A new hope.
An ancient city, yet a truly modern one. People who love tradition and love technology, people who seek freedom and peace, alongside people angered and bitter over years of hostility. Welcome to Jerusalem. The city walls are 500 years old, the stones are older, and plumbers require an archeologist for all their work. This is Jerusalem. It is difficult to describe this city and my experience, since it is so complex. Some Christians say the second they got off the plane they felt God’s presence like they have never felt it before. I am a Christian and I didn’t feel that way. I feel God with me everywhere I am, and not because I’m in a certain place. I observe, ask questions and interact with as many people as I can when I travel.
The people who live in Jerusalem have a character about them that is unmatched in many parts of the world. Growing up in Canada, I can say that I rarely encounter such character in a community of people.
Unity and division is a good way to describe the feeling in Jerusalem. If I was to be succinct.
I feel the need to write about an certain experience that I had while in Jerusalem. This is not my ‘normal’ travel article.
I will never forget one evening in Jerusalem I went out for dinner with my dad and a retired couple from our Tour group. We chose a restaurant within walking distance to our hotel that had a lovely view of the old city from the window. As we were eating, I noticed that down a little hill was a small gathering of people. When I saw picnic blankets and people, being a curious person, I was intrigued (also, I love picnics). After dinner, we walked down the hill towards the gathering in order to inquire what was happening. I saw one group of people, all ages, sitting in a circle, on picnic blankets, each person holding a piece of paper in their hands. The leader of the group was explaining to everyone how to sing a song. The people were then echoing what the leader was saying. Some were laughing as they tried to pronounce words they found difficult. In another area were two short rows of chairs, facing a small, stage area. Dancers on the make shift stage had finished a short performance. The feeling was casual, friendly, and informal. I approached a table, and asked the women sitting behind it, ‘What is this? What is happening?’. She replied, “Oh, we are Jews and Palestinians, and we gather to learn about each other’s culture. So we can understand each other and live in peace”.
Such a feeling of hope swept over me in that moment that I almost burst into tears. They were taking donations of money, and I felt like giving them all I had to support their cause. I gave them 20NIS. I felt it wasn’t enough. The women looked truly grateful when she saw what I gave.
In Israel their word for hello is “Shalom”. It means peace. That evening I saw citizens of the most fought over city on Earth, actively working towards living in peace with their neighbours. Neighbours who have leaders planning attacks on each other. And counter attacks. Yet the citizens just want peace. Peace and understanding and unity, in a country they all love.