Jerusalem: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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In retrospect, taking these photos may not have been the brightest of my ideas, since a Jewish guy was shot dead at the Western Wall recently when a security guard thought he was a terrorist after the guy yelled, “Allahu Akbar.” Why a Jewish guy was yelling Allahu Akbar I’m not really sure. I suppose one could ask why I was wearing a Jordanian headscarf as well.

We had to stand around at the Western Wall forever to wait for the wind to cooperate and kick up the flag – even I was a little uncomfortable standing around in that headscarf honestly.

Kiran said as soon as people saw someone wearing an Arabic headscarf, everyone around me cleared out. At least we got a photo of my new Packers Hebrew shirt at the Western Wall.
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Here’s the close-up
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Go Bucky!
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Kiran represented LA (technically I didn’t take this photo until Prague).
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My Hebrew cousin shoutout to Ryan and Andy
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We were in Jerusalem from May 22-27th (obviously we’re way behind on our posts), and I have to say Jerusalem is a great and weird place – complicated is probably the only way to describe it. The Jews and Palestinians fight over things like little children; except, when they get mad, they don’t hit or mope, they kill each other. Without assigning blame regarding the entire Arab-Israeli conflict, I think it’s important to state that 82% of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live in poverty, hence the prayer I placed at the Western/Wailing Wall.
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Unbeknownst to me, Kiran took photos of me placing the prayer in the wall as well (that’s me without the headscarf and Packers t-shirt in the middle). I tried finding room in the wall but those cracks were JAM packed.
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So I had to go high.
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Personally, I think we should return Jerusalem to the UN like it was supposed to be in 1948. If they can’t share Jerusalem, then no one should get it.

Walking around old town, at times, you could feel transported back hundreds or even thousands of years.
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Stumbling through the streets on our first day, we came across spots like:
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And where Jesus needed help from Simon carrying the cross. The dark square on the right is where Jesus is said to have rested himself by leaning up against the wall.
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It’s the fifth station of the cross, and I stole this photo from allaboutjerusalem.com to show it better.
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Speaking of Jesus, we saw where he was crucified (on the right) and where he was temporarily buried (the left)
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This place is now a church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Apparently, Christians have fought over and claimed every little detail in that church. Catholics own some parts, various sects of Protestantism own others, the Greek Orthodox has their share … if light bulb #143 burns out, they actually know who is responsible for changing that bulb, or any other light bulb, or actually any other part of the entire church (tiles, railings, chairs, EVERYTHING).

Who keeps the key you ask? Well, that right was fought over for so long that for hundreds of years now, a Muslim family has kept the key and has opened the church every day for the Christians. Can you believe that? Christians had squabbled like little kids so much so that they have to be babysat by the Muslims.

We took a tour of Mount of Olives, the 3000 year old Jewish cemetery where Absalom and Zechariah, among 150,000 others, are buried.
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Near Mount of Olives is the spot where Catholics say Jesus rose after death. Interestingly, the place is currently a Mosque.
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The rectangle is supposed to be the ‘exact’ spot.
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Looking at the hill from the old city, you see the hill where Jesus was said to have ‘risen.’ The tower to right is where Catholics say he rose. But the tower to the left is where the Russians say he rose. To the left of that out of view is where German Lutherans say he rose. Good God, does everyone need their own space?
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We went to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. As a building that provides a museum experience, I think Yad Vashem ranks right up there with the Guggenheim. The layout and content of the museum was world-class, simply superb. The subject of course breaks your heart.

