The Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission is a 10-day, fully subsidized trip to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders who have never been there. The unique educational program gives participants the opportunity to explore Israel by meeting with political, cultural, and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths. Here, a reflection on this year's CFD trip by a Jacksonville University student.
By Pascal Rathle
Transformation describes the essence of my Caravan for Democracy 2017 experience.
I discovered, and then rediscovered, heavy introspection, awareness, and motivation. I saw examples of voice, fight, and resilience everywhere as my eyes opened wider and wider to a nation of shining light, even in the face of political dismay and insecurity along its borders.
I found out about the CFD trip from a student who attended in 2016. He spoke highly of the program and his description attracted me. The program contacted me because of a recommendation a peer made for me. I am a dual citizen with France and speak the language fluently. I am the oldest of four siblings with two parents who have experienced the world through their professional affiliations with the arts. I have lived in California, Minnesota, and Florida and have traveled to 27 states and 7 countries thus far.
Now I add Israel to that list.
I experienced personal growth on the Caravan for Democracy trip while overlooking the Golan Heights, ferrying on the Sea of Galilee, getting lost in the thriving lights of Tel Aviv, submerging in the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, meeting with political leaders, being baptized in the Jordan River, standing at the border of the Gaza Strip, placing a note into the crevices of the Western Wall, praying in the tomb of Jesus Christ, and building friendships for life. Student leaders from all over the United States experienced all this and more.
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I walked away from the Caravan for Democracy trip with newfound ambition that will forever inform not only my outlook on my own life, but hopefully, the outlook of those who surround me. Directness, passion, belief, connections, and new ideas shape my newfound self. Ultimately, this trip emphasized that rebirth is a possibility every day, yet one must remain open and continually unearth themselves to the constant invigoration life offers.
Israel certainly displays such characteristics and my exposure to this nation will forever be remembered and greatly appreciated. A very special thank you to the Jewish National Fund and those sponsors that selected me for such an adventure.
Pascal Rathle is a junior at Jacksonville University, where he studies communication and biology with a minor in English and participates in student government. He has trialed for professional soccer in Germany’s first division and played two years of college soccer at Jacksonville.