Caroline Kasper, at right with her sister Rebecca, took a trip to the Holy Land last year, and the 6,000-mile journey taught her plenty about war, religion, and her own beliefs.
Caroline Kasper ‘12 began the year with a military escort. “We went to an Arab high school and got a first-hand account of what the Israeli-Palentinian conflict is like for Arabs on a daily basis,” she says. There’s probably less security in the Arab schools in Israel than some schools in the United States, but once Kasper walked into the streets, she was encouraged to move straight to her bus and not to wander alone. It was a tough lesson for Kasper during Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that sends young people of Hebrew descent on an educational voyage through the Holy Land. She and her sister joined 28 others on the 10-day trip in January, visiting Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Tel Aviv. The journey took them straight through a 62-year clash.
Kasper, a history major, religion minor, and a midfielder/forward for Denison’s field hockey team, grew up with a Presbyterian father and a Jewish mother, and used the trip as a way to explore her heritage. She spoke to Arab students at the high school, and she heard the Jewish perspective from the soldiers who accompanied her group. And even though the groups don’t mingle much, as Kasper puts it, she learned that in many cases, the separation is simply a part of culture, and doesn’t always stem from hatred. “It’s just how they were brought up,” she says. Kasper doesn’t consider herself a practicing Jew, but the value that Jews and Arabs of Israel place on their religious and ethnic identities gave her a new understanding of her mother’s faith, and she was moved by the convictions of a people who remained steadfast through Holocaust and war. “This strong faith and hope for a better future has inspired me to also be a stronger person,” she says. “Especially in my own convictions.”