Junior Journey: Jerusalem

Shayna D., Class of 2018
Shayna D. talks about encountering history and the complex geopolitics of Jerusalem on the JCHS Junior Journey to Israel.
What an incredible first day in Jerusalem.

After a lovely breakfast, we got on the bus and drove to the old city. We gathered by an overlook and heard a poem written by Yehuda Amichai called "Tourists." Its powerful message is that the importance of Jerusalem does not lie in the old Roman arches but instead in the lives of the people who live here.

We then split up into two groups. One went to the city of David and the water tunnels while the other visited the Christian quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having been to the city of David before, I chose to visit the church, a place that none of us had been before. We met with a tour guide from Long Island who first gave us a short history of Christianity and how it relates to Judaism. Only ten of us were in the group and we were all surprised to find out how little we know about Christianity. We then visited the church where we went through the events chronologically, starting with Jesus' crucifixion and ending with the different religious views on what happened after his resurrection. We watched as Christians prostrated on the rock where Jesus' body laid after his death. We watched as Christians stood in line to stand in the spot where Jesus was buried. All of us were surprised by the reverence  towards each of the holy locations.

After leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we had some time to get lunch and explore the Jewish quarter. We could really feel the difference between the Jewish quarter and the Christian quarter. There were two restaurants next to each other, a bagel place and a shwarma restaurant. The group got food from both places and sat at a table outside to eat together. One of the waiters came over and told us that we had to eat separately because we couldn't sit at a meat table and eat dairy. It was one of those experiences that you really can't find anywhere else and really makes you feel a part of a Jewish state.

We then met up with Rabbi Dardik, who was part of the JCHS and OHDS community. He led us to the roof top of the yeshiva where he teaches and showed us an incredible view of Jerusalem. We learned a little bit about the geography of the city and took many photos. Afterwards, we met up with a tour guide at another beautiful outlook, who taught us about the current and past geopolitical situation in Jerusalem and Israel as a whole. While a lot of us already had some knowledge about the conflict, it was incredible to be able to point to the places we were talking about and see exactly where the green line divides the city.

We then traveled on the bus, across the border into the West Bank to see the site of Rachel's tomb. As we drove along the large barrier/wall/fence, we watched Palestinians getting off the public bus, coming home from work, waiting in line to go back to their homes. 
While we didn't get off our bus, we really understood, in a way never before, the complexity of the checkpoints. This was the first time for me that I truly understood how close Jerusalem is to the West Bank and how interconnected the lives of Israelis and Palestinians are.

After saying goodbye to our geopolitical tour guide, we headed back to the hotel. Some of us went out with family while others, including myself, hung out on Ben Yehuda, got dinner, and went shopping. I can't wait to see what the last few days of the journey have in store.
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