I’ve lost count of the number of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Jewish participants, staff, friends, and alumni who have graced Unsettled over the years. It has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my involvement at Unsettled.
Their cultural and personal contributions have played an clear role in creating the exceptional experiences at the heart of our mission.
If I could directly address our community affected by the recent war, terrorism, and violence unfolding in their homes, neighborhoods, and heartland, I hope they hear this:
You have brought countless smiles, laughter, and profound meaning to people across the globe through your travels. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. By simply being yourselves, you have altered the perceptions and opinions of thousands regarding the Middle East, Palestinians, and Jewish communities.
You have generously shared the unparalleled warmth of Lebanese hospitality, the deep-rooted Jewish tradition of self-reflection, and the open-heartedness uniquely found in Palestine and its diaspora. I wish I could quantify the profound impact you have had on all of us.
Unsettled’s journey has been extraordinary, largely because of you. During times of peace, you have consistently bridged differences, sharing meals, conversations, and adventures with a diverse global community spanning from Bali to Buenos Aires.
In a world where outrage over government actions often dominates our attention, I choose to focus on individuals on both sides of conflicts for the remarkable gifts they bring and will continue to offer our community and the world. You are not defined by the actions or outcomes of your governments or militaries.
People have an extraordinary capacity to form connections through empathy, while governments and militaries often seem proficient at dividing us.
Remember, there is no single spokesperson for war.
This is why your voice matters to us. We deeply appreciate your efforts to shine light on the terrors and injustices you are witnessing. Right now, we need to see the world through your eyes, to understand your perspective.
Your viewpoint is invaluable today and everyday.
Strikingly, I have heard a shared narrative among my Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jewish friends, many of whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting through Unsettled:
It is unacceptable for civilians to be drawn into this war, yet they find themselves at the heart of it. I’ve seen your stories about how you wake up every morning to check social media to make sure your loved ones in this conflict are okay. About how your community is hiding their culture. And how you are afraid for the ones on the frontlines, while struggling with your own mental wellness.
At present, it is challenging to focus on the joy, friendship, and good that you have brought to the world, to the Unsettled community, and to my life. However, that is precisely how I see it. Somehow, even during your own struggles, we see your kindness and worry for others shining through.
We are witnesses to this horrific moment in history through your eyes and your heartbreak, and yet we also see how deeply you care about other humans, just as you’ve cared for us.
Be well. Be safe. Be good.