Learning About and Touring the Holy City: Jerusalem and Her Divisions
By: Alejandro B.
Today was bound to be a special one, as the delegation prepared themselves to visit the sacred city of Jerusalem. Rising very early, we boarded the bus to make our way to the Old City in Jerusalem.
Here we are, standing inside the majestic Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in the world after Medina and Mecca for the Islamic faith, accompanied by guides from Pal Vision describing the history and plight of Muslim Palestinians living in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful sight to be able to witness an interfaith group consisting of young people from 10 different countries walking the same streets where prophets and saints from the major monotheistic religions have played out their stories and delivered their messages for thousands of years. As a group of people from different backgrounds and faiths visiting the holiest city in the world, we were bound together in friendship, harmony, and cooperation, with one thing bringing them together and uniting them for the first time: Palestine.
In a hopeful demonstration of what is and can be possible through understanding, tolerance, and unity, the Christian delegates from KTH accompanied their Muslim brothers and sisters in prayer in the Dome of the Rock. In the same way, the Muslim delegates walked with their Christian companions through the Via Dolorosa, following what would be a re-enactment of the path Jesus Christ took on his way to be crucified. The pilgrimage ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, together, we witnessed and prayed at the site where Jesus was believed to have been crucified and at the site of his burial. It was something to behold, seeing this diverse delegation laughing and celebrating life as friends and family while simultaneously mourning together for Palestine, its plight, and its people. Pal Vision, a partner with KTH, organized our whole visit throughout the Old City of Jerusalem as they do every year. Their Executive Director, Rami Nasereddin, did a wonderful job taking us through all the holy sites to learn about the history and current issues that Palestinians deal with.
After a lot of walking and a delicious lunch, we met with Dr. Rami Nasrallah to talk about the expansion of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and Prof. Dr. Imam Mustafa Abu Sway to discuss the theology and history of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Our day in Jerusalem was filled with meeting locals and professionals to visiting historic markets, where many of us had some fun bargaining, which is a true characteristic of Palestinians. We also enjoyed some of the delicious local desserts, like knafeh, harissa and halawa; and some of us even bought cooking utensils to make falafel back home.
Today, the KTH delegates learned an important lesson while coincidentally visiting one of the holiest of cities – it is not a land or city that makes one holy, but your actions and deeds do. It is not Jerusalem, with its holy sites for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, that makes anyone peaceful, but it is up to the individual to learn to live with others in peace and harmony. Our delegation was the perfect example of this today, showing love and respect for one another’s differences, which is something beautiful everyone should aspire to.