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I’m not sure what day it is but my husband and I left Cleveland, Ohio Thursday evening.  We arrived after a 10 hour bus ride to Washington DC for orientation. I was eager to meet everyone embarking on this journey and to discover why they chose to travel to Palestine/Israel. 

Flash forward to our first day in Jerusalem. As we began to enter the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, one police officer stopped and asked if I was Muslim.  When I told him “No,” he said I couldn’t enter. Our guide tried telling him I was part of his tour group, but the police insisted I not enter, so we all had to go to another part of the market.  It reminded me of stories I used to hear about how African-Americans in the Jim Crow South were not allowed to enter some restaurants just because of their skin color.  I’ve been privileged up till now not to have ever experienced this type of discrimination.  I felt I was being put in my place.

Later, on our tour with Grassroots Jerusalem, we came face to face with the separation wall for the first time. There it was towering over us. To actually see the wall of separation brought to reality of the pictures I’ve seen home. 

It was ugly.  Not just physically ugly, but ugly that other human beings would erect a wall to keep another person away from their home land or business.  The barbed wire at the top reminded me of our prisons back home.

Today I woke to the sounds of a couple people screaming in the streets below our hotel room.  Again I felt fear, because I didn’t know what was happening.  I wasn’t sure if someone was being attacked or not.  There was also the sound of prayers, which I presumed was coming from the Mosque further away from our hotel.  I was surprised to hear birds, but must admit, they brought a peaceful feeling to my mind and body. 

As we took a walking tour of Jerusalem, we walked down a narrow street with cars and trucks beeping their horns so they could continue to their destination.  The smell of garbage struck my nose several times, but was quickly overcome by wonderful smells of fresh baked bread, or pastries, or various middle-eastern food being prepared.  The food I’ve had on this trip so far has been overly abundant and very, very tasty. 

Children ran in the streets playing chase of one another, or chasing after a ball they were playing with.  They appeared to be happy, carefree, which surprised me.  I expected to see fear and stress all over their faces.