When Caroline, Allison, and I first began planning out trip to Jerusalem, it felt more like an obligation than a desire. Jerusalem is one of the most controversial places in the Middle East and, as we are studying in a neighboring country, it felt only right to visit for the bucket list value. However, as we have been gearing up for the trip this weekend, I have felt my excitement growing. As I have a weak background in religion and Middle Eastern affairs, my preconceived notions of Jerusalem were simply “it matters because it is in the Bible! And… and… Israelis and the Palestinians both want it!” However, I have come to learn that Jerusalem isn’t only important to Christianity and has much more to offer the world than its controversial status.
In Judaism, Jerusalem is the holiest city and, similarly to Muslims, Jews pray toward the city (according to wikipedia). The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Jerusalem, located in the Old City. It contains the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine to the Prophet’s ascent into heaven, and the Western Wall, a destination for Jewish pilgrimage and prayer. The proximity of these sites to each other has been the cause of much conflict with the Temple Mount itself constantly being under siege throughout the past several centuries as it is a holy city to all three religions. This unique combination of politics, religion, and history amounts to a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am lucky to have the chance to see!
As we are only in Jerusalem for a day and a half due to the border crossing’s extremely early closing time (noon on Saturday!), we don’t have much time, but we certainly plan to see the most important sites. We are staying in a hostel in the New City under Israeli control. My friend Lauren, whom you met last blog post, went to Jerusalem over spring break and said that the hostel is quite creepy and overbearing with the Israeli influence. She is extremely pro-Palestinian, so maybe I won’t be as sensitive to the propaganda.
After several years of hearing about the West Bank and Israel during my father’s nightly routine of watching Fox News during dinner, I am excited to see the disputed land first-hand. Lauren said that it is beautifully green and lush which is in staunch contrast to Jordan’s desert. Also, one of my favorite places in Denver to eat is called “Jerusalem” so it will be interesting to see if the food is comparable! You can never have enough hummus and khobz (bread)!
As my brother warned early in my studies here, many Arab countries refuse to allow admittance into their country if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. The most common way around this is to ask for the entry stamp on a separate piece of paper and simply show it again upon departure. However, as we are only planning on going to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (both of which have no problem with Israeli stamps) during the rest of our time here, I feel inclined to get the stamp to make my passport more well-rounded. I know Caroline and Allison both do not want to get the stamp, so I might succumb to peer pressure to make the visa extension process more fair. We have to go to the police station as soon we we return in order to have our visas extended and the last thing I want is to have complications because of the stamp while my friends have no problem.
Check back on Sunday to read all about my adventures in Jeru and to see whether or not we managed to get swindled again!