Yom Kippur in the Holy Land

Yesterday morning I headed off to Jerusalem with Matthew and Floss with the purpose of celebrating Yom Kippur at the Western Wall at sundown. We went early to avoid Qalandia checkpoint being closed. Qalandia is the checkpoint from at the wall dividing Jerusalem and Ramallah. Internationals do not have to get off the bus, but we decided to go the way the Palestinians had to. We lined up in queue, and one by one, every Palestinian that went up to the window was turned away. We had made a friend on the bus:  an old, sweet woman who told us when the next bus was coming and talked to me about how much she hated New York, but loved Chicago. We decided to try and help her out since she had been so helpful. As we saw people get turned away, I said to her “Stay with me. I will say you’re coming with me.”

So every time someone would come back and say “It’s closed,” she would point to me and say “I will go with the American.”  She had her permit with her that she applied and got accepted for today’s date. I was hopeful, as was she. Then our turn came up. We went through together. I showed my passport and she showed her permit and they looked at her and said to go back. I said “No, she’s with me.” So they looked at me and said “You can go. She can’t pass.” Every time I said again she was with me they just said the same thing. Nothing else. I didn’t want to push it in case they told me to go back too. If an American passport and a permit couldn’t get her in, there was nothing else we could do. So she waited for her things to come through the x-ray with a look of defeat on her face. Seeing her face made me want to turn around with her. Why should I get through? I’m sure whatever she had to do in Jerusalem was probably just as important as me praying at the Wall, maybe more. She could have been trying to see family and this was the day the Israelis said she could go. But they lied. The permit was only a way to inconvenience her. She had paid for the bus from Ramallah and waited in line only so they could turn her away at the end of it all. And now she had to go back. I told her I was so, so sorry. I had nothing else to say. I should have given her money for a bus ride back, but I was too angry and shocked to think. I went ahead and waited for Matthew and Floss. I don’t know why I went, but I really wanted to see Jerusalem for this holiday. I felt guilty. We were the only three allowed through in that line.

After that upset, the rest of the day was calm. We went on the Via Dolorosa walk led by the Franciscan Fathers for Matthew and Floss’s sake. It was interesting, but very crowded. And the lead monk unfortunately was not carrying a big cross as he usually does. We followed the walk that Jesus took to the mountain to be crucified. We then went menorah shopping, and I found a beautiful metal one painted with leaves. The shopkeeper gave me 50% off for the holy days! I haggled with him to make it even less because I couldn’t afford it otherwise. So I now have a beautiful menorah to use for the rest of my life. Finally, we had a huge dinner to sustain me through today and we went to the Wall just as the sun was setting. We stumbled upon a service that a man invited us to, and we went for a few minutes, but I didn’t like the way the women were separated and couldn’t see the rabbi most of the time. So we wandered off and onto the ramparts of the old city wall.

We set off at six a.m. this morning because Floss and I had classes. In my class, I was given tea by the headmistress and I took it, but I had to give it to someone else. I didn’t feel like going into an explanation of “I can’t.” Luckily, I have a variety of delicious foods here in Nablus to break my fast with tonight! Kanafeh is definitely on the list.

My classes went better last week. I gave my young adults a test, and as they were waiting for the oral part, Moatisen wrote on the board “Abby good.” I found it after they had all left. It was the first time I felt I was succeeding at reaching students. But their tests were another story. Apparently, even though they did excellent at oral and do well out loud in class, their writing struggles. So I will be having more students writing on the board rather than me. But I dearly love that class. They listen and they are eager to learn.

Here’s to a good week! And L’shana tova to my family and other Jews who read this!


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