A HISPANIC PERSPECTIVE
My trip to Israel in December 2010 was not only emotional; it was a life-changing experience. I grew up in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Houston, Texas, and this trip reminded me of my teenage years when I first became exposed to the different cultures, races and ethnic groups that were part of the fabric of the city I call home.
At 15, I worked downtown at a shoe store. To the right were three jewelry stores owned by three Jewish gentlemen. To the left, two Greeks owned and operated a restaurant and a club. And down the block were several tailor shops, all Mexican-owned.
As I traveled abroad—Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico—I learned a lot more about other minorities, other cultures and how they interact with each other.
Nevertheless, my trip to Israel was the most revealing. I was amazed how everyone works well together: that Israeli society is composed of Jews, Muslim Arabs, Bedouin Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze, Circassians and Americans, and has 33 political parties. I learned that not only Jewish people can serve in the Knesset; Druze, Arab-Israelis and Palestinians also serve. I enjoyed all the historical sites. I even had a spiritual, emotional moment when visiting the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth where I was amazed to find a statue of the Mexican Patron Saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe. And what was more amazing, that day was the Patron's Saint Day, December 12.
—Sylvia Gonzales, past National Vice President for the Southwest, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and participant in ADL Latino Leaders Mission to Israel