Glorious Jerusalem, Holy Bethlehem

Jerusalem, glorious Jerusalem. By the time we got to Jerusalem, on the 23rd of December, it had been two weeks since I’d been in the city and boy, did I miss it! I had been driving my family nuts talking about all the wonderful things we could do there during our nine days in Jordan. Getting back to Jerusalem was like returning home.

We arrived late in the evening on Friday night and missed the welcoming of Shabbat at the Western Wall. Instead, we grabbed 7-shekel falafel at a stand across from the Damascus Gate and wandered through the Old City at night. My mother was amazed by the cleaning job that had been recently done on the walls and buildings, and my brother and father were astounded by the beauty of this living and breathing Old City. Continue reading

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Jerusalem by night, Bethlehem by day.

Jerusalem by night is a magical place if you know where to go. On Thursday nights, Jaffa street is full of drunk revellers including – and this is the most fascinating for me as, until I came here, my experience with religious folk had been limited to the Muslim community – orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jewish youth. However, it isn’t Jaffa street that is magical but the surrounding small, quiet streets housing small bars and where you might stumble upon the occasional fountain. Even more magical, however, and a place I didn’t get to experience by night until recently, is the Old City.

This past Thursday, four friends and I attended the Jerusalem Knights in the Old City festival. What a trip! We arrived to people in costume above the Mamilla and, upon entering Jaffa Gate, two acrobats dressed in medieval armor staging a mock climb up the city walls. We weren’t allowed, for five minutes, to get into the Old City because an area in front of the performance had been cordoned off while police held people at bay and thoroughly checked a bag that had been left alone there. First time I’d ever seen anything like that!  Continue reading

Cross-cultural partying

For some reason, I’m unable to write about my daily happenings without feeling like what I’m writing is boring. For this reason, I won’t go on about the house party we held this weekend, or the visit to my friend’s bar. What I will, however, write about is the Arab Christian engagement I attended in Bethlehem on Sunday.

A very good friend of mine from Jerusalem decided that it would be a great experience for me to see an Arab engagement and invited me to his cousin’s. At first, I was very confused. “This is their engagement party?” I asked, “Or a party at which they get engaged?”  Continue reading

Scattered events and thoughts

For some reason, in the last month I haven’t updated because life here has become normal. Before, every bar was exciting and every encounter was newsworthy. Now, I don’t know…

So I’m making a concerted effort to explain, in a manner which still makes things seem exciting, the day-to-day happenings of life in Israel. Right around my last post, about the stone-throwing incident in Jerusalem, it was Sukkot and various other holidays, which meant that there were lots of long weekends spent in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to one of my closest friends in the middle of last month. We sent him off with lots of hugs and alcohol and a good time 🙂  Continue reading

Yom Kippur in Jerusalem and Eizariya

The weekend that just passed was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement and traditionally, by the end of it, one can consider themselves absolved of their sins by God. Ironic really, since my flatmate seemed to see fit to behave like a super-bitch right around this time. I guess she does not take her religious obligations seriously (and it is ironic, because she claims to be religious).

Out of respect for my roommate on Yom Kippur, my friend did not come to visit me that weekend. Instead, I went back to Jerusalem and met with a close friend there. As usual, we began the evening at Asgards and ended it in a park with some of his friends before heading out to Katamon (Gonen) to get some shut-eye.  Continue reading

Ushering in the New Year

Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As it fell on Wednesday and Thursday, we had a four day weekend which my boss very kindly extended to a five day weekend for me as I wanted to attend Taybeh’s Oktoberfest which fell on Saturday and Sunday. What better way to usher in the new year than with a weekend of wonderful nights and incredible days? Unfortunately, due to the fact that my camera cannot be fixed after the thief so carelessly tossed it in the river, I do not have any photos. Perhaps friends will upload some which I can then plug into the blog.

On Thursday at 9am my couchsurfer for the weekend – a lovely American girl from Hawaii – and I headed to Jerusalem for a tour of some of its Christian history with my German friend living there. We started with an exhausting walk up to the top of the Mount of Olives. Though I complained most of the way up, it was worth it for the view from the top from which we could see all of Jerusalem. We then visited the Mosque of the Ascension (which becomes  a church once a year on the Day of the Ascension) and saw the alleged footprint of Jesus from where he ascended to heaven. Continue reading

Hebron megapost and some Jerusalem

Before you start reading, I have to warn you. This post is long. And it will be riveting. It will also make you angry, sad, depressed, perhaps even bring you close to tears. The end will seem uncharacteristically light-hearted, showing, I hope, how life here can jump from one extreme to another so quickly. And I, as an outsider, as an observor, can look at this all semi-passively. Do not get me wrong, I was infuriated and deeply upset by what I saw this weekend, but less so than my Israeli friends. In fact, whereas my foreign friends expressed interest in my trip and wanted to join me, a large propotion of my Israeli friends did not feel the same way. It is different to them, they are tied to this situation, it is more emotional to see all the wrongs being done, more upsetting, especially because they disagree with it absolutely and – by all counts – fundamentally feel the same way I do: that the occupation is disgusting, unacceptable and a great obstacle to peace.

On Thursday afternoon, there was a terrorist attack in the south of Israel, near Eilat and the Egyptian border. 8 Israelis were killed and, despite Hamas’ statement that the attacks (which it did not carry out) targetted soldiers, the majority of the dead were civilians. Even if they had been soldiers, it would be unacceptable. Most people who live outside of Israel do not realize that the soldiers are people like you and I; army service here is mandatory. And as much as I respect refuseniks, I respect leftists who do their service as much because we need soldiers who hold those values. An army of only right-wing extreme-Zionists would help no one. It is also important to remember that these soldiers are young, often under the age of 22. In retaliation, Israel fired rockets at Gaza because the Israeli intelligence sources found that the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Sinai originated there. I condemn the attacks, I condemn the retaliation, and I condemn the Palestinian response which has been to send over 100 rockets into Israel over the last three days. Continue reading