Elisabetta, the library of the Franciscans, Civilian Service and a training ground for life called Jerusalem

Giacomo Pizzi8 January 2015

Ten months have passed since the beginning of their Civilian Service experience for six young Italians, employed in various manners in the projects of Association pro Terra Sancta, thanks to an agreement with the University of Bari. The youths are putting to good use their skills and knowledge, but above all they are learning a lot. This is the story of Elisabetta, an Association pro Terra Sancta volunteer working at the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land as part of the project “Books, Bridges of Peace”.

“During these months my responsibility has been to aid the public and to catalogue books from the contemporary collection of the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land. This experience, now coming to its end, has allowed me to put to good use the studies and skills I acquired during my university years and to learn new things, forcing me to get involved every day.

Living in a context totally different from the one I have always experienced has not been easy. The variety of cultures and religions, in their appeal and richness, demands a continuous openness which sometimes leads to fatigue, fear and an incomplete understanding of the other; from this point of view Jerusalem has been a real training ground.

It has been amazing how without being conscious of it I have become accustomed to these attitudes, experiencing them not only in my relations with other people, but with respect to life in general. Regarding the latter I have been surprised to find myself more open and willing, not becoming overly dismayed by the fatigue and the fears that inevitably can arise, and accepting the fact that often the the meaning and the “why” of certain events either escapes us or is not immediately apparent.

At the end of this experience I am thus able to say that the encounter with the “new” and with “diversity” has allowed me to know myself better. To see myself in action in all types of situations, demonstrating elements of strength and characteristics that I hadn’t known in myself before, or that I took for granted, not realizing their value, and their limits.

I look forward to seeing the fruits of this wonderful experience on my return to Italy, because as they say, to be able to truly understand and see things time is frequently necessary.”