Jerusalem-May 21

              We have arrived in Jerusalem! The view of the city from our rooftop rooms, the fresh yogurt served at breakfast, the platter of hummus at lunch and dinner, as well as the armed guards scattered around all scream Israel. We have arrived at the destination that I have most anticipated. It’s funny, while I knew and know that we are going to other destinations, my mind hasn’t thought past our three weeks in Israel, all the other destinations seems to pale in comparison. Why am I so excited about Israel? Very good question. I think it is because I have been exposed (whether through friends at college, friends at home, documentaries or lecturers) to a whole different perspective concerning the vitality, vibrancy, sorrow, and pain that this region of the world contains. But, rather than me telling you about my reflections, let me tell you my story.
            To begin, we arrived here (Jerusalem University College) just about a day or two ago…jet lag makes time a hazy concept. The plane ride from Chicago included talks with friend, finishing a book, and writing a paper #soproductive. Unfortunately, sleep evaded me because the man sitting in front of me decided that he was going to put his head in my lap for the *entirety* of the 10hr flight. It was not consensual.
We arrived in Rome and boarded another plane for Tel Aviv after going through Roman security, which was  a joke. I accidentally left on a metal necklace and when I walked through the metal detector (which of course beeped loudly) the guard gave me a lazy glance and waved me through. Others had bottles full of water, I think someone even had keys in their pockets, but no one got stopped. Their diligence to guarding our safety was touching. Then there were the men on the tarmac (baggage handlers? Security? Loiters in uniform?) that looked (and posed) like Armani models: designer sunglasses, meticulous grooming, swanky uniforms, and a certain air of pretension that told me they knew they looked good and we didn’t.
 After they stared at us for a bit, probably wondering how we could show our haggard disgusting faces (because sleep deprivation makes a girl so pretty), we boarded the plane.

 We finally arrived in Tel Aviv and made it through Israeli security with only one bag getting lost and only one brown man (the only brown man) getting called in for questioning. IDF just wanted to chat about his religious affiliations before they let him into the country. (Big eye roll) at least they didn’t pretend it was anything but religious discrimination.  He was released after being interrogated for an hour or so.

The 40 miles from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was peppered with Israeli flags. In fact, Israeli flags were everywhere. It seemed as though some rhetorical posturing was taking place with the amount of flags that were always in sight. Also, probably due to  the fact that we happened to arrive on the exact same day as Jerusalem Day, the day celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the old city in June of 1967.  As you can imagine, there are mixed feelings concerning this day where some Israelis are celebratory, some are ambivalent, and the Palestinians are less than thrilled.

We got to JUC in time for dinner and I met some new friends here that have been on campus for a week from Fresno Pacific University. They were kind enough to take me on a tour of the Old city. It was spectacular!

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There were huge celebrations in honor of Jerusalem Day. People were crowding the streets, singing songs, waving flags, and dancing. This was totally my scene, I couldn’t stop smiling, being in the midst of the very heart beat of the city was exhilarating. We got a bit lost and we were trying to figure out how to get back to Joppa gate, when a guy named Isaac stopped us and asked if we needed help. We said we were going to Joppa, and he said he was too and to follow him. I started talking with Isaac and asking him about himself. He and his family immigrated from Chicago to Jerusalem and he had just finished his two years of military service. I asked how he felt about his military service, and overall he viewed it as a good experience. I then asked  about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what he thought about it. “Overall,” he said, “we all just want to live our lives. If that means we live among one another, I’m happy with that, I just don’t want to kill or get killed.”

He guided us to Joppa gate and we then parted ways with a happy goodbye and our little group from JUC walked to an outdoor mall.

Phew, another long post, and I haven’t even gotten to the adventures we had today. I’ll have to do some double duty soon on this stuff to keep you all posted. Have a wonderful day/night in whatever time zone you may be in!