Ashley Virgin
Ashley Virgin
Israel/Palestine 2016
Merhaba! My name is Ashley Virgin, and I am going to live in beautiful Bethlehem, Israel for six months. While in Bethlehem, I will work with WI’AM Conflict Resolution and Transformation Center where I will teach English and arts classes to children. I will also take part in other areas of community development in the city through WI’AM. I am excited to participate in the city and culture of Bethlehem and learn more about the nonviolent conflict resolution and social justice programs that WI’AM sponsors. Read More About Ashley →

Yallah bye

Hello, readers. This is my final blog post.

Continuing what became a common theme in my Lumos experience, forces beyond my control intervened and things did not work out the way I had anticipated. When I left you all three weeks ago, I was embarking on the second half of my internship in Bethlehem. But I did not make it on the plane that night, and consequently, my Lumos experience has come to a close much sooner than I wanted it to.

While boarding, I was pulled out of line and security questioned me about my plans in Israel. I was put in a room by myself, without any of my personal belongings or passport, and strip searched. I was asked to provide security personnel with my passwords to both my phone and laptop. I was then told that I could get on the plane, but I was only given my phone and passport. My laptop, carry on bag, and backpack would be stowed under the plane with the checked luggage. I was not comfortable with this, but I figured it would be okay. However, as I left the room and was walking to board the plane, I was told that my laptop would be held for more searching and that they may have to ship it to me after I landed in Israel. At this point, I was frazzled, scared, and angry at the way I had been treated for the past forty-five minutes. At the prospect of having my privacy further violated and the potential of having my laptop seized, I refused to get on the plane and demanded my belongings back.

I do not claim to know exactly why I was singled out and I do not want to represent anyone unfairly. There are reasons for these rigorous security measures. All I know is my experience, that because of these security measures, I was prevented from returning to work at an organization who promotes only good things: peace, justice, fair treatment, and love. In my opinion, this is counterproductive and only builds up more boundaries and obstacles, physical and emotional, between the Western world, Israelis, and Palestinians.

I have kept this explanation brief for many reasons, mostly personal, but also professional. I feel and know many other things about what happened to me, and, more importantly, what happens to Palestinian people in Israel every day, but I will not go into these here for the sake of time and the purpose of my Lumos blog. (I apologize for being cryptic here, but I don’t know how else to phrase this.)

It took me this long to post again, to wrap up my blog, because I am still processing what happened, everything that happened, and trying to find out what it means to me. And I think this is normal, this is the case for all Lumos recipients after they come home. Last night, I cried in the middle of a coffee shop because I saw something that reminded me of my time in Bethlehem. My boyfriend told me, “You were brave enough to move over there, now you have to be brave enough to let it go.” He’s right, but I should unpack what “letting go” means for me in this instance. My Lumos experience didn’t go the way I thought it would. I was only there for two of the intended six months, and I never thought I was going to break my jaw. But I did get to go to Bethlehem. I made crafts, taught, and played with children; ate falafel pockets; laughed with new friends; floated in the Mediterranean sea; walked along Star Street in the hot sun; watched Netflix while homesick in my apartment; talked to many people from all over the world; and learned, saw, and grew a lot during those two, short months. (I can’t even fathom making a complete list of the things I did and saw while there, or what mark they left on me.) I held on to these experiences when I came back to Nashville, got surgery, and healed from my broken jaw. I wanted so many more experiences, but now I have to let that longing go. Letting go does not mean I will forget my time in Bethlehem or the people, nor that I should let the bad times, the breaking my jaw or being prevented from returning, overshadow and get in the way of remembering my other experiences while there. Letting go means that I accept the whole thing, from start to finish, the good things and the bad, the unexpected events and things I see as unfair, and incorporate it into myself and take it with me into the next chapter in my life.

While my time in Bethlehem is over, Wi’am and the work they do continue. I am excited to keep following them and their work via email and their website. I’m hopeful for the future of Bethlehem and Israel/Palestine. A piece of my heart will always be occupied with this subject. Letting go does not mean giving up.


Thank you all for reading.


Yallah bye <3



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