So, your first thought right now might be why I chose such a happy picture to be the cover of this article. You know the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" could never be more relatable in this picture.

I was lucky enough to have traveled to Israel on a 'Side by Side' mission through Hillel Milwaukee as a leadership opportunity. The purpose of the trip was to educate us about the conflicts currently going on in the Middle East and bring some sort of advocacy around campus for the coming fall semester. Over the course of the trip, I took many pictures, but none stuck out as much as this one did to me. I'll spare you the time of scrolling up and seeing the picture again, so I'll post it here.

Right where my forehead is, at the same level in the background is the border of Israel and Syria.

Stewart Kraus

In the picture you see me standing in front of a beautiful view off the top of a mountain in the Golan Heights on the border with Syria. The top of the mountain was filled with tourists taking in the breathtaking view. I posed for this picture, not quite aware of what was happening behind me.

You can't tell from the actual picture, but a war was going on behind me. From what sounded like thunder (I looked up in the sky to see if there was a storm coming, to prove myself wrong from hearing explosions, but there wasn't a cloud in sight) was explosions, machine gun shots, and death behind me. Beyond the border fence in Syria, you can see a lot of smoke coming up from a building. Not knowing what the actual cause of it was made me assume the worst.

Every now and then there would be another rumble in the ground from the war. Don't get me wrong, however, I was safe on the Israeli side, but at that moment and time, I got chills knowing that people were dying right behind me, and there is me, posing for a picture on a mountaintop that looks very happy, now gives me memories of war and death.

Growing up the concept of war seemed so surreal to me. We see it on TV and in movies, but living in the United States, we don't see warzones on our streets like some other countries do. War always was some sort of illusion to me because it felt worlds away (which it really was being on the other side of the world).

Since experiencing those eerie sounds while on the border of the two countries, that WAR IS REAL, NOT SOMETHING YOU JUST SEE ON TV. We are just fortunate enough to live in the United States where we don't need to worry about it happening in our backyards as much as other countries do.