‘Twas the night before the trip and all three Bertolucci-Cuppari ladies anxiously awaited any news on the state of Jerusalem…
My mom, aunt, and I successfully made it through three/four days of vacation together (although I have to admit they were away in Petra and Wadi Rum for two – hello homework days) when we finally embarked on our big adventure: going to Jerusalem. For those of you that don’t follow the news, the state in Jerusalem and all of the contentious areas in Palestine/Israel is not good; tens of people have been killed (Palestinian and Israeli alike), tensions are mounting, and at least in Jordan there is talk of a third “Intifada.” And, if there’s one thing I have been learned throughout the semester and in particular during these three days in Jerusalem, it’s that there is no one completely correct side. It seems like religion has become an insurmountable ideology and although Muslims, Christians, and Jews have an interlocked history and coexist in many parts of the world, in Jerusalem the friction is palpable. I have never been somewhere in which the shops close at seven…
But let’s leave the politics aside. Jerusalem was absolutely stunning in every way. The first day was a little bit worrisome; as we left Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, we heard shots being fired somewhere, and then we saw a few people with surgical masks on walking/running away from the street we turned into (my aunt’s friend and our tour guide was great though and we didn’t see any problems!). Later in the evening, we walked into a crowd outside of Damascus Gate and later found out that a Palestinian had been shot and killed only an hour or so earlier. Fortunately that was as close as we got to trouble, however, and the rest of the trip went smoothly. In Bethlehem, we saw the Nativity and realized that doors do not get much smaller than in the Holy Land.
We wrapped up the night with lots of pomegranate juice (highly recommend) and a quick trip to the Holy Sepulcher, where we even saw the closing ceremonies. They lock in a representative from each faith that shares the Sepulcher and give the “keys” (still not sure if it locks) to a Muslim, so that each faith can trust that their corner of the church is being preserved and they all depend equally on a third party. What a microcosm of international diplomacy.
The next day, we spent HOURS walking all the way from the top of the Mount of Olives down to the walls of Jerusalem and then through the Old City – from the Armenian Quarter, to the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall, to the Via Dolorosa which is where the Stations of the Cross took place. Despite the izmat (problems) in Jerusalem, the city was filled with tourists and we heard tons of Italian, Spanish, and Armenian being spoken throughout. Probably one of my favorite spots was Gethsemmane which is the garden of olive trees where tradition holds that Jesus was betrayed. There’s olive trees that are perhaps from the time of Jesus himself. I promise I’m not making that up – they also seriously do look ancient. Although the walk wasn’t exactly a piece of cake – the Mount to Jerusalem was downhill but also super slippery – we were rewarded with the rare opportunity to visit the Orthodox Church on the path. They’re only open for 2 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we just happened to pass by at the right time. And did I mention the view was fantastic? You can see the eastern (?) side of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock and the top of Al-Aqsa Mosque peeking through.
Later that night, we walked around for a few hours, seeing how there’s several completely different populations living within half of a kilometer from each other, and learned about the Stations and saw where they happened. There’s also a ton of groups that walk the Stations each day, chanting and praying along the way – a beautiful witness to their faith. Oh! And I can’t forget the site of the original Our Father; the area has been transformed into this fantastic garden with tiles with the Our Father in over 150 languages. And by languages, I also mean dialects. I think Italy has two or three alone – shout out to Calabria! It was originally created by a French religious order and, in fact, the names of all of the languages are in French. Scratch the Mt. of Olives…this was definitely my favorite spot. Seeing each of the languages, added at a different time, was such a cool display of harmony in such a tense spot.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to the Dome of the Rock or see the courtyard/square where Al-Aqsa Mosque is. On the other hand, we saw so many things over the course of our three days (I didn’t even mention the sites where the cross was laid, Jesus’ tomb, Mary’s birthplace, the rock where Jesus was laid…), that I don’t mind leaving something to visit for when I go back inshahallah.
And, once again, I can’t say enough thank yous to my mom and my aunt for coming. It was the first (hopefully not last!) trip we took just us three ladies, and it was such a fun time.
P.S. we also visited Jerash yesterday, and who knew I would find a little piece of Italy in Jordan?? Gotta love the Roman Empire