the same common beliefs and morals. Being teenagers and living in America was the glue that held together all of our differences. Diversity is like a box of chocolates. You cannot judge what tastes the sweetest, or the most bitter by the appearance, you have to look inside and taste it first. It’s filled with all different colors and insides, but you find yourself enjoying the differences. What I enjoyed the most was everybody’s ability to disagree with each other, yet still respect each other. I deeply respect every person I have met, because each of them have morals, integrity, respect, and a sense of pride in themselves as Americans along with still embracing their culture. Every day was a new lesson, and a valuable one too. The people in this program were very diverse which greatly increased my familiarity with other countries and nationalities, and found myself having numerous things in common. Me being Palestinian, and being a minority helped other fellow students in my group also learn more about my culture, religion, and beliefs. As well as sharing the positive attributes about our ethnicities, we all felt free to talk about our negatives. Meeting a devoted Jewish person also opened my eyes to an entire new world. I learned countless facts about Judaism and has first hand experience seeing someone follows it and learning about their lifestyle. Underneath all the cultural differences, beliefs, and customs, I learned the most valuable thing- deep inside we are all the same. Being different is a blessing, and being able to love and respect other people’s differences is an even larger blessing. The world can become a better place when people unite to accomplish it. This program has near ended, and I hope to start raising awareness about the Millennium Development Goals, and all the countless information I’ve gained and learned these past two weeks from my experiences. Children are the future of tomorrow, and maybe tomorrow will be more beautiful than the next.

 

 

ALL human beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights. 

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights