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Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem

(2012-05-03 13:15:32)
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旅游

分类: Israel-Trip

By James Lam


The dawn of Jerusalem is covered with haze and mist, giving it a feeling of mystery. Looking down at the city as it slowly gets brighter, I could see half of the buildings lying on the slope hills of those mountains, all built with those yellowish Jerusalem stone. And at the center of the city, lies the oldest and also the most prestigious part of Israel-----The Old City.

 

My classmates and I, 20 students from Peking University High School International Division, went on a one-week trip to Israel. Our plane arrived at dawn, and on the first morning we headed to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. There, we visited some famous spots inside its old city, for example, the Christian church where the Crucifixion happened and the Wailing Wall (the “closest place to God”) part of the stone platform of the destroyed Second Temple build on Mount Moriah. What we experienced there was a unique emphasis on religion that we are not used to in Beijing.

 

The first thing that surprised me was how this land used to, and now still is, a very diverse community. On the sidewalks of the Old City, I saw people with all kinds of dress styles: people in modern clothing, old men wearing suits and a black kippahs (A tiny hat that some religion followers wear), women wearing headscarves, and people in military uniforms with guns.

 

Our guide, Eitan, explained to us the history of Jerusalem, why it is seen as a sacred place for the Jewish, Christians and Muslims, and all the fighting and struggling that this land witnessed. I was amazed by the conflict religion can create, but also the tolerance it can show. Today, people live harmoniously on this land, in a way reaching a compromise that none would be too aggressive to another.

 

I can especially feel the harmony and tolerance when people are praying before the Wailing Wall. I was approaching the wall when I saw some devout Judaists leaning their heads on the wall and started praying. Though I couldn’t understand their words, I could tell they were absolutely focused on their prayer and weren’t distracted by other people around them at all. They tolerate other’s behavior, because they only focus on their thing.

 

Another thing that interested me was how a slight difference in interpretation could cause a split in a single religion. Our guide told us about two different Jewish branches ----The Karaite Jews and the Rabbinic Jews. The Karaite Jews believed that every ritual they do should follow the exact words of the Torah (the Jewish scripture), but the Rabbinic Jews believed in the Oral Law, meaning that they could interpreted the meaning of the Torah and create their own rules to fit to the changing environment. He gives an interesting example for it, “For the Karaite Jews, the ‘an eye for an eye’ rule, meaning if you hurt another person’s eye, the compensation for him should be to injure your own eye. But for the Rabbinic Jews, they would give the compensation based on the functions an eye has, its value.”

 

I think the Rabbinic way is better for a changing environment, because it can change based on how the environment changes. Although the Karaite way has a good foundation and is easier to execute, the Rabbinic way considers more of the essence of the issue, which is better for the future.

 

In this trip, I had a basic understanding of Jerusalem’s history. I found some parts very intriguing, like the Rabbinic and Karaite conflict. Still, the detail is much more complex than this, but it is the complexity of religion that makes it interesting.  

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