February 28, 2024 -
Becky Raskind, a graduate of Fairmount Temple’s Religious School, and daughter to our members, Peter and Julie Raskind, keeps a blog about her experiences with the Council on International Exchange (CIEE). CIEE is a non-profit NGO, whose mission is “to help people gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world.” Becky’s is currently studying with the program in Amman, Jordan, and shared ths post with us:
by Becky Raskind
Last weekend, CIEE took a bunch of students out to see the biblical sights of Jordan. We saw the baptism site, Mount Nebo (where Moses saw the Promised Land but could not go in), Madaba city, and Mukawir (where John the Baptist was beheaded).
Now to be perfectly honest, I felt a little bad and cheap for signing up for this trip. There were plenty of other people for whom these sights had much more meaning. And I had switched to this trip solely because the other day trip was to the Dead Sea and I had already done that. But I had some background and familiarity with these sights (shout out to you, Mr. Scott and senior year Bible elective), so I thought it would be worthwhile to go.
A few days before our trip I was at a cafe with some friends (who were all going on the Biblical Jordan trip as well), and I mentioned my concern, namely about the baptism sight. There were many more students for whom this site was incredibly meaningful and sacred; wouldn’t I just be ruining their experience if I’m going for the tourism value?
And that’s when my friend said something really interesting. She said that she had a friend who was not religious in the slightest who visited the baptism site a few years back, and her advice to my friend was to take something that’s been nagging at you, that you’ve been harboring, something that’s eating at you negatively… and just let it go at the River Jordan.
This struck a chord with me, and I thought that maybe I did not need to be religious to enjoy these sites. And I was right. I was so incredibly moved by the baptism site. Never mind that I don’t align directly with the religious narrative – I think everyone can relate to the larger idea of letting go of old sins or old habits or old negativities to usher in a new mindset of positivity or a new goal for improvement. After all, don’t Jews do something comparable every Yom Kippur?
The baptism site allowed for a lot of quiet reflection of what this program means to me and if I am accomplishing what I came out here to do and if not then can I change my situation. And I came to the conclusion that I have not been doing what I want to do here, which is getting proficient at Arabic and immersing myself as much as I can into the culture. Unfortunately, the apartment lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to either of those things. So I made a change.