Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day oneish. I'm not really sure if yesterday counted.

We spent the morning touring Jerusalem, and what an awesome time it was. Traffic is INSANE and streets are very narrow. If anyone complains about Utah drivers again, they have little credibility in my mind, haha. Oh, good times.
Security is a way of life here. Lots of reminders of that. Military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens, men for three years and women for 18 months to two years, I believe. Don't quote me on those numbers, but I think they are correct. Anyways, every single Israeli male my age that I see here is in uniform and carries an M4 assault rifle. The Israeli Defense Force is everywhere, and well armed everywhere. My age! Whew. I hope they raise them a bit more mature than some of the guys my age I know in the states.
Crime rates in the city are lower than most American cities of equal size, and it strikes me that most crime is stuff like pickpocketing tourists and boys stealing candy more than epic violence. I feel incredibly secure, even though there is tension in everyday life. Perhaps I should live here for more than a few days before I make such assertions as 'tension in everyday life.' Sounds like a plan.
We visited the Old City, a 3/4 mile square that contains most of Ancient Jerusalem, although it has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that it is probably impossible to tell exactly what was exactly where. We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, where most Christian denominations (Catholics, many Eastern Orthodox denominations, and others) believe Christ was killed, laid down, and resurrected. It was pretty incredible, but the tension was there, too. The building itself is owned by six different denominations, Brother Huff told us. Franciscans, Armenians, Easten Orthodox denominations, and I can't remember who else. That makes renovations difficult, and change stops. They came to an agreement a long time ago for the 'status quo,' so nothing is allowed to change in the building, including movement of the ladder that someone might have left on the balcony probably on accident while the deal was being reached, haha. It's been there for more than a hundred and fifty years now, I think Brother Huff said.
There is so much devotion in this city. Every day the Mosques have there calls to prayer (the first is at 4:30 or so. That's a fun time to wake up every morning), you can see Orthodox Jews in full regalia, and Armenian Christians walking through the path that they claim Christ walked with the cross. Already, it's been eye-opening.
The food is great so far. Lots of breads. Not much fruit yet, that hurts.
Just like every tourist area, everyone wants to sell you something, and everyone wants to give you a "deal." Of course they do. "I love the Mormons, twenty percent off, come come!" Everyone knows who we are, and it's pretty cool that they do. The other groups have set a high standard of conduct for us to follow conduct that the locals know and respect. I'll carry the torch.

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