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Crash Course in Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem

March 19, 2015

by Janaan Hashim
Originally published on October 1, 2010 by Sound Vision
My first experience in Jerusalam focused on the Old City, al Quds, as we say in Arabic. I wondered through the streets, occasionally asking in Arabic directions to the Dome of the Rock Mosque, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of al Quds along the way.
After giving my name, passport number and affirmation of my faith to an Israeli solder at the mosque’s enterance, I then recited from the Quran to another sentry to prove that, yes, indeed, I am Muslim.  I then turned, and froze upon seeing the mosque for the first time, naturally framing itself within the arch of its courtyard enterance, almost saying, “Welcome, Janaan.  Come, I am listening.”
I removed myself from the world and drowned myself into supplication, always falling back onto prayer of bringing peace among the people of the Holy Land.  Jerusalem is home to Islam’s third holiest site, an area that encompasses a special aura and feel that extends beyond the walls of the round mosque.  There was serenity.  There was tranquility.  There was a humble connection to the sacred.
Walking back through the ancient streets, I didn’t feel like a stranger strolling from the Muslim Quarter into the Aremenian and then Christian Quarters.  People were going about their business: making purchases, laughing, cleaning, stocking inventory, laying out freshly baked goods and eating lucious fruit.  It was like any other place of commerce.
As a place of worship, it was also like any place in the U.S.  The call to the Muslim prayer at sunset took worshipers toward the mosque while at the same time, a steady flow of Jews entered al Quds for Sukkot.  There was no in-fighting, pushing, shoving between the people of different faiths as they approached to their respective areas of worship.  Each went about their own business.  “Peace can work,” I told myself, “It will so long as we all act like this: respecting each other and giving each other the space we need to make our supplications, to worship, and to live life without humiliation.”
Today, we received the crash course on the political history of Israel, Palestine and Jerusalem.  Reality set in of the long path that lay ahead as I absorbed the firsthand experiences of heroic women, learned of the interferences toward dialogue and collaboration, read the expressions of frustration and anger on the Separation Wall and saw settlements on land despite an agreement to do otherwise.  Nonetheless, I remain hopeful, if only because of that precious first experience in al Quds that is seared into my memory, peace can work in the Holy Land…with God’s help and hard work, it will.
Published with the author’s permission.