The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.

I can’t get over this city. It’s beautiful and breathtaking, and it’s such a mix of cultures. I was telling Malka that I can’t even fathom how much this one piece of lands means to so many different people, and for so many different reasons. But whoever you are, and whatever you believe there is something in the air here, a certain energy that is invigorating. I need to be carrying a notebook with me to take down notes and thoughts to share with you all because I keep reminding myself to tell you certain things, then I probably just forget them as soon as I start typing in my “new post” box. Let’s see, what has been going on …

The Old City

For those unfamiliar with what the Old City is, it is a walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem; it lies within East Jerusalem. Until the 1860s this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. [Thanks Wikipedia for the definition]

So Malka and I trekked out there. It’s amazing to go from your basic city of Jerusalem and then begin to see the ancient walls peeked up from the hills. You don’t really comprehend how huge they are until you are right there, standing at the foot of them. Stepping through the Jaffa Gate, you are surrounded by souvenier stores, different languages all around you, and a fervid buzz of activity. Our first stop was the Kotel, or the Western Wall, which is a very holy place for the Jewish people. It is separated into a men’s section and a women’s section (In very orthodox Jewish communities the men and women are separated, and do not even touch). As you approach the wall, all woman, dressed very conservatively (this was different for me, wearing a longer dress, tights, boots, covering up my arms, and hiding as much chest as possible), are touching the wall either with their hands or foreheads. They are whispering a prayer, the women who sit, rock back and forth as they pray. And in the cracks of the wall you can see rolled up pieces of paper, that contain hopes and prayers of people who have come to pray there. It’s a beautiful place, and although for me there is not exactly a religious connection, it was still a powerful experience.

The second stop was made at the Church of the holy Sepulcher – a very religious spot for those of Christian faith. It contains the final stations of the crucifixion : where Jesus was stripped, where they nailed him to the cross, and where he was laid to rest and then resurrected. It also contains the stone where he was anointed prior to burial. Today, the church is home to six denominations, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox. It’s a very moving experience to be here, and although I was a little confused by the lack of actual information inside the church (it was all in Greek – which I obviously do not speak) you still feel a very spiritual connection to the church. I did not stand in line to enter Jesus’ tomb, but I did kiss and touch the spot where he was nailed to the cross. I was also able to say a prayer, and feel the stone where he was anointed before being buried. Beautiful, magnificent church.

 

I didn’t realize it until I was laying down for bed that I had been there on All Saint’s Day. For me this is a memory I couldn’t trade for anything in the world. And I cannot stop thinking how lucky I am to be in this place. It’s also just fascinating to experience so many different cultures. One minute you’d be in the Jewish quarter, then in the Armenian quarter – it’s a wonderful thing. I love experiencing the different people, their experiences and beliefs. That’s the kind of world we should live in. One where we can share, be open minded, and learn from each other.

One of the narrow streets in the Old City

Women praying at the Kotel

Wooden tomb that surrounds the spot where Jesus was buried and ressurected.

this picture jsut shows how massive the old city walls are. I'm the tiny speck at the bottom, by the tree!

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is the holocaust memorial museum here in Jerusalem, and it’s really breathtaking. It’s seated at the top of a large hill (mountain? Sometimes it’s hard to tell here), and the buildings are made from a mixture of Iraeli stones which are beige and sandy, and cold, grey concrete. It’s a strange but beautiful mix. The trees that line the paths have small plaques at the base of each which a name of a non-Jew who aided the Jews in some way during the war. Schindler’s tree is among them.

One of the most beautiful memorials is a large room, that is usually dark (it wasn’t when we were there), and the only light is a flame lit in the center of the room. Surrounding it is black and grey stone etched with the names of all the concentration camps. The other most striking area is the Hall of Names – which is essentially a library of those who died during the holocaust. Names are still being added today.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve studied the holocaust in detail for the past couple of years, just through the classes I’ve taken and separate independent study projects. It’s an event that means a lot to me although I’m not Jewish. It’s an event the world should never forget happened, and could happen again if hate continues in our world. Hitler was just a man, like any of us, and given the right amount of power, and the ability to do so he attempted to wipe out a entire group of people. It can happen again. Because people can be ugly, and we need to remember this. That in every single person is the potential to be beautiful, and do great, amazing things for one another, but also the potential to do the worst to each other.

The Hall of Remembrance - the names on the ground are the concentration camps.

This is a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto - it's a large stone patio (for lack of a better word) - it's beautiful.

Israel is teaching me many things, and giving me time to really reflect on the world. It’s something that doesn’t happen often when you’re safely tucked awake in a environment that is normal for you. You feel safe, secure, and at home and forget about the whole rest of the world. Now that I’m not in my normal safe place, I get to be reminded of the world. I don’t know if I’m making sense anymore, and before I run the risk of getting preachy (or preachier) I will end the post.

 

Oh forgot to mention – I got a little crazy and bought a brand new leather backpack (my first bargaining experience in Israel) AND…..*drumroll*… got a new ear piercing. It’s a little green stone, and I love it!

The view from Yad Vashem - AH! Amazing!

 

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Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Well lets state by saying I’m so sorry i have not emailed regularly. I miss you terribly and freaked out when i read you were in Israel. Israel my gosh i about had a heart attack. It seems you have become quite the traveler i am more then i little bit wishing i was there with you. How did you plan this trip to israel? How did it come about? I am freaking out i must know details. I love and miss you so…take a great pic so i can super emboss myself! XD by water lol..blue water


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