A Travellerspoint blog

Israel Day 8

39 °F

This morning we woke up a little earlier than planned to do another thing that wasn’t originally on our agenda: visiting the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock. Our tour guide is really excellent, and advocated to Passages on our behalf to be able to go. I’m a strong believer that it’s important to see all different traditions, because, as Shai says, a lack of cultural communication and exchange can lead to fear and hatred. Only Muslims are allowed inside the temple itself, but we were able to walk on the grounds and take pictures of the area. Fully armed Israeli soldiers patrolled the area and followed observant Jews around to maintain the status quo and prevent religious desecration of the place. It’s odd how normal AK-47s feel now. Heavily armed military presence is just a part of life here.

The next thing we visited was the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. This is the nation’s holocaust memorial. I don’t think that words are enough to describe this place. Nothing I can say or write will ever be enough. Walking through names, faces, shoes, and scale models was like stepping into one of the most vile periods of human history. I felt a foreign mixture of horror, sadness, fear, and a quiet shame for the humanity running through my blood. I wonder how the Jews in Jerusalem, many of whom honor God very sincerely, reconcile their devotion with this trail of blood.

Immediately after the guided tour of the museum Shai took us to a community memorial behind the site that listed the names of every community subjugated under and eliminated by the Nazis. The memorial is massive, and the giant building blocks are designed to make you feel small. Shai stood in front of us and very candidly told us about his experience of the Holocaust. His grandmother survived the tragedy, and she was marked with a tattoo of her assigned number in a death camp. Shai tattooed her number on his arm to keep her memory, as well as the memory of the holocaust in general, alive.

We had a few minutes of time on the bus to process this mind altering, traumatic experience before needing to push it aside for our trip to the Israeli Supreme Court. As someone studying international relations, it was really fascinating to learn more about how the judicial system works in Israel. We learned that Israel doesn’t have a constitution or trial system, but rather a panel of rotating judges and a series of established laws. Coming from the states, it’s difficult for me to imagine what this looks like. I hope to return here someday to study and observe a trial in action.

We ended our day with two speaking events and a worship night to commemorate our time in Israel. I hate saying that time “flies by” because it’s said much too often and makes the time feel less meaningful, but our first day feels like years ago and minutes ago all at the same time. It was kind of surreal to hear the speakers and know that they were some of the last we would hear from.

The first speaker group was a pañal of Israeli soldiers from the IDF (Israeli defense force). On the panel was a 26 year old fighter pilot, an infantry soldier, and a bad-ass lady doing a specific kind of special force in the combat sector. Apparently she is the first female to serve in her particular unit, which is really cool and inspiring. Because most Israelis are conscripted into the military at age 18, most soldiers are our age. It’s odd to think about what my life would be like if I had grown up here and been called to serve in the army. Honestly, I think I would have risen to the occasion.

Tomorrow is our last full day of adventuring in Israel. I’m going to really miss this place. I want to make a commitment to keep traveling with purpose and exploring new things, and I think this was an amazing way to get started. I’m so honored to have been chosen for this group.

More sappiness tomorrow I’m sure!


Posted by emschroen 11:38 Archived in Israel

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