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My First Trip to Israel, a Light to Indigenous People

By Ryan Bellerose
5/13/2014, 4:05 PM

I got off the plane already a Pro Israel advocate, but I had no idea how much my views were about to change.

I had been asked to come to Israel by an organisation named Stand with Us and I was excited to see the land I have studied for so many years of my life.

Some of you have read my articles, you know that I am an indigenous rights activist from Canada who believes strongly in the rights of all indigenous peoples. What you may not know is that I am also pretty well versed in middle eastern history and geo politics. At least I thought I was.

The one thing you cannot get from books and maps is the actual size of everything here, the distances are so small that unless you are actually standing there looking, its almost impossible to really get a good picture. I thought I understood this place and this conflict and perhaps I did better than most, but it really took standing here to actually see what had been hidden in maps and books. Everything is so close here, you can literally drive across the country in a day. The distances are miniscule, and this affects everything from warfare to politics in a way that is rarely acknowledged in the media.

I have always supported Israel's right to its ancestral lands, but after visiting Judeah, Samaria and Gush Etzion, I have become much more firm in my belief that these lands are sacrosanct and cannot be given up. These are the lands of the forefathers of your people, something that cannot be denied. I stood on the hills at Shiloh, I walked to the Lone tree at Gush Etzion, I walked the walls of Old Jerusalem, these are places that hold sacred spots in the hearts of many, both Christian and Jew, but they are Jewish to the core. If we do not support Jewish presence in the jewish ancestral lands why are you here? You would have been better off in Uganda.

I would like to write more, but I have been travelling this miracle land, this land of my Jewish friends at a frenetic pace, I have been travelling to sacred sites and places steeped in history while trying to find ideas for my own people as well as things for them to see next year. It's been emotional for me, because these are places I read about as a child but more importantly because what I am seeing is a wonderful example of what a fractured, displaced people can accomplish when they reignite their culture and traditions on their ancestral lands. Israel truly is a light unto the nations and I am hopeful that my own people can take some of these lessons and apply them to our own situations. I hope you are all proud of your country and what you have accomplished because coming from someone who is just now seeing it from an outsiders perspective, its a miracle and should be celebrated.