Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Holy Land

Traveling from Amman to Jerusalem is only about 50 miles, but it can take all day. Luckily for me it only took a few hours. After I made it across the “bridge” from Jordan into the West Bank I headed up to passport patrol and saw a young 20 something Israeli military woman, I thought “Oh good! She’ll like me”. One and a half hours later I was still answering questions on what work I do around the world, why I have an Afghan visa in my passport, where I live, why I’m visiting Israel/Palestine, etc. etc. Finally I passed my security check and was released and headed to Jerusalem!

So for some of you that know me you know that I went to Catholic school for 10 years, although I’m not Catholic (that’s a whole other story!). Unfortunately for those 10 years I did not pay much attention in my religion classes (or history for that matter – particularly when it involved religious history) and I have been wandering around the Old City of Jerusalem for the past 2 days, wishing I had paid more attention!

Here is some basic information on the Old City’s most holy sites (from an online site):

“Jewish Pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the Western Wall of the great Jewish temples which was also the place where it is believed that Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac, but instead he spared his son's life and slaughtered a ram. The Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site.”

“Christian Pilgrims come from all over the world to carry a cross along the same path that Jesus carried the cross two thousand years ago. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built around what is believed to be the site of Christ's crucifixion, burial and resurrection.”

“Muslims make the pilgrimage from all over the world to Jerusalem to visit the Dome of the Rock which marks the spot where they believe that the prophet, Muhammad made an ascent to the heavens and saw God and then returned to Mecca the next morning.”

I’m not going to write any more about Jerusalem history or the sights, as I would just prove the point of how much I don’t know, but if you are interested in seeing pictures of my wanderings they are posted here.

Instead, here are a couple of my random observations:

A number of Israeli youth (non-military, or at least off duty military) choose to walk through the city nonchalantly carrying machine guns as an extra accessory to their Abercrombie hoodie and jeans.

I’ve been asked if I’m Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian. With my mouth closed I can pass for a number of cultures but as soon as I speak there is no question where I’m from – Canada.

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