I can’t believe I’m in Jerusalem…it’s unbelievable to be in a place that i grew up reading about.. it feels surreal since TBH, the bible seems like an epic novel to me and now i'm here... i’m still in disbelief...
Despite no longer being a practicing Christian, it’s still a mind-blowing experience to be here.. to walk up Mount of Olives and visit Church of All Nations, where it's believe Jesus prayed the night of his arrest.. to follow the Via Dolorosa… the path where Jesus walked (cue Kanye track) carrying the cross, and to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the spot where Jesus was believed to have been crucified and where he later was resurrected… it gave me goosebumps. Visiting the Western Wall, the second most holiest site in Judaism, and the Rock of the Dome, the third most holy site in Islam, was also unreal.
It’s been incredible to be surrounded by thousands of pilgrims who are so devoted to their faith that they’ve traveled from all ends of the world just to be a bit closer to God.. While I have my qualms about organized religion, there’s something incredibly moving to watch someone express their pure and unadulterated faith.. to believe fully and wholly in something greater is very powerful.. it's something i'm not capable of doing.
TBH, I felt like a huge fraud being inside the church.. i couldn’t even recite a prayer for fear that god or some higher power would strike me with lightning or the earth would open up and swallow me (on another note, sinkholes are actually a huge problem around the dead sea) .. being at the most holiest places made me feel like such a sinner.. for one thing.. security at dome of the rock found some condoms i left in my bag which was PRETTY FUCKING EMBARASSING. i also had to do a little shopping before i came because everything i own showed more ummm... upper body that what was deemed modest (shoulders… but also B(o)(o)Bs)
Of course, Jerusalem is not stuck in the past.. it’s an extremely modern city with a vibrant culture, though it does feel a lot more cultural and traditional than in Tel Aviv. For one thing, there’s a very obvious presence of Orthodox Jews in the city, some whom hold very conservative views. Right before I came, some very conservative Jews stabbed attendees at the gay pride parade and also burned down a house in the West Bank, killing a child. There definitely can be some tension between the religious and non-religious, as well a complicated relationship between the Jews and Arabs. I was lucky enough to stay with a few awesome people/caring citizens/fellow nerds who were all studying political science at Hebrew University..
we chatted about the conflicts and they shared their memories of the second Intifada and Israel’s many other wars, including last summer’s conflict with Gaza where they had to run into bomb shelters almost everyday… since two of them were combat troops in the IDF, I asked them about the psychological effect/trauma and how the Israeli government deals with it since the US does such a terrible job, and how they cope on a personal level.. very heavy stuff.. but also extremely interesting. Of course, their lives are so much more than this and their accomplishments reflect their amazingness.... Daniel is a crazy talented cook at the best restaurant in Jerusalem with a really witty sense of humor; Orit is a beautiful and intelligent woman, working at an organization that pairs young Americans and Israelis to become future leaders.. she also interned at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament; and Arnon is a really smart and thoughtful dude who founded a chapter at his university for Israel's most leftist party.. and he's leading a group of people to India to work in the slums (definitely swoon worthy) they showed me a great time around the city.. taking me to my new favorite spot, the Souk, which is a market in the morning and converts into a really cool and trendy area at night filled with bars and restaurants :) And everyone knows how much i love when people repurpose space!
In addition to allll of the above I also visited the Dead Sea, Masada, the Holocaust Museum, and explored the city of David and the tunnels of the Western Wall... it was such an amazing experience, but I'm exhausted and looking forward to spending the next few days relaxing with a family in the West Bank. It'll be a new perspective, plus they have a super cute daughter :D