I believe that fear can hold you back or drive you forward. The choice is yours.
The night before I arrived in Tel Aviv in June 2001, a suicide bomber struck a violent blow against Israel at a nightclub frequented by students. Herod built a port two millennia ago off the coast of Israel, and this was my opportunity to not only explore a maritime archaeological site, but to work with a renowned archaeologist, the late Dr. Avner Raban.
When I had agreed to be part of an archaeological expedition to Caesarea Maritima, in Israel, I was all too aware of the political and social conflicts that had continued to escalate in the Middle East since October 2000 when a breakdown in peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian interests led to an increased outbreak of violence. But as a young archaeologist, I was reluctant to believe that such grand political upheavals would really affect my own career choices. My weeks spent in Israel made all too real a surreal world that I had only previously known through news headlines, breaking through my own naïveté and allowing me to see and learn about a culture entirely removed from my own.
“Suicide Bomber Attacks Israeli Bus, Killing a Doctor” read a headline in April 2001, only weeks before I was to travel to the region myself. By June 2001, I was no longer just reading the familiar headlines; I was living them. From that first day I spent in Israel when I heard the about the club that had affected students just like myself, I must admit that I was uneasy. My fear had not impacted my initial decision to come on the trip, as I was so far removed from the actual violence when I made my reservations in the safety of a travel agency, but now that I was here, it was starting to sink in. That the other half of our expedition had chosen not to work that season made the site where we worked daily seem eerily vacant. And when we ventured a group trip to Jerusalem, pre-planning rendezvous points and evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency, I felt I was going into the lion’s den. But I also realized that it might be my only chance to see with my own eyes how such a magnificent city could embody so much history, culture, and yet so much violence. My fears could have rendered me immobile that day, keeping me in the safety of my accommodations, but had I not ventured out I would have missed a truly unique experience. I was afraid of what might happen, but in the end I was more afraid of what I might miss, what might not happen in my own life, so I took a chance. Fear is a powerful emotion, but if harnessed correctly, it can be used to your advantage. I believe that harnessing my own fear of the unknown opened up a world of experiences.
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