When Gabriel brought up the idea of going to Israel on this trip I got super excited. I’ve been a few times before and was very enthusiastic about returning for the unlimited amount of hummus and Jews. Gabriel, who has traveled all over the world, had been saving Israel for the perfect opportunity. Now that he had a miniature sized Jew in tow, the trip was a go!
My original plan while in Jerusalem, was to spend my days casually roaming through the markets, eating everything in sight, and reading on the roof top terrace of our hostel while Gabriel, Pascal, and Sylviane took tours through the old city. Since I had just done the Birthright trip a few years prior, I didn’t feel the need to do any more toured trips around the area.
I should have known better. The next thing I knew I had been booked on the “Holy City” tour. I’m not convinced that I ever actually said yes to doing this, so as far as I was concerned I had been kidnapped by three Catholics.
I awoke the morning of the tour (my second day of the trip) after only having slept a total of 3 hours due to jet lag (this would make a total of 6 hours slept in the last 72 hours). I felt wrecked. I tried to make really pathetic whimpering noises in order to get out of it. No such luck.
When we met up with the group I quickly realized I was the only Jewish person out of 30 people. We were in Israel for Chrissakes! Where were all the Jews?!? Well, at least I knew for sure the guide was a Jew. His name was Adam Cohen and I was positively certain he had a yarmulke under his baseball cap. I stayed very close to Adam, feeling it would be best if we stuck together on this one. He didn’t say so, but I knew he felt the same way.
We started our tour in the Jewish quarter. While Adam poured his knowledge upon the group, I nodded enthusiastically along with his words, pretending like I obviously already knew all of this (false). When Gabriel, Sylviane, or Pascal would ask me a question about Judaism, I answered them as any proud Jew in Israel would: I made something up. Unless you ask me how to make matzo ball soup from the pre-made packaged box or what lox is, I won’t know the answer.
However, the Jewish portion of the trip was quick and before I knew it we were pulling into the Muslim quarter. I immediately ditched Adam, covertly covered my nose, and whenever Gabriel started to speak in French with his siblings I made sure to throw in some very enthusiastic “Oui’s.”
We finished off the tour in the Christian quarter doing a quick walk through of Jesus’ last steps (this was not included in my Birthright trip.) There was a deep indentation on one of the walls that Jesus supposedly touched. Adam said the indentation was from millions of people touching that same spot over time. Cue the oohs and aahs. All I could think was “holy germs, I hope people have hand sanitizer on them!”
5 hours of walking later we are standing in front of the Holy Church of something. I’m beyond exhausted and severely dehydrated. I’d stopped paying attention to Adam and started to daydream about how much I wanted a bed, air conditioning, and bowl of hummus when apparently my knees gave out and Gabriel caught me mid-fall. We found a bench to sit on inside of the church to get me out of the sun and heat. Here is a picture showing the depth of my feelings.
The day was very informative, filled with fascinating history, and a great opportunity to see how all these religions and traditions intermingle in one small area. Ultimately, the most important lesson I learned from the day: I need to work on my whining abilities in order to get out of things.
Gabriel’s Comments: Apart from Julia fainting outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (why can’t they call it Holy Tomb so we all know what they’re talking about without Googling and how to spell it??), which the faithful waiting reverently in line clearly thought was Julia overcome with excess religiosity (which I’ve been teasing her about since), my favorite moment was Julia whispering to me in the church that all the monks were glaring at her because they knew she was Jewish. I told her that was nonsense and that they were simply noticing that she was strutting around half naked, and that I’d been ogling her too.
Julia’s Response: I was NOT half naked. I had long pants and a tank top on. I would have happily put on my long sleeve shirt had Adam told us to, but he didn’t warn us!! Anyways, if you want to talk about “half naked” talk to your sister who walked around the holy city in a tank top and the tiniest little shorts I’ve ever seen. I have head bands bigger than those shorts.
Sylviane’s Response: Wait, I thought we’d agreed never to discuss this again! It was hot! I didn’t knoooooow!