PBPL 85 in Jerusalem

Today, our class set out to learn about the heart of Israel, Jerusalem and more specifically the Old City of Jerusalem. We awoke and after breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the Old City. On our way, we passed very few people as it was still Shabbat and stores were not yet open for business. To better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was essential that our class get a first hand look at the holy places that lie at the center of the dispute. Throughout the day, we walked through all four quarters; the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter, we stopped to put our wishes in the Western Wall and were stunned at the proximity of the Western Wall to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount, and Dome of the Rock. In the Muslim Quarter, we explored the markets and stopped for lunch at a restaurant to enjoy more hummus, pita and falafel. In the Christian Quarter, the class was able to venture into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and even go to an underground tunnel underneath the Coptic Church. In the tunnel, we tried to convince members of our class to sing, but instead our tour guide played the harmonica for us.

In the afternoon, we went to a site in East Jerusalem called The Indian Hospice. Contrary to my original belief, the Indian Hospice is not a place for sick old people. Instead, the Indian Hospice is a compound that has been owned by the Ansari Family for generations, which welcomes guests from India. We were welcomed into the Indian Hospice by our host Mirna Ansari and taken into a completely spectacular courtyard with orange trees. Mirna showed us around her family’s home and invited us to go down into the underground meditation location (only the bravest or least claustrophobic members of our class went down to explore). Then, Mirna invited us for tea and snacks and let us ask questions. We gained a lot of understanding from our first chance to talk to a Palestinian on the trip and equally as much from the dialogue between Mirna and our Israeli-Jewish tour guide. After leaving the Indian Hospice, we returned back to the hotel and grabbed dinner as the Shabbat ended and restaurants opened (the shawarma was fantastic).