Photos weren’t allowed, but I felt it my mission to sneak at least one, considering there are still people who claim the Holocaust was a hoax. This is a room with book after book after book of names of those killed in the Holocaust. There are two stories of books filled the names of people murdered in the Holocaust. And I think they continue to add names to this day.
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On the grounds of Yad Vashem also sits the National Cemetery. Here is the grave of Golda Meir
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Perhaps most importantly, Yitzhak Rabin.
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All the former Prime Ministers’ graves are flat and all black, except Rabin’s
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I paid homage by laying a stone on his grave
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And we went to the Israel Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls … great photo, huh?
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But the rest of the Israel Museum is incredible as well, and I gained a greater appreciation of Andy Warhol
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Warhol is an amateur compared to the master of course
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Back in the old city, we learned that if a family member goes to Hajj (pilgrimage in Mecca), Palestinian families decorate and graffiti their front door to announce/brag that someone living there went to pilgrimage. I’m sure our neighbors will love that if Kiran ever goes.
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And we took several pictures of Kiran and the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount.
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The first photo of Kiran was taken atop the Austrian Hospice Hotel. If you’re ever in Jerusalem, just buzz the front door, they’ll let you in, and simply walk up to the rooftop. The Austrians let everyone take in views of Jerusalem from the rooftop. I suppose that’s the least they could do for giving the world Adolf Hitler. Here’s one last view from the rooftop
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And, in the spirit of Jerusalem, I’ll share authorship of this post with Kiran. Turning it over to her:

Scott and I would spend a lot of time just wandering around the market and looking at the colorful shops
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During our normal routine of getting lost in the market, we ended up at a local’s back entrance to the grounds of Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately it was prayer time so Scott was stopped by Israeli guards. Even I had to “prove” to the guards that I was Muslim by reciting a verse from the Quran and answer a few questions.

In case you didn’t know, Dome of the Rock houses the rock that Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven from, making it the third holiest site in Islam. However, it is the holiest site in Judaism because it also houses the foundation stone, the same rock Jews believe is the spiritual junction between heaven and earth. Muslim authorities do not let any non-Muslims in, which is pretty wrong in my opinion. But I understand that a history of squatters and squabbling has led to that decision. Tourists are allowed to visit the outer grounds for a 2hr period during the day. Despite being the core of bitter disputes between the two religions, the building has never been destroyed since it’s construction (around 685). I find that remarkable.

Even though we were hassled by the guards, especially when Scott picked a fight with one of the Muslim gatekeepers when Scott asked who was he to decide who enters God’s house, it was worth it to see the wondrous gold-domed building:
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I met a nice man that took me inside and showed me around. I felt weird taking photos there as usually I never even take my phone with me when I go to pray. But I saw enough women taking photos with their iPhones so I sneaked two that are not very good:
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After taking two photos I felt uncomfortable and just focused on experiencing such an important piece of my religion. The interior is going through a lot of restoration work so I couldn’t see the foundation stone however I was still able to touch the exact place where they believe Prophet Muhammad ascended.

All in all I feel grateful that I was able to visit. However, the experience felt uncomfortable all the time. I thought the nice man was just showing his fellow Muslim an important pilgrimage site, but before we departed he asked for a tour guide tip. Another man tried to get me to buy a skirt for $15 when he clearly had loaner skirts laying around. The looks of disappointment when I said I was Ismaili Muslim (I am Shia and they are mostly Sunnis in Israel) was disheartening and most importantly, I should not be lectured by a complete stranger about my marriage to a non-Muslim. The two guys that did were surprised to hear a woman talk back to him like the way I did!

Well to sum it up, I consider every Muslim a brother and sister and treat them as such initially. But the frequent attempts to squeeze money out of tourists is distracting to those that are trying to experience something deeply religious. Although disappointed by their actions, I was able to get past it and if you can too, you will truly enjoy Jerusalem and all it has to offer.20130710-113515.jpg

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One response to “Jerusalem: Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Serge/Kiran-

    Two thoughts from “77 square miles surrounded by reality”.

    1. Scott, what gives the guard the right? He who has the biggest gun, wins. Should tell you something, my son, my son
    2. Kiran, not knowing your religion and its associated traditions, Pam and I are really proud of you for standing up as a proud Muslim woman!!! You go girl!!!!!

    Papa E and Pam

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