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Stirred by the Transformation

It is what you learn after you know it all that really matters. The beauty of immersion learning is that we finally get to learn what we were taught in the classroom, rather than just know what we were taught.

The trip I took to Israel was no exception, except that I was not a student of the course and did not travel as such. I was sent, officially, as a photographer to document the learning the group encountered in Israel. Equipped with only a camera bag and my limited knowledge of the Holy Land, I was constantly tripletasking—living my first full-blown cultural immersion, experiencing the most intense learning I’ve ever encountered, and making sure I captured the teachable moments of others through my camera lens. 

I was stirred by the incredible transformation I saw through my viewfinder. I doubt the others saw this transformation—it was not their job to view the trip in that way. It took place in the hearts and minds of the students and professors who accompanied the group, as well as in those we met and learned both about and with.

We all had those “aha!” moments when words from books and articles we’d read or stories we had heard became tangible, moments that led to more questions and conversations. During the trip we visited institutions of higher education, Haifa University and Bethlehem University, where we were able to talk and learn with other students, and they taught us a new way to learn. 

The transformations of the heart I saw were conversions not of faith, but of understanding and acceptance. The Holy Land is coated in three distinct flavors of religion: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And ours was a diverse group: a Jew, a student with a Hindu background, Christians from various denominations, students with no religion at all. 

But one thing resonated for most of us: the importance of personal spirituality. None of the locals cared where they were or who they were around when they publicly practiced their respective religions, and this new idea invited each member of our group to better understand and express his own spirituality, no matter his faith.

I traveled to Israel to encounter a new culture, to learn, and to document the learning of others. These three facets meshed together in a nearly inexpressible experience I hope I’ve captured and conveyed through some of these images.