In Palestine, I wasn't just treated as an important guest by the people I encountered, I was often treated like a long-lost son. It wasn't simply, "here, have a drink," as it might have looked traveling in a western country, but rather, "drink this tea, eat this fruit, fill yourself up on this wonderful meal of meat, rice, bread, and salad, drink as many cups of coffee as you like, and then sleep here in my bed." I was never treated so well in all of my travels to more than 40 countries across the globe.
Once you see war and the poverty and depredation it causes, it is very difficult to un-see it. Like a lot of westerners I met in the Middle East, I was young and idealistic and I traveled to the region with few expectations. But upon leaving it became difficult to think or talk about anything else. I wanted my professional life - that sphere that we spend the majority of our time in - to match that calling and that passion. And if anything I say to the audiences I am fortunate enough to speak to can bring even a small touch of understanding, peaceful engagement, or hope to the Middle East, then these efforts to know a people and to engage in their lives will have been well worth it.