Youth Opinion : They Didn’t See Color, ‘They Saw Me’


The transition from living in an American city to the Israeli kibbutz I resided at for two months was not difficult: I needed a change of lifestyle.

I was among 10 minority youths sent to the kibbutz to enjoy an intercultural experience and help break down racial barriers. Our sponsor was Operation Unity, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles that mainly focuses on bringing the African American and Jewish communities together in positive ways.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to do agricultural work, which I was not accustomed to, was easy after the first few days. The smiles, blank expressions and compassion were the things I saw before, during and after work. At times, we felt like exhibits in a museum. Sometimes it was funny and other times it was annoying. But I never felt uncomfortable.


Conversation consumed hours of my time, talking to old and young people, on and off the kibbutz. They all wanted to know how I felt because of the dramatic difference between kibbutz life and life back at home. The people on Kibbutz Beit Zera were warm. They didn’t see me as a person of color, they saw me. They never wanted to make me feel uncomfortable, and even when we talked about sensitive issues, they were always respectful. There was never a hint of anything racial or religious. They were interested in me and my feelings.

The trip was the greatest experience I have had because I live in a country where history, race and religion seem to be the most important things. While I was in Israel, those things were dismissed. My being Afro-Latino was dismissed, along with religion of my parents, my history and the history of my people. The only things that mattered were my feelings, emotions and thoughts as a human being.

To many people living in Israel, America is still the place to be, the place to live with no problems. We often compared the life in Israel to life here. Ironically, I was the advocate of Israel and they stood up for America.

I explained that America is not just what they see on TV. After going there, I realized that the things we hear about Israel in America are blown way out of proportion.

From my point of view, kibbutz life is easier, I didn’t have to worry about getting shot just going from my house to a friend’s house. Everyone is there to help each other, there is not a sense of “if you get in my way, I will step on you,” but an attitude of “if I make it, I will take you with me.” Everything there is calm and peaceful.

Before I went to Israel, I heard stereotypes about Jewish people, but I never had much contact with them. I felt good about the fact that I went there with a blank sheet and had no preconceived notions.


What I learned is that there are good people and bad people among every group and that people have different sides to their personalities. If someone were to ask me what I think about Jewish people (I can only speak from experience), I would say the Jewish people I have met were open-minded, loving and understanding.

I believe we must work toward making feelings, emotions and being human more important in America than religion, history and race. This is why groups like Operation Unity must be supported.

I plan to do my part. We must all do our part.