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.”