ה׳ באייר ה׳תשע״ז (May 1, 2017) Jerusalem 2017: Loving This Complicated City
When I came here two months ago as a 10th grade student from California, I had no idea what to expect from Jerusalem. Fortunately, I fell in love with the city and felt at home instantly. The longer I have been here in Jerusalem, the more I have come to love it and get to know it in all its unique complexity.
I love waking up each morning and looking outside my window to see beautiful hills and unending Jerusalem stone buildings throughout the city. I await the scent of fresh burekas and rugelach from the local bakery as soon as the sun rises. Even though I need to Google Translate my way through some conversations, I feel like I belong here. When I go to the Mahane Yehuda shuk, I bargain my way to cheap purchases like a true Israeli. I love the fact that I can communicate in Hebrew with people from Russia, France, Hungary, and many other countries. There are even times when I’m walking through the city and run into family friends, teachers, or other students I know from America.
On Shabbat, I walk through the streets singing songs with my friends and wishing strangers “Shabbat Shalom.” It feels like the entire city is all doing the same thing together. I adore the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. My Shabbat experience in Jerusalem is different from my experience anywhere else.
In 2017, 50 years after its reunification following the Six Day War, I have come to realize that Jerusalem is in reality both a unified and divided city. I am reminded of its unity when I sometimes hear the Muslim call to prayer and church bells ringing as I pray at the Kotel in the Old City. The sight of Jerusalem stone throughout the capital is a physical indication of how the city stands united.
However, while Jews and Arabs coexist in the city on daily basis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still constantly in the background. Even though Jews and Arabs get along generally well, there is still a lot of intolerance and friction between them. For example, there are some neighborhoods I can’t go into because it isn’t safe for me as a Jew. On TRY, we aren’t allowed to take public transportation for security reasons, and we must have a guard with our group whenever we take a trip.
Surprisingly, there is even disunity between the different types of Jews in the city. I feel the eyes of many people on me when I’m not wearing a skirt to my ankles at the Kotel, or when I lead Shacharit in public. Many of the TRYers went to Women of the Wall, where women led their own Shacharit service at the Kotel. Instead of letting us pray in peace, hecklers screamed at us and told us to leave.
Jerusalem is far from perfect. But something doesn’t have to be perfect for you to love it. My whole life I’ve been taught that Jerusalem is my home away from home, but I never truly felt it until now.