This past week has been one of the most difficult weeks abroad. After coming back from Egypt, I was so physically and emotionally tired that I got a fever and pounding migraine that lasted two days. I think my body knew that I needed a mental rest day to myself. I also have been struggling to find an internship this summer. I not only got a couple rejections this past week, but was stood up for a phone interview and later told that I was passed on an interview because it would be too difficult to coordinate something while I was abroad.
I had originally planned to go to Israel this weekend, but after last week’s attacks and the just terrible events, I did not feel up for it. Weirdly on Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours before we were leaving, I changed my mind and within 20 minutes booked a hostel and decided I was going.
The Jordanian-Israeli border crossing was an experience in itself. We spent a total of four hours at the border and a total of six hours traveling to get to Israel. Let me put this into context, the distance between Chicago and Champaign-Urbana where I go to college is farther than Amman to Jerusalem, and that drive takes me two and a half hours. I felt like I was being herded around like cattle, but the people were generally fantastic. I am a firm believer that kindness and a simple thank you (and a smile) ca get you far in life. This is why I love TSA, the DMV and Post Office If you come into a place thinking it is terrible, it will be.
After arriving to Jerusalem, we had some issues with our hostel. They overbooked us and we ended spending the night on couches in the kitchen. We were out Thursday night for Purim which was absolutely insane. The only way I describe it is the Jewish Mardi Gras Halloween. The streets were flooded, the alcohol was flowing and the party was on everywhere you could look. We met the loveliest group of Israelis who took us under their wings and made sure we had a good time. My friend and I were kicked out of a dance circle area because we were women… and our other friend was kicked out for not wearing a Yamaka. It was honestly the most obnoxious I have ever been in public. In addition it was daylight savings that night which was a funny little surprise when we woke up.
Good Friday was spent on a tour of the Old City where we retraced Jesus’ steps before death at about the same time he went himself. We visited and saw some of the places where he fell, met with important people and then ended the tour at the church where he ended up dying. I even got to touch the stone where his body was cleaned and saw his tomb. I then saw the Western Wall and even wrote a note to put into the wall! But the entire time, I was overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt for being privileged enough to be able to even as someone who neither identifies as religious or Christian.
Saturday was spent traveling into Ramallah, Palestine and seeing life on the other side of the wall. It was the most visceral, humbling and heartbreaking experience I have ever had. I had some issues at the border and have never understood something on an emotional level than before. It is so interesting whenever I experience things that I have spent so much time studying in text books… Which makes me think about all the “activism” that goes on in the world. Yes, it is fantastic that we are raising awareness and educating people, but at the end of the day the only true impact one can make is on the ground. Which makes me even more upset at social media activists who are comfortable expressing their thoughts and complaints online, but take no action. Actions are louder and strong than words. That is what creates change.
Finally on Sunday, I attended Mass with some friends who were gracious enough to also explain everything that was going onto me. It was definitely much shorter than I remember growing up. Plus this time around, I was able to whip out my sight singing and sign along to the Hymns.
Honestly, going to Israel and Palestine like locals do via bus and taxi from Jordan is a must do for anyone who wants to understand the conflict in the Levant.