Today began with breakfast from 7:15-8:00 AM. The meal was held right downstairs off the hotel lobby into the restaurant area. When we first arrived last night we were brought fresh fruit baskets to our rooms and were offered orange juice upon entrance. This morning there was a modest buffet of traditional Israeli breakfast foods including soft cheeses, humus, pita (which seems to be part of EVERY meal) egg omelets, and most importantly a coffee machine. I enjoyed cucumbers and carrots as well.
After breakfast an older gentlemen in a striped button-down shirt, blazer, and corduroy pants greeted us in the lobby, ready to take us on a walking tour of the Old City. Our tour guide, Mohammad, started down the street, as we hurried along to keep up. The entire morning was spent walking in and out of streets within the Old City. One of the highlights of the morning was visiting the Western (Wailing) Wall.
This was one of the sites I was most excited for. I wrapped my scarf around my head and sat down in one of the white plastic lawn chairs that were available about 20 feet away from the wall. Sitting there I took out the piece of paper and pen I had packed in anticipation for this moment. I had learned, read about and seen pictures of the Wailing Wall my entire life: throughout religious school and at Westtown and now I was finally there. I sat and wrote a message to G-d, folded it into a tiny piece of hope and stuck it atop one of the wall’s ledges. After that I backed into a table with many Sedors atop. I picked up one and looked through the glossary until I found a prayer I recognized. At this point it didn’t’ really matter what prayer it was but that I stood there reading the Hebrew and praying at one of the most holy sites in the world.
After about ten minutes there I exhaled and said the Shma (spelling?), backing away to continue our tour of the Old City.
We covered so many more sites than just the Wailing Wall but it was by far the holiest and most dear to my heart today.
We ate lunch at a small café/restaurant near the Australian hospice (in which we climbed through up to the roof to look out over the city) where the long table of us shared baba ganoush, humus, (yeah you guessed it: pita), and many more small salads such as cucumber and tomato salad. It was delicious and I enjoyed a strawberry banana juice in a glass bottle.
After lunch we were handed off to Angela, who helps run The Jahalin Association who (on the bus) toured us around an Israeli Settlement. We got out to a lookout over the valley and saw the nice apartment buildings, streets and parks for the Israeli settlers. Angela spoke to us about the history of the area and showed us maps of Then and Now. No more than an hour later we arrived at a Bedouin Refugee Camp.
I have never witnessed such poverty in my life.
First of all, not even 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, was a military controlled desert area. The long, vicious highways cut through the desert sands, slicing through the countryside and small gas stations spotting the desert view. The van we rented slowed down and Angela yelled through the bus microphone to hurry off the van since it was illegal to stop aside the highway. Getting off we jumped over the lining fencing and walked straight into the camp.
Stray cats and children playing line the dirt path that leads us to an open tent where we listen to the camp’s almost leader as he is translated by Angela.
Eid talks about his situation, hopes and specific situations that struck our heartstrings. Throughout the hour conversation his daughter (around 7 years old) happily brings us a large tray of tea. Despite having almost nothing, growing up in tents and being unable to build any true buildings, these people happily shared what little they had.
I could go on and on about all I saw at the camp but it is late and it’s been a long and emotionally tolling day. I took about 2 rolls of film at the Refugee camp and figure once I print and post them (probably in May) the images will speak for themselves.
Tonight as I sit in the lobby aside T. Jon and T. Melissa I lean over and tell her: I know I must return to the camp.
Perhaps I will teach or shoot a photo project. Or better yet maybe someday I will learn Arabic! I don’t know but something inside me changed today after visiting the camp. I have never been more motivated to make a change.
SUNDAY March 3rd 2013
COFFEE INTAKE: 1 cup of regular and a sip of Arabic coffee (not my favorite…)