Just last week, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Jerusalem for the day. Considering Jerusalem is known as one of the oldest and holiest cities in the world, our first stop of the day was the Western Wall. The Western Wall is the only remains of what was once the Great Temple Mount. People from all over the world and of all religions come to the Western Wall to pray since it is one of the holiest sites in the world and a universal center of spirituality. Within seconds of walking through the security checkpoint at the Wall, I felt so much positive energy and connection to my spirituality. Even though I’ve been to the Western Wall countless times, every time I go, it feels like my first.
We walked towards the female section of the Wall and began to pray. In the prayer section, women are supposed to wear modest clothes as a sign of respect. They are expected to cover their shoulders and their legs. Since I forgot to wear a skirt long enough to cover my knees, the women working there gave me a long cover up to wear. I didn’t attend any traditional praying services while I was there, but I did say one small prayer that my grandfather taught me at a young age. I then put a note my grandmother gave me before coming abroad to leave between the cracks on the wall: a tradition that has been adopted by many people. Once we were finished, we walked away from the Western Wall backwards as a sign of religious observance.
Our next stop in Jerusalem was the Dome of the Rock, located on the Islamic side of Jerusalem which sits on the site of the Temple Mount. Because entering the Dome of the Rock is forbidden for non-Muslims, we were only able to admire it from the outside. Even then, it was more magnificent than it looks in pictures. Having studied art history in high school, specifically Islamic art, finally being able to see the Dome of the Rock was a check off of my bucket list.
After visiting the Western Wall and Temple Mount, we went to Mahane Yehuda Market, also called “The Shuk,” a popular marketplace in Jerusalem filled with lots of food, shopping, and people. There’s a great mix between locals and tourists and the atmosphere here really shows the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. At the Shuk, you can find a variety of food from pastries to fruit to classic Israeli cuisine. All of the food is so fresh, high quality, incredibly cheap, and great to take home to eat later. There are also restaurants and bars there which get jam packed at night. Even if you don’t buy anything from the Shuk, walking around is just as enjoyable. We could have easily spent hours at the Shuk just walking around, eating, and talking to the local shop owners.
Our fourth and final stop of the day was to Yad Vashem, a memorial site for the victims of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is filled with pictures, artwork, letters, and other original documents from the Holocaust. The museum starts off with images and videos of Jewish people prior to the Holocaust which gives the viewer a feeling of what life was like for Jews before the tragedy. After moving deeper into the museum, we saw artifacts from the Holocaust including a cattle cart that was used to transport Jews around Eastern Europe. The most unforgettable part of the museum tour was the Children’s Memorial, a tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered. We entered a tunnel which led us into a dark room that was filled with images of hundreds of thousands of children who were killed in the Holocaust. While walking through the room, the names, ages, and birth place of these children were read over a loudspeaker. To see pictures and to hear names in a dark and quiet room really had a deep impact on me and left me speechless.
Kayla Youssian, Study Abroad Correspondent
Kayla Youssian is a junior at Boston University studying advertising with a focus in religion. This semester she is studying abroad in Herzliya, Israel. There, she hopes to explore Israel and learn more about the culture and its history. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, making jewelry, and taking lots of photos and videos.