THE BLOG
06/04/2013 05:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Higher Education: One Wish Jerusalem

One Wish Jerusalem is a reminder of and a tribute to our shared humanity. Shot in one day, in Jerusalem, we invited everyone who passed to share a wish: an honest, human wish. In a country and a city often highlighted for the complexities and conflicts that arise from a divergence of dreams, we invite you to connect to the beauty that is our shared ability to dream. To believe. To hope. To wish.

Meet, Joseph Shamash, a self-proclaimed Persian cowboy who is on a mission to promote global empathy and understanding. His chosen classroom is Israel, the country where his passion and purpose collided to launch a film project called One Wish Jerusalem. One Wish Jerusalem is intended to amplify the voices of peace and coexistence in the Middle East.

After working in the entertainment industry for 10 years, Joseph decided to leave his post as an editor for the Emmy-nominated, The Dan Patrick Show, to study at The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Israel. His passport has shaped his life mission, redefining higher education. Here is the who, what, where, when, why and how of Joseph's journey.

Q. Who inspires you?

A. My parents...they spoiled us with love and sacrificed so much to give us an incredible life. And Ali Molavi [who inspired One Wish Jerusalem with a video of his own in which he asked the same beautiful question to fifty people in Tehran, Iran.]

Touching on my Persian roots, I have always wanted to go to Iran, but I have never gone there because of the political climate. When I saw this video [by Ali Molavi], I knew the people of Iran aren't the problem.

The video shows how on a street corner, the average person in Iran has the same problems and issues we do, maybe magnified a little more because they aren't free to live their lives the way that they want to.

It inspired me to create a dialogue and connect not only country-to-country, but in my own personal identity. I have tried to balance being a Jewish Persian American. How do I balance these three countries, values and traditions? It felt like this was handed to me on a silver platter; this is what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to do something uniting. I guess, struggling with all my identity issues finally came together, and they are serving a higher purpose.

Q. What is your vision for a better world?

A. I think for me, it's that everybody follows their heart and isn't afraid to live their life to the best they possibly can be.

In relation to this video, I think it's really inspiring to hear people who are yearning to put aside whatever conflict, differences, tragedy, or political beliefs to make this place a place of peace, city of peace, a place where all religions can live in harmony and people respect their neighbor and their enemy as divine images. Everybody is created in an image of God and if we can all respect that, hopefully Jerusalem can actually be the city of peace.

When I first came to Israel, my goal was to come back with a clear understanding of this conflict and what is the right path towards peace and coexistence. I think the longer I'm here and the longer I dive into this conflict and this region, the more gray and uncertain I am on things. What this video shows is that things are a lot more complex than we think, and there is a lot more gray in this conflict than simple black and white answers.

If this project can show some compassion for both sides and both people's stories, that's what I hope to show.

Q. Where do you find happiness?

A. I used to think that happiness was being in an ecstatic state, like skydiving or being on top of a mountain. But I have realized that those are just fleeting states and just glimpses; they are important to get to, but they aren't sustainable.

The more I have been able to attune my mind to being in the present moment and being able to walk down the street and look at a flower, or appreciate the wind blowing, or just be in awe of the sunset and sunrise--combine that with a hell of a lot gratitude--I find the capacity to have joy increases when you shift the awareness of what happiness is. It's not these ecstatic moments; it's every moment of your life. It's not always easy. A lot of prayer and mediation helps too.

Q. When do your creative juices serge?

A. I am very interested in people's stories. I think everybody in this country has an incredible story to tell, what kind of trauma [he or she] has lived through. At every single street corner, there is an incredible capacity to learn about life.

Whenever I am meeting new people and engaging in these conversations, that stimulates the most excitement and creative possibilities.

Q. Why One Wish Jerusalem?

A. Since I arrived in Israel, I have wanted to show that Israel isn't just a war zone as it is portrayed to be in the media. My goal was to humanize the people of the region and to see their faces. And to ask a simple question--doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what age you are--everybody has hopes and dreams and wants to live a good life.

I think this video allows all of us to see the average person in this country just wants to live a normal life. Both Israelis and Palestinians do want peace and do want to live together.

Q. How has traveling changed your life?

A. Once you get that travel bug, once you step outside of your comfort zone and explore other cultures and other lands, you realize the vastness of the world and the beauty that you can find in every walk of life in every country. I am here in this world, I want to live my life where I can see and do as much as I possibly can in the time that I'm alive.

Education is very important, but the things I learned about myself while traveling--showing up to a country where I don't speak the language, I don't have a roof over my head, I don't have anything but my backpack--it forces you to trust yourself and follow your instincts. It forces you to figure it out, and you can't learn that in a classroom.

Plus, you get to see the kindness of strangers come into play in situations that don't "just happen" when you're at home.

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SERIES DESCRIPTION

Higher Education: Passports Can Take You Higher Than Diplomas

Passports can take us farther than diplomas, expanding the classroom walls beyond our comfort zones and forcing us to question the world around us. While diplomas are sealed, passports remain open to be filled with the powerful stories from teachers along the road, tests of limits, shattered theories, and self-assessment. While diplomas signify completion, passports shape our continuous evolution, adding new dimensions to every page. They help us unlearn; we study our new environments and dissect our old habits. Passports give us the freedom to ask, not the pressure to answer. Passports grant us time and an ever-changing landscape to study the who, what, where, when, why, and how that bring us to life. Purpose and passion collide when you take your education higher.