Thursday, January 5, 2012

Israel, Israel, God is Calling

We made it! We made it to Jerusalem. And, to say it shortly, I’m in love with it already. 

Our plane ride from JFK lasted only 10 hours due to a strong tail wind, which was greatly appreciated. We arrived in Tel Aviv at 1:30 pm and moved into a beautiful airport, where we all cleared immigration and customs, fairly pain free. We were then greeted by Dr. Huntsman and Dr. Harper, and split off onto buses to go to the Jerusalem Center, about a 45 minute drive if you have Sayid for your bus driver. ;) The drive as a whole was gorgeous- we’re here during Israel’s green season, so everything is beautiful. There are olive trees everywhere! We learned to distinguish between the Palestinian homes – flat roofs with black water tanks on top – and Israeli homes – peaked roofs with red tiles. Apparently the Palestinians keep the water tanks on top so that when their water supply gets cut off, as it often does, they can still have access to drinking water. Sayid took us a back route to get us to the center fast, and this particular back route goes through the West Bank. It was fascinating to see the barbed wire fence all over and men with large guns, openly displayed, standing around.

The Center itself is gorgeous. It’s been around for a while so I expected it to look somewhat dated, but it all looks very contemporary. The center itself is built on a hill, so our living areas look out over the city. We have a balcony! That’s definitely my favorite part of the whole apartment. I can literally walk out our sliding glass door and look over Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is practically in our backyard. It’s incredible.

At five and seven last night we heard the Muslim call to prayer. That’s been another one of my favorite experiences so far. The Muslim mosques project a chant/song throughout the city, and it’s fairly loud at the center. We heard it this morning at 5:15 too - but it was so beautiful I didn't mind being woken up. Hearing it is just another reminder that you’re in a place completely foreign to the one you’re accustomed to.

Today we had more orientation, which included a guided walking tour around Jerusalem. Wow. I went into sensory overload with so many incredible things to look at. We started out in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian neighborhood. We walked for a while on the road to Jericho, which is the road that the Good Samaritan would have taken (crazy!). We went through some shopping districts before heading into the Old City through Damascus Gate. The Old City is split up into quarters; not necessarily meaning fourths, but rather just living quarters. We entered in through the Muslim quarter, and then went through the Christian quarter. We went up to a rooftop where our guide pointed out the Armenian quarter and the Jewish quarter.

We then went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was incredible, and not at all what I was expecting. I had expected something like the Catholic Cathedrals that I've been to, but this was quite different. It's not even really one church. Many different denominations have set up their own stake on parts of the church, and there are small "chapels" of sorts that belong to the Roman Catholics, or the Orthodox Catholics, etc. Though it was different that I was expecting, it was evident that there is a real Spirit there. It was amazing.

Next, we left the Old City and ventured into West Jerusalem. The difference between East and West Jerusalem is staggering. Whereas East Jerusalem is somewhat rundown and feels almost like a third world country, West Jerusalem (predominately Jewish) is very modern and clean. We walked through another shopping district there, before heading back to the center.

I’ve been here less than twenty-four hours, and already the thought of leaving this place is a sad one. I am thoroughly and completely in love with Jerusalem. Though I may not stay one, it’s reminding me of why I chose to be an International Relations student in the first place. Immersing yourself in another culture is truly an experience like none other. I don’t get “giddy” very often, but I’ve been having random outbursts of excited laughter the whole time we’ve been here so far. I can’t believe that after waiting so long, I’m finally here. I feel like I’ve already got my money’s worth, and we've only been here a day. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

-Claire Rose

1 comment:

  1. Wow. It sounds so amazing. Wish I could see it all with you. Hope sweatshirt girl doesn't cause any problems. :-} Thought I found your camera cord, was very proud of myself, then realized it was for your phone. :-{ Oops! Morgan talked about getting early acceptance to UVU. Signing Annie and Slavy up for basketball. It's 8 am, so you are at 5 pm, listening to the call to prayer and getting ready for supper. Hope the food is great and you have an easy transition to the time change. Love you big, Mom