I’m too tired to write a cohesive blog post, so I’ll just share a few highlights from the past few days.
- During our visit to the Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum, I learned that even prior to the beginning of World War II, Jews were facing discrimination and terrible living conditions. In the Jewish ghettos, young children and senior citizens were expected to live off of 80 calories per day, and everyone else was allocated a mere 300 or so calories. Small children, typically ages 7-9, risked their lives to cross the wall and purchase food for their families. Anyone who was caught would be killed.
- Watching videos of people in the WWII concentration camps was also really difficult. Millions of people were systematically killed, and those who were “lucky” enough to survive actually weren’t that lucky considering their atrocious living situation. I shudder to think that the footage they showed us had already been edited to include only clips acceptable for public showing.
- Our tour guide for the Western Wall Tunnels was a charismatic rabbi originally from Chicago. I really appreciated the energy he put into the tour. I could really tell how much he cared about his culture and religion. As someone who is not particularly religious, I thought his explanation of prayer was quite interesting. He said that praying to God is not like going to an ATM; you can’t expect to ask for something and get it. Rather, praying is more about making the world a better place. As individuals who are part of this world, we have to be willing to make ourselves better people. Everyone is linked to each other in some way; when one person becomes a better human, the entire world benefits.
- The Kfir Brigade had an induction ceremony at the Western Wall today. Many of the soldiers’ families came to support them. It’s interesting how the Israelis see participation in the IDF as a right of passage that ties them all together. Our tour guide mentioned how he saw it as a privilege to serve his country when he was 18. Now that he’s older, he says he can live in normalcy without fearing for his life because of the IDF. Having gone to the Yad Vashem Museum earlier today, I have some understanding of why that is especially important for Israelis.
- Farita got some great deals on grocery shopping in East Jerusalem. She bought an entire goat leg for 190 NIS and a bunch of vegetables for 25 NIS. My diet is quite different (and probably much less cost effective). I bought some fish crackers (18 NIS), instant sahlab powder (15 NIS), a long bagel (5 NIS), and two tiny pastries (2 NIS).
- When we were at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we heard the church bells ringing at the same time as the Islamic call to prayer. I thought the symbolism was quite beautiful: three religions coexisting in the same city.