AHHH! Just got to my first blog entry today. Sorry for the delay Westtown! Anyway the 10 1/2 hour flight yesterday ran relatively smoothly. Sleep came in fits and bursts, but I still managed 5-6 hours on the cramped plane. When we stepped off the plane into Tel Aviv the first thing that struck me was the different culture. I was surrounded by Hebrew everywhere I turned. In other countries that I have visited there is usually a language spoken that sounds relatively familiar, but Hebrew is completely different in its written form and guttural essence. Anyway, we all managed to grab our luggage, pass through customs, and get on the bus with relative ease. That night for dinner we were invited to Remi and Orna’s, T.Melissa’s friends. The food was AMAZING. Everything was fresh. From the pita, to the cucumbers, to the tomatoes it was all magnificent. And then to top it all off was the best humus I’ve ever had in my life. After dinner we discussed the conflict a little and learned some of the “Jewish” side of it all. The most interesting part of the discussion was when our Arab bus driver chimed in and had a small disagreement with what Remi was saying. Remi and the driver got into a little bit of a spat and it was the first time that I could see the conflict playing out right in front of my very eyes. That night we checked into our hotel and I couldn’t believe it, but I managed to get a restful night’s sleep.
Today we toured Old Jerusalem and met with a man named Jeff Halper. In the beginning of the day the most striking thing for me was when we were walking along the Via Dolorosa and seeing groups of tourists carrying fake, giant crosses down the same path that Jesus walked. There were usually four of them carrying the cross while their group followed and some one would lead in the front reading the bible out loud. It came across to me as an almost extreme way to show faith in your religion and it just wasn’t something I was expecting or accustomed to coming from the States. We also saw the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock, which were some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. The blue and gold of the Dome of the Rock made it stick out from the mostly tan/white hue of Jerusalem. The second half of our day we met with a man named Jeff Halper and learned all about Palestinian house demolition. We then took a tour of East Jerusalem and that was the first part of the trip that has really provoked emotions from me. It’s impossible for me to put into words what I saw and what those things meant. Touring East Jerusalem and seeing the Palestinian desolation in comparison to the Israeli luxury was sickening. One moment we would be in a Palestinian neighborhood and there would be trash everywhere, run down buildings, demolished houses, people begging, and a slew of other awful things. Then we would turn a corner and be in one of the wealthiest Jewish settlements. There were pools, clean streets, working lights,etc. What struck me most was the water. There were Palestinians down the street who barely had enough water to get by let alone thrive, and then there were Israelis who were flocking to pools and abusing their luxuries. It just didn’t seem right. I’ve got to give the computer off now because my fellow bloggers are getting impatient, but I’m eager to see what else this place has to show me.