A couple of days ago, we visited the ancient city of Jerusalem.
To kick the day off we went to Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. On the way there (because I’m cynical like that) I remember thinking, “Well, I’m not sure what’s so special about a zoo…”
Except as the zoo director told us, “Jerusalem is complicated.”
The zoo in Jerusalem is special because it’s pretty much the only place in the city where the whole population – Muslim, Jew, Christian – can come together in one place. Many cultural attractions are off-limits to the Orthodox Jews because of religious doctrine, which forbids them from praising anything other than God’s creations.
What I’m beginning to realise is that Israel as a whole is complicated. Far more complicated than I imagined before I came here – you expect to see uneasy divides between the Jews and the Muslims here, but what we’ve learned is that there are a hundred different interpretations of Judaism – while one Jewish friend sits and eats with us, another will sit but not eat because the restaurant doesn’t have the right level of kosher approval. Another friend can’t come into the restaurant.
We’re being hosted by a non-political organisation but everything is political here. We drive into Jerusalem past a tent outside the Prime Minister’s house that’s occupied by an Israeli family. They have lived in that tent for five years, providing the politician’s with a daily reminder of their son, who was kidnapped on the West Bank when he was 19.
When we tour Jerusalem, we stand on the roof of the building where Christians believe Jesus ate his last supper – in the distance are houses and towers – and an incongruous grey fence snaking through the desert, splitting communities in two.
Reminders of the fact that Israel is divided – inside and out – are all around us.
We are seeing so much, meeting so many people, discovering so many new ideas that I can’t blog about it quite yet. It’s something I need to absorb, and think about – because I want to do justice to the truly AMAZING things we’re being shown every day and night. Oh, and the food. The food is out of this world. Or 'end of the world' as the Israelis would say.
Today I'm especially wiped out as last night was White Night – a festival invented for no reason other than the fact that people wanted an excuse to stay up all night and party. There were concerts all over the city, the shops were open in the mall at 2am, kids were breakdancing in the streets and it was all quite, quite mad.
So for now I will just leave you with a few pictures of our day yesterday – this will give you an idea of just how much we're seeing and why my head is kinda spinning right now.