Israel: Israeli diverse!
The first thing I noticed about Israel is its diversity. A nation of immigrants, Israel is home to people from all over the world. Even through the country seems to be split into two religious and ethnic groups, 80% Jewish and 20% Arab, the nation is actually very multi-faceted, drawing peoples from all over the world. Each religious population however, is governed according to the religious laws of their own persuasion. For example, Jews by Talmud, Muslims by Sharia and so on. So if a Muslim and Jew want to get married they must go elsewhere (i.e. Cyprus) to get legally do so.
We visited the Old City of Jerusalem, which is holy to all three Abrahamic religions, further demonstrating the fundamental, important, and omnipresent diversity of the nation. This historic city houses the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is very important to Jews because of the Western Wall, since it was originally built to hold the Second Temple. The wall was captured and returned to Jewish access in 1967 by Israel after a 19-year gap under control of the Jordanians. The Temple Mount is where Jew’s believe the third and final temple shall be built.
Secondly, Christians find the city very important and holy because it is thought to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion along with the symbolic grave of Jesus, and the Calgary rock all inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Christian area is really run by the Greek Othodox even though there are four sections, the most elaborate and fancy section, the Greek Orthodox itself, Catholic, Ethiopian, and Armenian. The holiest sight of the Protestant and Lutheran churches is not here.
Thirdly, this city is holy to the Muslim Arabs because it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque where it is believed that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to this mosque during the Night Journey. It is so cool that all these historical and religious significant sights are all together in such a small space, but unfortunately that close proximity is the reason for conflict over such a powerful and spiritual land. This conflict arises from the fact that all religions want a piece of the Old City and want the right to pray and hold their own religious and historical sights holy.
We were visiting during the ground invasion of Gaza, which raises the larger question of occupation. Some people view it as necessary to the long-term security of the country and others view it as a detriment. I felt like I left with more questions than answers, yet I do feel that, of course, the loss of civilian life is a very unfortunate consequence to this heated conflict.
Even though Israel is technically in the Middle East, its cuisine is still very much a Mediterranean cuisine like other countries that surround this calm and fabulous sea. Lots of items like olives and cucumbers were frequent occurrences in our food. The food was super tasty!
Overall, I really loved the modern architecture of the cities, the beautiful Jerusalem limestone, the kind people, and being able to visit and explore a nation where so many diverse people and my friends especially call their homeland.