By Nikki Avershal, OTZMA participant
Over the course of two weeks OTZMA has spent two separate days in Jerusalem. One day was dedicated to discovering Jerusalem as the holy center of the three largest religions in the western world. The second day was dedicated to learning fundamentals about Israeli politics and the current political battles that challenge the broad political spectrum in Jerusalem as well as Israel as a whole.
Often in trips to Israel Jews frequent the Kotel which more than a holy site has come to represent Israel as a national symbol. Less frequently however do Jews visit the sites that are holy to Muslims and Christians. All three of which combined make the city such a center of controversy, importance and historical significance.
With our guide Ariel we began unraveling the layers of history at the Temple Mount in the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock. As we moved through the Arab Quarter towards the Kotel we noticed the similarities between the neighboring streets. “It’s amazing”, said Jenn Perchonok (Houston, TX), “Two worlds, two histories so closely intertwined and at war over so many years over their differences seem so fundamentally similar”.
We spent the middle of our day at the Kotel, our own holy site, a place familiar and enchanting and continued our tour after lunch in the Jewish Quarter.
The Church of the Holy Seplechur is believed by Christians to be the site when Jesus was crucified and where 40 days later he was resurrected. There were hundreds of people lined up to see the various sites within the Church, hundreds waiting in the courtyard, and never a moment that there weren’t people lined up to STONE CHECK THIS.
We finished our day overlooking the place we had spent all day exploring from the top of Har Ha’zeitim, the Mountain of Olives.
Upon our second visit to Jerusalem we had speakers from various fields within Israeli Politics:
We began by learning about the policies and important issues of all of the various political parties currently active in Israel’s multi-party system.
After Rabbi Michael Malchior an Israeli politician and activist spoke with us about the problems facing the current Israeli education system and ways in which he was trying to revise the system by bringing Judaism, not as a religion, but as a set of morals, back into politics by way of “thinking Jewishly, and leading Jewishly”.
The editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post David Horowitz followed, in speaking about the dilemmas facing Israel and the best ways to speak to those who are unfamiliar about the current political situation. He addressed the problems Israel faces in the media as well as the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
Next we met with Rachel Canar, the Director of Development and Overseas Communications for I.R.A.C. the Israel Religious Action Center. Rachel spoke to us about the work of the Religious Action Center, which helps Olim (new Israeli immigrants) and those in need with Legal help and lobbies as a voice for Progressive Judaism in Israel (which encompasses what Americans know as the Reform and Conservative movements).