By Sam O.

On Tuesday, July 16th 2019 delegation ascended to The Old City-Jerusalem. Once we passed through the Israeli checkpoint, it was all cheers and a zarghouta or two. Upon entering The Old City, silence fell. Everyone was speechless and in awe. You hear the special vibes the city holds and immediately, you’re engulfed in it. The ancient infrastructure is beautiful, the Palestinian locals are full of love, and the markets are high energy and bustling. Our tour, organized by PalVision, started with a visit to Al Aqsa. It was such an honour to experience such a holy place to all Muslims – let alone the absolute privilege to access restricted areas. Our Muslim delegates were able to pray and reflect in a place that holds immense significance in Islam.

Further on, we explored the majesticity of The Church of The Holy Sepulchre. The significance of this sight is one to behold and our Christian members were able to experience the emotional ambience of Jesus Christ’s final resting place. With prayers made and candles lit, peace was amongst us.

Following our visits to these Holy sites, we had the pleasure of enjoying an incredible lunch at  The Jerusalem Hotel. To our absolute delight, we had some traditional Makloubeh, which was absolute perfection. Once our stomachs were full, we gathered and engaged in a talk with journalist Maral Amin about what it is to be a Palestinian-Jerusalemite today and the struggles imposed upon them. Families of generations dating back centuries now face statelessness as they cannot attain a citizenship and their residency is now in doubt with the new “expiry dates” now shown on their I.D cards. Hearing about these struggles was a confronting and heartbreaking reality that cannot be accepted.

Our next panel changed the tune for us with a discussion about “Palestinians as a Model of Coexistence” at the Notre Dame Center. This conversation was spearheaded (of course) by Sir Rateb himself, with a panel consisting of the heads of various churches: Patriarch Michael Sabah, Archbishop Attalah Hanna, and Imam Yahya Hindi, representing the Greek Orthodox Church, the Catholic church, and the Islamic faith. These religious leaders all projected the messages of acceptance and unity for peoples of all faiths in the face of discrimination in all its forms. It was an inspiring and a beautiful way to conclude our visit to the holiest place on earth.

We enjoyed a light dinner together and tried to absorb a day of heavy information. It was a lot to take in and an integral part of our tour as we engaged with this historic, Holy city that holds the beginnings of so many of our stories.