WUJS Israel
post-college Israel programs

The Old City in Jerusalem.

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Spirits were high as we embarked on our 6th siryur (trip) to the old city of Jerusalem. Two participants had not been there before so everyone was excited for them to visit. This siyur was not your typical tour to the western wall and the underground tunnels. We traveled through the Jewish quarters of the old city to the Christian quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  This is the site where Jesus was crucified and then said to be buried. The church commemorates his death of Jesus and his resurrection.  Christians from all over the world come to visit this site as part of the Christian pilgrimage. We learned why the Christians come here. There are several reasons. When Jesus was killed he was taken to the stone that lies in the church. This is the stone of anointing. He was taken there to be cleansed and washed with oil to prepare for his burial. The oil on the stone is considered to be one of the biggest blessings in the Christian faith. Christians bring tapestries and cloths and even touch their children to the oil that still exist on this stone.

 

Christians believe that this oil can help to heal sick loved ones. Bringing a cloth that has touched the stone to a sick loved one is considered to be one of the biggest blessings one can do for the sick. There were women and men on their hands and knees eager to touch the stone to say a prayer. I was so enamored by this Indian couple that was visiting the stone. They brought their infant, no more than two weeks old, to the church. They removed him from the blanket and laid his head along the stone while they said prayers to bless the child. They also posed and smiled for pictures. From my perspective, it looked like it was the happiest moment in their lives. Relatives of the family looked on and snapped photo after photo.

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 As we turned the corner in the church we stood before the rotunda, the dome that holds Jesus tomb itself. Security guarded the dome while hundreds of people waited to enter to touch and light candles. People crowded close and were pushing and fighting with the security guards because they were trying to bypass the line. I was so interested and took so many pictures. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I am not a very religious person and to encounter and see people where religion takes precedence in their life and controls most of their day-to-day activities was interesting to me. I thought to myself about how these visitors probably saved money for years and years to make their pilgrimage or just receive a blessing for their loved ones. This concept is something so foreign to me.

 

After our visit to the church we took a walk through the Jewish quarters and the shuk. These places were so fascinating and colorful. You could buy foods, shoes, jewelry, beads, tapestries, rugs, decorations, and so much more. My friend and I got harassed by a shop keeper after he realized we were not planning to buy something.  I attempted to bargain with of the shop keepers. I saw this amazing bracelet that I wanted to buy. His asking price was 180 shekels and I got him down to 90.  After I said no, he shooed me away. (Keep in mind the bracelet was worth about 5 dollars which is equivalent to 18 shekels.)

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The same thing happened when I tried on a pair of shoes and decided not to purchase them. The shopkeeper said "go go away, why you do this that's so rude, I can tell in your face when you walk in that you stupid".  The whole scenario was quite comical to my friend. The shop keeper got so angry at us for something so small. They called us unnecessary bad names in Hebrew and were very rude.  Some of the WUJS participants enjoyed themselves so much they stayed longer in the old city, while the rest of us returned home. All-in-all it was another great day in the life of WUJS. More to come!!

By: Lindsey Urell