Feb. 15, 2017
Micaela Procopio is a senior majoring in history and minoring in Jewish studies and museum studies. She is co-chairperson of the College of Social Science Achievement Gala and a Michigan State History Association transitional leader.
The day I told my parents that I was applying for a student mission trip to go to Israel, I watched both of them try to hide the shock and surprise from their faces. Why on Earth would I want to go to a place with so much conflict? Didn’t I know how unsafe it would be?
But because they are my parents, I knew they would support my decision and so I applied to Jewish National Fund’s Caravan for Democracy student leadership trip.
In August 2016 I was notified of my acceptance into the program. I was the only student from Michigan State that had been accepted. I would be going on a trip with 33 other student leaders from around the United States. We would spend two weeks in Israel.
From the time I landed in Israel, to the time I left not once did I feel unsafe or threatened. I was shocked at the sight of Israel because it did not look like the Israel I saw in the media. Israel was beautiful. Over the course of the two weeks, we traveled from the North to the South, ending our journey in Tel Aviv.
There are lots of things that come to mind when I try to describe my experience and my time in Israel. Ultimately I think I have two take-aways. One is that Israel is a very complex country, filled with incredible history, culture and people, that is not conveyed in the media.
The second is that this trip was life changing. I made incredible connections with 33 other student leaders, but I was also able to come to a personal stance on the pro or anti-Israel debate.
My stance is that I am pro-people. That might seem like a cop-out answer but during the two weeks, our group was able to meet two former members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament); we were able to talk with an Israeli journalist, Matti Friedman; and we met with a Palestinian and heard his view on the conflict. We met with Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. We had discussions with Israeli college students. We had dinner with a Bedouin (Israeli-Arabs who reside in the desert) and members of a Druze community (an Arabic-speaking group). At the end of the trip I was having a really hard time reconciling the Israel I knew from U.S. news outlets with the people I had met.
The best experience of being a Spartan is all the incredible and unique individuals I have been able to interact with through my time here at Michigan State. MSU has given me a glimpse into so many amazing people and opportunities that exist.
Jewish National Fund did the same thing by allowing me to go to Israel. One of the components of our trip is to bring back what we learned to our campuses, friends and family, so we could give our view on Israel-a view that is not shown typically.
Jewish National Fund’s Motto is “To be your voice in Israel” and that was a constant reminder for me as I was experiencing it — from the Syrian-Israeli border to the Sea of Galilee to the Gaza Strip. I think now I get to be Israel’s voice here at Michigan State, here in Michigan and here in the U.S. as our country and Israel’s moves towards an uncertain, but hopefully bright future.