A valuable lesson in Israel

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2014

One of the problems with visiting a part of the world known for making the news because of frequent violent encounters is the distinct possibility of having some of those newsworthy violent encounters break out while you’re there visiting.

That was the experience recently for Suffolk native Bracey Parr, who was evacuated at the end of July from Israel, where he and a team from St. Louis University’s campus in Madrid, Spain, had been conducting an archeological dig for nearly a month. With two weeks remaining in the planned excursion, the group found itself caught in the midst of the fighting between Israel and its neighbors in Gaza.

The group arrived in the Middle East shortly after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers but before their bodies were found, which escalated violence in the area.

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“I knew as soon as they found the three bodies of the Israelis, it was going to be tougher for us,” Parr said this week. “The university, thankfully, provided us with insurance for our trip. We had the choice to stay there or not to stay there. We just decided to stay that long because we were so dedicated to the project.”

With the drama of the Middle East conflict playing itself out around them, team members from the college found themselves face to face with one facet of the history they’ve been working to uncover during this trip and a previous one a couple of years ago. The conflict in and around Israel is not a new one, by any stretch, and the historical conflicts in the area will likely be evident in any artifacts eventually uncovered there.

Still, being present near the time and place of the current conflict caused Parr to take stock in what he believed he already knew of the situation there and to reevaluate his understanding of its causes and effects.

Things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as we’d like to believe, and coming to terms with that fact was probably a more valuable lesson for Parr and his fellow students than anything they’d have learned from any of the archeological digs in which they participated.

Perhaps they will be successful in passing along that lesson to others back home in America.