The high holidays in Jerusalem have been so full of activity that I have missed a week in my journaling. It’s times like these: Just as you are ready to process your experiences, you are hit with something else that draws your attention.
So here goes a short update and reflection. Yom Kippur made Jerusalem as quiet as the suburbs- seriously, I could hear the leaves rustle in the park in the center of town during a soft breeze. The city stood still for a day of contemplation and atonement without the usual car horns, shopping, or work. People in white roamed the streets and the kids took over every hill in order to test out the speed of their big wheels and skateboards. I fasted and spent my morning in a Reform service, afternoon in a park, and evening at the Orthodox great synagogue of Jerusalem.
While Israel provided the safe haven for millions of Jews to worship in peace on the holiest day of the year, a shooter in Halle Germany was driven by anti- Jewish white supremecist Ideology to attempt a mass shooting at a synagogue, bomb a gravesite, and kill innocent bystanders. I was met with this reality on my first day back to work when I had to research, fact check, and gather quotes in order to report the devastating news to Stand With Us’ social media following.
Last weekend, I had multiple interesting Jewish experiences like going to a Chabad synagogue where we danced in circles and chanted prayers. It was a joyous take on judaism. The next day, I had lunch at the house of a family who was Haredi or Ultra Orthodox- the people who have side curls and wear funny hats. I heard his answers to questions such as how to make religion relevant to today, and to what extent we can interpret our books and teachings versus taking them as they are. I left with more questions than answers but with a greater respect for people who devote their lives to religion and learning.
That night, Spontaneously, a group of friends and I decided that we would get an airbnb in Haifa, a city in the north, and hang out on the beach. We had a great time on the beach and the next day went to Akko, a beautiful and ancient city where Muslims, Jews and Christians put their differences aside and continue to live together. The skyline of the port town includes a Mosque, Synagogue and Church and represents the face of coexistence in Israel. A highlight of that trip was a beatbox battle I had with a local Muslim kid… he may have shown me up!
Today, there was the Jerusalem March, which draws groups from over 50 countries to Jerusalem in order to express their support for Israel. Groups came dressed in their countries clothing and held their flags while singing or dancing in a march from Gan Sacher to the Old City. Christians and Jews alike of many colors and cultures were effusive in their love, attempting to speak Hebrew in order to connect to the parade watchers. A han Chinese woman wished me a Chag sameach, an Angolan man in a dashiki said shalom, a group from Papua New Guinea sang the Shema. Such a display of multiculturalism and world unity is enough to get me feeling all warm and fuzzy- but multiculturalism and world unity FOR the purpose of supporting Israel… well that’s enough to be a tear jerker.