|At Petra in Jordan|
I thought Israel would be all cobblestone streets, tiny shops, shouting vendors, stern soldiers with weapons at the ready, and constant danger. That’s the image Americans get from news broadcasts. But on a ten-day sojourn to the embattled Jewish state, what we saw was safe and modern. Of course, we didn’t visit the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. We stayed in the apartment of a friend in a residential section of Jerusalem. When the only images you get of a place are filled with violence, you get a distorted picture. Some relatives still think I lead of life of constance chaos because I’m a New Yorker.
My images of Jerusalem came from the Old City, made of centuries-old structures and surrounded by a massive wall erected by the Ottoman Empire. The first full day we took a walking tour of this section including the Wailing Wall. Several young boys were being Bar Mitzvahed as their families danced from the gates to this epicenter of Jewish faith, surrounded by bearded men in dark coats and hats. One family had hired a band and huge balloon rabbi like a float in the Thanksgiving Day parade. Thousands of scraps of paper were stuffed into the cracks and the women peaked over the partitions as their sons became men.