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I have to remember that I am blind

Jan 11, 2017

I have to remember that I am blind.

Today concluded our 10 day experience through the land of Israel. We went to Independence Hall, explored Tel Aviv and the open market for lunch, and said goodbye to our incredible soldiers. I am so lucky to have met these 7 people. Each one of them is a beautiful and unique person with such kindness and strength in their hearts, such pride in their country, such love for life and such incredibly contagious smiles and laughs. Getting on the bus and watching these new friends laugh and cry with each other was hard because I knew they would be going their separate ways and in a few days they would go back to their respective units. At the same time, it was beautiful because I know they formed connections with each other, and with us, that none of us can ever forget. They taught us all to live in the moment, to form deep connections fast, to appreciate the lives we live, to love hard and to laugh often.

At sunset, we went on a graffiti tour through South Tel Aviv. This was the first thing we did without our Israeli friends with us. I felt like something was missing. When our tour guide, a street artist from Tel Aviv with badass dyed hair and an energy that you could tell had powerful stories attached began, I knew that every one of my new friends would remind me to appreciate the moment and enjoy the last activity in Israel before heading to the airport. I looked up at the blue and pink sky and saw an airplane, and I realized I would be heading back to Los Angeles in a few hours. I smiled as I thought back on the intense and beautiful past 10 days.

We explored what our artist tour guide referred to as a “graffiti playground”, the place where novice artists go to practice their skills without fear of being caught. As we walked through the streets of Tel Aviv, she pointed out her favorite pieces, from political commentary to personal stories to memorials and tributes. She told us stories of the graffiti artists, and reminded us that gentrification in Tel Aviv is making it difficult for people like her to continue her lifestyle in her own hometown.

As the tour began to conclude, our guide told us she was taking us to her favorite piece. We saw some amazing works of art that hour. Some pieces were incredibly detailed, some were impressively high up on buildings, others had beautiful messages. The piece she declared as her favorite seemed like nothing special. There was a wall with some basic poorly done signatures and messy designs. I didn’t see the beauty. She told us to look deeper. I thought I looked deeper. I still didn’t see the beauty. She asked if anyone could tell why this was her favorite piece. Silence. She said this was why it was her favorite piece. She pointed out the braille underneath the poorly done graffiti.

She told us the piece said “I have to remember I am blind”. I thought back on the trip and realized this was a perfect phrase to summarize my time in Israel. The first step to learning anything is to realize you know nothing. These past 10 days, I’ve realized there are some things that will never make sense to me. I’ve realized it is okay to not understand. I’ve realized everything is up to personal interpretation and you must form your own opinions on everything. I’ve realized there is beauty in everything, and you can miss the beauty even if you’re staring right at it. I’ve realized I am blind. I am blind to hatred, to love, to beauty. There is so much in this world to see, and it is impossible to see it all. Israel has helped me open my eyes and begin to be less blind.

Emily Kalbrosky
University of Oregon Class of 2019
Los Angeles, CA

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