Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day trip to Jerusalem!

So yesterday (Tuesday) my program had a day trip to Jerusalem. I imagined it being a touristy view of Jerusalem, just like it was on Birthright. I was very surprised to find out that it was completely different.

It was definitely #strugglecity to get up in the morning. Our bus was leaving at 8:15am and most of my group went out the night before to celebrate our friend's birthday. We got home at around 3am and needless to say we barely slept. It was a legit mess the next morning but it made for a very entertaining bus ride.

We arrived in Jerusalem and immediately went to an area which bordered Jerusalem and the West Bank. We had a tour guide with us who explained more about the fence that divided the two areas. This is something that I'm not very educated about and I actually learned a lot about this division and the whole controversy over it. One thing I found very interesting was that if someone touches the fence, security is notified immediately. The fence is being monitored 24/7 by Israeli Intelligence. The most amazing part to me was that they have a sand-like substance right over the fence on the Jerusalem side. If someone tries to jump over, they can tell: the weight of the person, age, male or female, etc. It truly shocked me that they can tell all of this just by someone's footprints. The guide was explaining that many times animals jump over and they can tell the sex of the animal, and if female, if the animal is pregnant or not. I was completely mind-blown to say the least.

Next, we headed to Rachel's Tomb. This originally wasn't on our agenda because it is in Bethlehem which isn't the safest place to go. But, our tour guide got the okay from some high up person to go. Because we weren't notified ahead of time, no one was dressed appropriately for a holy site. Shoulders and knees must be covered when entering a holy place, meanwhile us dumb Americans were sporting shorts and tank tops. Every Orthodox Jew was starring at us and we all just felt very embarrassed. When entering the tomb, a woman gave us shawls to cover our shoulders. As in all holy sites in Jerusalem, the men and women are separated so we said bye to the boys on our group and headed into the building. Women were touching Rachel's Tomb and lots of crying, praying, and touching were happening. And, of course our group walked in, saw the tomb and left.

Our last stop was to the Israel Experience (the umbrella organization for my program) headquarters. Here we heard from two different speakers on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first speaker was a Palestinian-Israeli. It was honestly so difficult to listen to him speak because he made the lecture very dry. He also was very controversial, coming from a Palestinian perspective. The one thing that stood out to me was that he said that Jews live in fear while the Palestinians live in anger. This comment stirred up lots of talk within the group, especially since he was after all speaking to a group of 23 Jews.

Lastly, we heard from the most inspirational man named Itzik Yarkoni. He is a huge Israel advocate and goes to various universities in the United States and speaks about Israel. He wasn't there to lecture us on Israel and all it has to offer though. Basically, his main point was how we can use social media to portray Israel in a good light. He showed us articles, videos, etc. on how badly Israel is portrayed in the media. He started out the lecture by having all of us take out our smartphones and googling "Israel is..." The results were incredible. Almost everything that came up on people's phones were negative. Some examples are: Israel is apartheid, Israel is war... you get the picture. So, his whole schpiel (sp?) was about how our generation can show Israel in a positive way. He then told us to all create statuses on Facebook about our experience in Israel. He said that immediately he guaranteed we would all get at least 10 likes. He said instead of posting negative articles about Israel, Jews, or life in general, to post positive things. People want to read and hear about positive aspects of our society, not the negative. He really did inspire me not only to post and learn more about Israel, but also other things that interest me. As you all know, I'm a huge advocate for children with disabilities. I need to start reading and posting more articles so that I can educate all of my Facebook friends about it. All it takes is one person to post, one friend to share that post, and another friend to share their post... think about how many people would be reading this information!

Blogging soon about my amazing and inspiring day today... check back tomorrow! xoxo

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