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Birthright Israel | Reflecting on peace, loss and sacrifice

May 28, 2016
Israeli flags line the walk at Har Herzl national cemetery

Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to spend ten minutes meditating in the Negev Desert with our Birthright group. I try to meditate most days, but it's usually a struggle that turns into sleep or back pain, but this time, I was at peace - as much at peace with myself as ever before. I was happy, writing song lyrics and envisioning my goals clearly in my head. 
 
This inner peace was unsettled greatly by what I saw in Yad Vashem today. I had been to the Holocaust museum in DC, but it didn't compare to the quality of the one in Jerusalem, and was magnified by the fact that it's located in Jerusalem. To follow the emotional roller coaster in a downward trend, we visited the graves at Mt. Herzl [Israel's Arlington Cemetery]. 
 
Serving in any military is tough work, but in America we don't fight on our own soil. US citizens don't all serve in the military and wonder if today will be their last. I watched the soldiers with us tear up after seeing graves of their friends or people who went to their school. I can't imagine having graduated high school with the knowledge that there's a chance that the next time I have a reunion with my friends, it will be in uniform over a classmate's grave.

These things make me appreciative beyond words of having the freedoms I have in America; that we as a people have prevailed throughout thousands of years of persecution, due to the sacrifices made by those much stronger than I; and that there is a country full of people where I am not an outsider, where I am welcomed with open arms. It has given me perspective and gratitude for things I did not understand. 
 
I thank everyone who is committed to creating a safer world for my people, and next time I meditate, I will focus on and understand peace much better.
 
Benjamin Locker is a sophomore at NC State from Charlotte.

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