Jerusalem is a wild city.
I arrived here by “sherut” on Monday and somehow managed to jump out of the van at the right location and find my hostel. No small feat.
Monday I decided to join a tour of the mount of olives. It was quite amazing. Even though my tour guide kept reminding us that nothing can be for certain (did Jesus ascend from THIS mountain or THAT one? Who really knows) it was incredible knowing that Jesus actually walked these streets, sat on this mountain…was actually here! Highlights: Garden of Gethsemne, the view from Dominus Flevit and staring at the old city where the Temple Mount once stood from the top of the Mount of Olives. It was pretty special.
Tuesday I did a free tour of the Old City. The bustling streets, narrow alleys and winding, seemingly contradictory pathways are not tourist friendly. It was good to be led around. Afterwards, with my newfound courage, I decided that I was going to find the Damascus gate and walk to the garden tomb. Never made it.
First I was stopped by Muhammed. I’m an obvious foreigner and business is slow (but either way I think it’s like this) so shop owners were aggressively trying to get me to visit their shops. I was a bit tired of it so after one guy yelled out at me I responded in Arabic and kept walking. Muhammad overheard it, asked me where I was from and had me sit down so we could chat.
He was really friendly and bragged about his son for a while who’s studying at Oxford. He’d been to Santa Barbara with his family, actually, and completed the quintessential Santa Barbara tourist activity: rode a tandem bike on Cabrillo.
Without him I would’ve never known that an unassuming doorway in the Christian quarter leads to a gym with photos of glistening body builders plastered all over the walls. It actually exists. The noise of the city drowns out what could have been 103.3 bumping from the speakers. He a wanted to introduce me to his son George, a cute kid with glasses who definitely didn’t mix in with the rest of the clientele. He had to do special exercises with weights because of a heart condition. Ha, it made my day.
Muhammad then brought me over to his friend Amin with whom I practiced my Arabic with for a while. Since we had known each other for so long (5 minutes) he gave me all sorts of words of wisdom about life, celebrities and living in the Old City. I should have listened better because after I left I managed to let some guy totally rip me off for a stupid bracelet…darn you, compassionate heart! I guess it’s bound to happen at least once.
I got completely lost and it was now nearing dinner time, so I made my way over to the market to eat and then spent some time with my dorm mates chatting on the roof of the hostel.
Today I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Yeah. It was a heavy day. Highlight: seeing the tree dedicated to Corrie Ten Boom on the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations. Each tree represented a non-Jew who risked their lives (or lost them) to protect the Jewish people. Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes, and it was an honor to reflect on her sacrifices and consider what I would have done had I been in her place.
I suppose that is one of the terrifying things about the holocaust. The people of Nazi Germany and the whole of Europe were not an anomaly to human civilization, separated from you and me. If they were diseased, we all share in it. Each one of us could have been there, swept up into the madness, too afraid to stand for truth, calling what is morbidly evil good, and what is righteous and true evil. People like Corrie give me hope that even in the darkest of days, the light of Christ can still be found.
I left asking myself, “Will I have the courage to stand with Christ in the face of the evils of this day?”
I hope so. I pray so.
Tomorrow I begin my time in Bethlehem and I’m so excited. It’s been a pleasure exploring Israel, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating the real reason I’m here to arrive. Tomorrow’s the day!
I may not have access to Internet as much, so don’t mind the silence if it ensues for a few days. I promise to update as much as I can.
As always, I’d love your prayers. Thanks for sticking through this long post!