Jerusalem Weekly Letter – November 19
This week, Aardvark Jerusalem visited two very special places, the Old City in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. These two cities are full of history and culture, and luckily this past Tuesday they were also full of sun even though it’s almost the end of November.
This Monday, I had an excellent Faces of Israel class, in which Neil Lazarus talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We looked over maps, talked about history, and watched some interesting videos. The video that stood out to me was a Palestinian propaganda video about rockets. It was incredibly frightening what is shown to kids, and the brainwashing that occurs. Another very interesting video was a debate in which two people had trouble debating because of how differently they saw the West Bank.
One of the things I miss most from home is my little potted plant collection, accumulated over years of Home Depot trips and pot painting with friends. So when my Madricha told us what Tuesday evening’s activity would be, I all but jumped at the opportunity to sign up. The activity did not disappoint. Our Madrichim had supplied us with beautiful herbs and a large array of paints. The night was filled with laughter and friends as we spoke about our tiyulim from earlier that day as we painted our pots. When we had all finished, I not only had two plants to show for it, but a new memory of time spent painting with friends. Now, with my plants on our balcony, my apartment feels so much more like home.
I was worried at the beginning, unsure of the judgement I would receive if I struggled. But I felt so much support from my peers and teacher (and her dog), that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself even if I messed up my words.
This Tiyul Tuesday, my friends and I went to Gush Etzion. We first went to Shorashim, an organization that encourages Palestinians and Israelis to meet each other face to face (or zoom to zoom) to learn more about each other and break down the negative images that the groups have of one another. Then we went on a trail in Gush Etzion called Derech Avot to learn about living life on a settlement. After that, we went to the border of Palestine and Israel to learn about the historical significance of the Green Line. This was my favorite Tiyul Tuesday because I love being exposed to new people and learning about the history of the land that my ancestors once walked. I cannot wait for more Tuesdays!
In the Christian Quarter, the centuries-old Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands as a monumental representation of Israel’s minority community, but one that is just as important. With its beautiful mosaics, it holds the place where tradition suggests Jesus was crucified.
The Armenian Quarter is distinguished by its pottery and its narrow but charming streets. We also walked through the Arab Shuk, where vendors sell food, jewelry, and souvenirs.
Before lunch, we visited the Western Wall. When I first touched the wall, I felt a surge of emotion. Everything the world has gone through recently, all the hardships I’ve felt about leaving home, it
all came to me at once.
But it felt positive, like we can all get through this. There’s something amazing about a place so impactful, even a pandemic doesn’t have an effect on its importance. Women all around me were crying and praying, so obviously overtaken with emotion about this special place.
We ended the day with a view atop a rooftop in the Jewish Quarter, where our tour guide explained the countless significant buildings and monuments seen in the distance.
The world has lost many things this past year, but one thing that will not be affected is the impact of faith and connection to special places like the Old City. It amazes me how even amid conflict in religion, land, and a worldwide pandemic, some things never seem to lose their importance.
Selah’s outing on Thursday was to Derech Burma as we continued our exploration of the importance of Jerusalem and fighting for her. This takes on a new significance as we are beginning the month of Kislev, which has Chanukah and the miraculous rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. We also heard about Samson and some of the battles of the Maccabees that happened in the area.
Our counselor on call this weekend is Elina.