Whose Land Is It Anyway?
I was talking with one of my friends about my experiences when I returned home, and we ended up hitting a brick wall when I posed this question:
Could Jerusalem be the most important city on the planet?
I guess you would have to consider what makes a city important. In all seriousness, I don’t know if I can label it the most important city, but I know that it is extremely significant to the major three religions. Like, really significant. Like Skywalker Ranch to Star Wars fanatics.
Muhammad prayed to Jerusalem, and the Dome of the Rock is located there today. The city is associated with many of the Prophets of Islam. King Solomon built his temple there, and King Herod did the same 500 years later. It is still the center of Jewish religious activity, and the location of the Western Wall. Jerusalem is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and you can visit both the room where he ate his last meal and the cave which contained his body (Church of the Holy Sepulchre).
View of the Western Wall:
Notice all the women shoved off to one corner of the Wall
With my friend Amir at the Western Wall
Taking a moment to reflect at the Wall
Room where the real Last Supper happened- not the da Vinci painting
There was one afternoon when we went up to a mountaintop in Golan Heights and looked out over Syria and Jordan from a military bunker. Our tour guide asked us to imagine what it would be like to be an Israeli soldier stationed there, knowing that Syrians were trying to flee their country. If you were to see a surge of Syrians crossing the very visible border, you wouldn’t know if they were refugees or military.
Israeli bunkers near the border with Syria
Inside of a bunker
Imagine being a soldier living here for months on end
Entrance to a bunker
Having grown up in a place where the biggest border breaching is Cubans on rafts trying to set one foot on the beaches of Florida, it is really difficult for me to imagine border issues of this sort. We have Canada up north, and Mexico down south, and have relatively strong relationships with both. Israel has so much to lose. It is the size of New Jersey, and is surrounded by enemies. No one questions the right of the United States to exist even though we stole the country from Native Americans; people around the world question whether Israel has the right to exist daily.
Israeli propaganda much?
The Israel on the news and the actual daily life of an Israeli do not match up at all. To be fair, I did drive by a number of bunkers when we were closest to Gaza, but they seemed to be long out of use. I think so much of Israel is significant to so many different people and cultures that a lot of areas have an unspoken safe bubble around them. What group would attack Jerusalem and risk ruining the cherished religious and historical sites there? The borders of Israel are constantly at risk, but within the country there is a sense of normalcy about their situation.
Surrounding cities from the top of Golan Heights
One thing that blew my mind and piqued my curiosity was how Jews could survive the Holocaust, scramble to a new continent, and then only 2 years later fight a civil war against Palestinians and a larger war against 5 large Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq) to build their own country, and win.
Being the history nerd I am, this is something I have been researching quite a bit and will continue to study in the upcoming year to build a deeper understanding. The Arab countries were not as organized and united, while the Israelis were extremely prepared, organized, and motivated. I was surprised to learn they had limited outside help. The US had an arms embargo on Israel from 1947-1962! I am going to buy a stack of books on this subject before I go back to Ecuador in a few weeks so I can become a modern Israeli history genius this year.
Israeli Air Force Museum