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Hillsdale alumna Olivia Llewelyn shared about her expe­ri­ences in Israel earlier this year. Olivia Llewelyn | Facebook

Hillsdale College alumna Olivia Llewelyn spoke on her travels in the Holy Land at an event hosted by the Inter­na­tional Club last Thursday. The talk, titled “The Holy Land: an Immersive Cul­tural Per­spective,” focused on Llewelyn’s immersion in the Pales­tinian com­munity in Israel.

Llewelyn, who grad­uated in December 2018, took a three month mission trip with Expe­rience Mission starting in January 2019. She arrived back in the United States barely a week before giving her talk.

Senior Nour Ben Hmeida, former Inter­na­tional Club Pres­ident, said the Inter­na­tional Club hoped by attending the event, stu­dents were able to hear a dif­ferent per­spective on Israeli-Pales­tinian rela­tions than is nor­mally pre­sented on campus.

“We thought it was a good oppor­tunity to share her expe­rience with everybody,” Ben Hmeida said. “There’s not a lot of talk on this topic. We thought it would change it up a bit.”

Llewelyn applied in early 2018 for the Expe­rience Mission Immersion Program. She said she wanted to serve in some way and saw a mission trip as the best way to do that. The Holy Land trip worked best with her schedule.

“I had no expec­tation for what I was going to expe­rience. It just let God dictate my expe­rience and let him handle every­thing,” she said.

Llewelyn lived with two dif­ferent fam­ilies, one a Pales­tinian Christian family in Beit Sahour and the other a Pales­tinian Muslim family in the Aida Refugee Camp. She said she was sur­prised by how hos­pitable the people were.

“Our host fam­ilies made sure we were well fed, com­fortable. We were so well taken care of,” she said. “People in the streets gen­uinely want to know who you are and what you’re doing there.”

Llewelyn recounted her expe­rience vol­un­teering with various human­i­tarian orga­ni­za­tions including a Tent of Nations, a self-sus­tainable Pales­tinian-Christian owned farm outside of Beth­lehem and Mount Carmel Min­istry, a mission that helps women who have been involved in the sex-trade and men recov­ering from addiction. Llewelyn’s work con­nected her with both Pales­tinians and Israelis. She said she came back from the trip even more con­fused about the Holy Land’s political sit­u­ation.

“I’m not angry, just more sad. I’m also sad that I can’t do any­thing as a for­eigner,” she said. “I can just be there and learn to be sym­pa­thetic. My heart hurts a lot for the people who are suf­fering. It’s com­pli­cated from both sides. Expe­rience Mission does a good job of intro­ducing you to both per­spec­tives.”

Junior Sara Garfinkle, pres­ident of the Hillsdale Chavurah, attended the talk to hear about other people’s per­spec­tives.

“After hearing Liv’s talk, I was sad that she had expe­ri­enced a very narrow part of the Holy Land,” Garfinkle said. “I found her pre­sen­tation quite biased. I wish that the orga­ni­zation she went with allowed her to expe­rience more cul­tures and more of what the Holy Land has to offer.”