I have learned that timing, timing is everything.
I was preparing for the worst. As our bus pulled into the check point, I started reciting my response in my head for why I wanted to visit Jerusalem. My friends and I handed off our luggage at the security and walked to the first counter that checked our passport. Counter after counter we walked, never once waiting in line, never once having a difficult time. Before we knew it, we were out. Luggage in hand, we stood on the other side of the check point, grinning at each other. “Easy-peasy,” I said and we got into a bus to head to Jerusalem. Good timing, I guess.
In a few short hours, Amman went from silent and calm to angry and loud. The government had released the information that they were raising the price of fuel by 53% while we were crossing the border. Our program cancelled school for the next day and those who were planning to travel for the weekend by car were no longer allowed to travel outside the city. My friends and I looked at each other – what remarkable timing.
The next day, we began with a guided tour of the Old City and saw some of the sights. Honestly, it didn’t even feel like real life running around the Old City’s quarters and coming upon the Dome of the Rock and then the Western Wall. Everything was so close to everything else. When the tour was over, we went back and revisited the places we had breezed over with the tour. It was then that the glamour of seeing the sights started to wear off. As I waited in line to see a possible tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a Holy Disneyland. Everything around me was so overrun with tourists that I felt completely separated from what I was seeing. While it is amazing to be able to say I have now seen these famous artifacts and locations, I can’t help but feel that they have simply become attractions for the masses. I found myself missing the simplicity of standing on the bank of the Jordan River from the Jordanian side.
When we got back to the hostel that evening, I checked the news for more information about Jordan. While there were updates about Jordan, there was something far more significant and pertinent on the front page of BBC news.
The next morning we headed to Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum in Jerusalem) on the tram. At the stop before we were to reach Yad Vashem, a young Israeli man came over and told us, “We have to leave. This is the last stop. They found an unidentified object ahead so the tram will go no further.” With this new knowledge, we set out on foot the rest of the way to Yad Vashem. Ahead we could see there was police tape marking off the area all around the next tram stop. We skirted the area as we headed down to the museum. Great timing.
One particular shop owner came out to greet us as we passed. He was grinning and laughing as he said, “The rockets!! Gaza is firing! Everyone is scared.” I couldn’t understand why he was so happy. This was his home. And then, it hit me. He was proud of Gaza finally making a strong move against Israel, even if it meant the city he was in was at risk. His attitude stated more than anything he could have ever said. I found out later the gunfire was from Palestinians celebrating all throughout Jerusalem. Suddenly I thought about all the Gazans dying less than an hour from me. I thought about the mothers crying for their children. I thought about the hate that saturates the air in this nation. I thought about the reality of a conflict that had driven people to cheer their city getting hit with rockets, the reality that I was suddenly in the middle of. My heart ached and continues to ache.
There is so much pain on both sides. I think too often we get caught up on one side of the conflict. I understand that, I really do. But seeing the faces of both sides makes everything so real. I have noticed in myself that, when I feel very passionately about a subject, I often forget about the credibility of the other side. This trip was very important for me. I saw both sides in a tangible way, and really, it’s devastating. I imagined each of these people growing up. From childhood they are taught a certain way of thinking and living, just like I have been. We, they, just don’t understand each other. And there is much more to learn. No matter what we think about each side, we can agree that this endless violence needs to stop. Needs to stop.
You’ll be glad to learn that on Saturday I arrived back safely across the border. Jordan has calmed down a bit, so getting into the country was not a problem. Although, there are still protests scheduled through out this week. But, to say the least, my weekend was perfectly timed despite terrible timing. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but I really was safe while still being in the thick of it. I feel heavy with the weight of what I have seen and learned, but I know it is crucial to wrestle with this knowledge. We should not be comfortable with what is going on. Our world is so sadly diseased.
While I was in Old Jaffa, I purchased a pocket watch. At the time, I thought it was just a cool accessory to own. But now, I find it so much more significant. It reminds me of this moment in my life where timing was everything. It reminds me every day how time can not be taken for granted. It’s ticking, it’s flying, and it waits for no one. Every second, minute, and hour is a gift. How much time have I wasted on hate and not love? I don’t want to waste another moment. It’s time to start seeing clearly.