I’m sitting on the plane on my way home from Tel Aviv, Israel after visiting one of my besties. Her and her husband travel from Australia every year for 6 weeks to see his family with their 2 year old son. I had a small window of opportunity to pop over and see them - so I took it!
A word with so many connotations, a place with so much controversy, a country I have known about my entire life and never thought I would actually see. Wow, Israel.
Here’s another word - Jerusalem. I went to Jerusalem! I still can’t believe it. It’s all starting to sink in now (on my way back to London). I have just visited a place I had only ever heard about through school, the bible, the news and most recently, through Tenaya (my bestie).
On my first day in Israel, we went to Jerusalem to see the Western Wall. To be honest, I didn’t know much about it, so I did a quick google on the way there. I had no idea that Jerusalem was considered the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Tenaya’s husband told me it’s believed to be the most holy place on earth (to Christians, Jews and Muslims) and people go there to experience the highest level of spiritual connection. The Western Wall is all that’s left of what used to surround a holy temple which was destroyed and rebuilt twice since the Roman era.
It was stinking hot. I saw beggers on the street next to ladies selling kippahs (those little round hats Jewish men wear to pray). I noticed people of all races and religions wandering through the city. Children were playing and sliding down the steps towards the wall, women were pulling out scarfs to cover their head and shoulders. I was asked to cover my shoulders before going through a security check. We had arrived at the Western Wall.
We walked over to a small fountain where large gold cups bobbed and waited to be picked up, filled with water and emptied onto thousands of hands each day. The men were permitted to pray on the left side of the wall only, and women on the right. I noticed the women were walking backwards after they had prayed. Tenaya told me it’s because we’re not supposed to turn our back on the wall.
I stood in front of the wall for a good while before I felt comfortable enough to place my hand on it. I wanted to observe first and get a feel for this brand new environment. Some women were sobbing, others reading aloud from their holy books. There were tiny pieces of folded white paper in the creases of the rock. These were prayers/wishes of hundreds of women from that day.
A space opened up. I placed my palm gently on the smooth yet uneven rock wall. I was overwhelmed. How many people had done this? My insignificance hit me suddenly. Who am I in this world? What is my significance? In the scheme of ALL things - what is it that really matters? What could I possibly ask for, that is on par with the magnitude of what this wall represents? Surely I can’t just ask for something for myself. This is bigger than me.
I won’t tell you what I asked/prayed for but I will tell you this: I had a moment of true clarity. I walked away (backwards) from the wall with a different purpose. Something I always knew I had within me but had never given enough of my energy. I’ve added another layer to who I am and have set a new standard for the person I want to become. I felt happy.
This post isn’t about being a dancer. It’s about being human. If I’ve learnt one thing about travel it’s this: Humanity is what we have in common. No matter where you are in the world, humans are not that different. I was sitting in a bar last night with two Israelis, one American and one Australian. Or you could say, one Atheist, one Christian, one Reform Jew and two Orthodox Jews. We could have been anywhere in the world. Nothing about that bar said “we’re in Israel!”. At the end of the day, we all want the freedom to be able to do what we want. That includes going to a nice bar, sipping cocktails, listening to music, eating good food and enjoying great company! I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy that!? Are these not some of the many things that make us all human?
The thing is - some of us take this for granted, while others have an army literally fighting on their doorstep to protect this right. That’s the difference.
I simply want to make a difference. Do you?