Mary Yousif writes about her eye-opening trip to Israel with Maccabee Task Force Fact Finders.
My name is Mary Yousif. I am 22 and am the first generation born in the U.S. to my family. I take on many roles within my daily life and community, whether it be a daughter, student, teaching assistant, volunteer, researcher or, most of all, a proud Israel supporter and advocate.
Israel. There is no place that I’ve had as strong of a connection with than the state of Israel. I’m sure many of you are wondering “How did you become connected to Israel? When did it begin? How did you get involved in the community?” Let me begin by telling you about myself.
Being Chaldean, I was raised among two cultures: my ethnicity and the land I reside in. Often, I felt that I didn’t fit into either community but rather roamed in-between the two cultures, striving to fulfill the roles of each side.
Living in the U.S., we are exposed to a multitude of diversity around us, and I made it a goal to make sure that others didn’t feel left out or secluded the way I did. I become a part of the effort to bridge different communities together and take the time to learn about others — their cultures, their language, way of life, values and, most of all, their people. Hence, my decision to pursue my undergraduate studies in Spanish and medicine.
I grew up in a pro-Israel family who always praised Israel and proudly advocated its right to exist. Ironically, I knew nothing about the country nor the people, and it wasn’t until my junior year at Wayne State that all that would change.
Like many college students, I was involved in all sorts of organizations and held many leadership positions. At the time, I was the vice president of Wayne State’s El Club Hispano and secretary for the Honors Student Association. It was a crazy time, with school, work and extracurriculars. Who thought there would be more hidden along the way?
During the fall semester, I received an email from an organization called Hillel of Metro Detroit. I had never heard of it before, and I was shocked because the email was inviting me to apply for the Maccabee Task Force Fact Finders Trip to Israel. I didn’t know what to expect, and I remember coming home that evening and telling my parents about it. Knowing of my involvement within other minority communities, they encouraged me to apply and learn more about the State of Israel, its people and better understand the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Little did I know that I would get accepted and that that trip was the beginning of my journey within this community.
An Eye-Opening Trip
Fact Finders was such an amazing and eye-opening trip for me! The speakers we had throughout our trip were so influential and furthered my interest in Israel. I wanted to learn about everything — the government, its position on a global scale, and its role in technology and medicine. My knowledge about Israel grew ten times and all the experiences that I had, I cherished. I wrote them down in my journal so I wouldn’t forget the most important time in my life. After the Fact Finders trip, I wanted to stay a part of the community and started participating in Hillel of Metro Detroit events at Wayne State.
I attended Café Irvit lessons with Hillel staff, who taught me how to speak, read and write Hebrew. Every minute I had in between classes, I would go to our Hillel and immerse myself within the community I grew fond of.
Everything happened so quickly; my involvement in Hillel grew and one thing turned into another. After Fact Finders, I was invited to go to Washington, D.C., to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference, and was even offered a position on the board for Students for Israel. We created so many events. One of my favorites was our Nissim Black event. Nissim came, via Zoom, and told his story about how he began with music and his spiritual awakening in the Jewish community. We were so fortunate to collaborate with Wayne State’s Black Student Union for this event and involve other groups on campus.
Eventually, I became an Israeli American Council (IAC) Mishelanu ambassador, a position I still proudly hold and value dearly because as a non-Jewish student I value the importance of coalition-building. It is important to be able to educate others about the State of Israel and take the time to make an impact in our society.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we can’t give up. We must be patient and remember our purpose. For me, I believe I was born to bring people together. Israel unites us all and this is our chance to make the necessary change needed in our communities.
As John F. Kennedy once said, “Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success.”
I believe that success only comes with pain and hard work, and I encourage us all to be brave and to always fight for what we believe in. @
Mary Yousif is a Wayne State student getting her master’s degree in romance languages with a concentration in Spanish.