We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Aly Kravitz is a Mosaic Scholarship recipient. She volunteered as an English teacher in Palestine.
People keep asking me how Palestine was. Like it was an experience I could slip into a few sentences, or a picture I could paint with everyday adjectives. I’ve been back in the United States for almost two months now, and I’m still trying to pinpoint the words to describe my time in Nablus. Of course it was challenging and interesting and exciting and all of the other things that spill from Hallmark pages in a tumble of stale clichés. But, like the protracted conflict that colors much of the everyday life in the Palestinian territories, there is a degree of nuance that is not easily distilled into a bite-sized explanation.
Such is life, and perhaps it’s asking too much to try to wrap our minds around every rip and wrinkle of a situation. Though I spent the majority of my time in Palestine teaching English and Music, education is fundamentally an exchange, and I certainly learned a great deal from my students. As the names of streets and particulars of Palestinian etiquette are beginning to fade from my mind, something that they taught me is growing sharper each day: the best thing a person can do is work on the individual level to make a difference in his or her small pocket of the world.
We can’t change history, and we certainly can’t change the course of entire nations on our own. I am a teacher, not a politician, and I recognize that I have very little control outside of the classroom. Yet in that classroom I have the power to change individual minds, and that is the true source of enduring change. I may not have made a dramatic impact in Palestine, or even in Nablus, but I shared what I had with nine classes of eager, intelligent students who thirsted for knowledge. If each person focused on the change that is in her control, the effects would be greater than one might think.
So maybe one of those stale Hallmark clichés needs to be turned on its head: don’t dream too big. Start with small dreams and build on them, and the effects will ripple outwards. Each of my students in Palestine is one of those dreams, and I know that my time with them made a difference. The end of this experience breathes life into the next, and I will continue to focus on doing all that I can in my small pocket of this great world.
If you’re interested in the stories of some of my students, or photos of Palestine, you can find them at my personal photography blog, http://www.alyciakravitz.com/.