Spending Christmas in Jerusalem

Spending Christmas in Jerusalem

Some thoughts on my first Shabbat and week in Israel

       My first week in Israel so far has left me p thunderstruck at the resilience of Jewish people - from reading again stories in the OT, to seeing the lasting effects of 20th century events/crises such as the British Mandate, Holocaust, and the Arab-Israeli conflicts. Despite many bullet holes, bombings and hostile takeovers, a lot has survived in the Old City. (Fig 1, 2) I am glad this is all being preserved, and overall, its v cool to observe and learn about the history of other people.

       I observed my first Shabbat, which was p interesting. In Jewish culture, the Sabbath is on Saturday, so (almost) everything closes Friday afternoon to Saturday evening. According to Littlefield et al. 2017 on Quora, to wish someone "Shabbat Shalom" (Shalom meaning peace, wholeness, completeness) is to wish that the last day of the week alone will be as fulfilling as the first six were together. Though I'm not Jewish, being here has given me a better idea of how Sundays should be spent, and what rituals in my own life I should observe better and more fully.

       Despite being away from home, it was immensely relaxing to "properly" observe Christmas - away from heavy-handed corporate consumerism, but still filled with much gratitude and joy throughout the city. Interestingly, eating Chinese food on Christmas is tradition in Jewish culture, so it all still felt somewhat familiar. I'm glad to still be keeping some rituals here.

Fig 1 - A grafitti mural of Aryeh Levin, drawn by @solomonsouza. Levin was a famous Rabbi during the British Mandate that prayed with prisoners and the sick every Shabbat without any compensation for most of his life. This was the neighborhood he lived in.

Fig 2 - The Western Wall. 1/4 remaining walls of the Temple Mount built after the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple. According to Jewish tradition, this is the closest physical space one can pray to God. People would come with written prayers and put them inside the cracks of the wall to be later buried in the Mount of Olives.

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