Never thought I would be in Israel for spring break… but here I am! I’m taking a journalism trip hosted by the Jerusalem Press Club, with 14 of my classmates from the Newhouse school.
Our itinerary stops in almost all corners of the country and immerses us in various aspects of society – political, religious, cultural. We hope to learn as much as we can about this place and culture, and also about political reporting in the Middle East.
Our first day was a bit heavy because we got started right away with a tour of the Old City… Nothing says ‘Welcome to Jerusalem’ like literally seeing Jesus’s tomb.
We visited three out of the four quarters, the four being Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian.
The day started with Temple Mount — a unique experience because access is restricted. Non-Muslims are only allowed up at certain times of the day.
We also went to the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.
Next stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is shared by six different denominations of Christianity. It’s a significant site because it’s said to be the place of crucification and Jesus’ tomb.
I think one of the most fascinating parts of this city is that all of these important sites are all a short walk away from each other. And of course how the significance of one place can be interpreted differently by people.
While there are other historically rich places in the word, our tour guide Maayan Leshem said Jerusalem is special because it’s “still happening.” It’s not ‘done,’ it’s not ‘in the past.’ He said this is just a chapter in a book – a book that has three different endings (based on the three major religions). This shed a lot of light on local existence and why this land is so disputed.
“This city has a history and a future,’ Leshem said. “There are clear visions of what it’s supposed to look like.”
We discussed a lot more in our tour, but this is the brief overview. I tried to do as much research as I could before I left for this trip, but the complexities and nuances of this city are simply unbelievable. In just one day, I learned so much about the history of this city and the current political tensions. And there’s still so much to discover.