Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End

It's been exactly one month and a day since my last day in Jerusalem. I've turned in my shekels for dollars, falafel for In-n-out burger and views of the Old City for views of the Pacific Ocean. California is and always will be my home, but I'm learning that each time I travel, I seem to lose a piece of my heart to that location.

Marguerite and Ricardo from Spain still fill my thoughts weekly and I expect Raya, Muna and Ranin to creep in at least daily for the coming year.

As sad as it is to leave, I am so incredibly happy knowing that 80 more students are there right now experiencing what you've been reading these last months with all 6 senses. There are definitely 6. You can taste the food, see the sights, feel the wind, hear the music, smell the flowers and most impacting, love the people. As much as I can express in writing, there is no replacement for the real thing.

For anyone who has experienced the Old City for themselves, I hope this video brings you back.

It's been amazing. Thanks for letting me share.

Also, I have 2 more albums with lots of pictures here.

Grandma, you'll enjoy this one best.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Proof of a Good Day:

Tired feet resting in a homebound taxi.

There are days when spontaneity, intuition and a little bit of adventure combine to create beautiful memories and lasting friendships. Today was one of those days and Ranin is one of those friendships. I only met Ranin a few weeks ago in Ein Kerem, but the circumstances of our meeting both then and today has provided each of us the magnificent blessing to gain from each other's wisdom, personality and warmth.

Not knowing how the day was going to play out, six of us headed for the train station and went west to Tel Aviv. We spent the day swimming in the Med., walking up and down Allenby Street and most meaningful to me, connecting with Ranin.

Having grown up attending school as the only Arab among Israeli Jews, she experienced persecution much in the same way blacks experienced racism in the United States half a decade ago. With no bitter feelings however, she serves as an amazing example to me of strength, beauty and youthful energy.

It amazes me the connection people can share sometimes after only a few minutes of meeting them. THIS feeling. This is the feeling of humanity, of friendship and the spirit of people to uplift one another.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Remembering the Holocaust

About 2 months ago we took a trip to Yad Vashem which is Israel's memorial museum to the Holocaust. I'm sure I don't have to tell most readers of this what a sad story the Holocaust is.

Our first week here, we went on a geography field trip, basically getting various views of Israel from all sides of Jerusalem. That was my first introduction to the walls built in the last 10 years by the Israel government to separate the Palestinian territories from the rest of Israel. A few weeks ago, we toured the walls up close. After talking with my classmates after, I realized I wasn't the only student who had striking images of ghetto walls from the Holocaust pop into my mind when I saw these walls up close.

I've been very hesitant to share this idea, but recently found that my observation is also shared with a Princeton scholar/UN Human Rights Council member named Richard Falk who is making headlines.

This is a very short but interesting situation.
**By the way it was purely coincidence how closely these pictures resemble each other. The first one was the first image under googled "holocuast ghetto walls."

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Middle East is Not a Desert

From the moment I arrived in Tel Aviv 3 months ago my preexisting conceptions of a dry and brown desert as the geography of my existence here have been proven wrong time and time again. Nothing negated these stereotypical images more than the 10 days I spent in Galilee.

I have been blessed to be here during the best climate which has definitely helped put a little more "spring" in my step. Quite literally, spring has sprung as I seem to be discovering new species of flora everyday.

The natural beauty of Galilee provided a perfect backdrop for prayer and meditation, and of course a lot of fun and learning.

For a deeper look into Galilee, here are some pictures!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Week

Despite having two final exams on Good Friday, my easter week in Jerusalem is ending quite nicely. I just got back from Midnight Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I have just under three hours before we depart for a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. Tuesday brought an amazing day in Bethlehem where we saw the birthplace of Jesus Christ and spent an evening at Shepherd's field. The following day I visited the supposed birthplace of John the Baptist in Ein Kerem, which is a quainter and pleasant part of Jerusalem.

I can definitely say this is a week I'll never forget. Then again, that same statement could be said for every week I've been here.

Tomorrow we leave for Galilee for 10 days so future posts at this time are pending the strength of the internet connection there/price for usage.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

So apparently the 8 foot palm frond I bought for 10 shekels from a Palestinian boy on my way to the Mt. of Olives merited me and my friend Mark worthy of an EPA press photo covering Palm Sunday. Check out the original picture here. (It is from a news site called The caption provides a great explanation of Palm Sunday and the other photos in the album give a deeper glimpse into my crowded, sunny, and oh-so-memorable Palm Sunday experience in Jerusalem.

As our large mass of 80 American students walked over the the Mount of Olives, I had no idea what I was getting into. In a land where the most attention is given to conflicting interests of Muslims and Jews, it's easy to forget that Christians also have a large presence here in the Holy Land. Palm Sunday reminded me of that. While it seems that more Jews and Muslims than Christians live here in Jerusalem, I would guess that the most represented religious group of tourists here are Christians.

In addition, the most visited week by Christians to Jerusalem is the week leading up to Easter (aka right now). As I spent four hours walking a path that three days earlier had taken me about 30 minutes, I enjoyed conversation with people from all over the world. Though it was hot and crowded, the overall feeling was a relaxed one of rejoicing. While walking, I passed nuns singing hymns, uniformed Palestinian boy scouts waving flags and several different national groups joining together playing guitars and bongo drums.

The journey which begins at a church on top of the Mount of Olives and passes through the garden of Gethsemane ends at another church just inside the Old City. Here, the celebratory atmosphere continues in the courtyard with more music and mingling. Sharing the same Palm Sunday experience with such an eclectic mix of travelers confirmed once again my appreciation for diversity and also my gratitude for Jesus Christ's example. His golden rule, a simple but under-practiced truth, is reason for a lot of the good we see in the world.

This picture was taken after the procession in the courtyard of St. Anne's church, in front of the pools of Bethesda.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Generation Gap...filled

The night I left my house in California to eventually come here, I hurriedly scanned some priceless pictures of my dad that illustrate some of his experiences (which are much more expansive than mine) in the Middle East. I'm not sure the story behind his gladiator shot. Mine was taken in Jordan after a Chariot show at the ancient Roman city of Jerash. The second shot commemorates his baptism at the Jordan River. Years later, I was there too. SWEET, huh?