A large taxi bus took ten of us from the airport in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The Old City. As I looked out the window I saw the city turn to lush, green areas, then back to city. Everything looked different than home, but nothing seemed so shocking. I liked looking out at seeing signs in Arabic and Hebrew, and comparing the architecture to what I’ve seen around the world and at home. We drove for about thirty minutes, and still, nothing seemed that different. I wasn’t feeling the culture shock I imagined I would. I wondered if I was naive or ignorant to assume that Israel would be so drastically different.
As we began to enter Jerusalem, I saw a large group of very traditional Jews. Still, not that different from home. (Closer to Brooklyn than Philadelphia, maybe, but not too odd a sight to see!)
And then I realized they were yelling. Yelling? On the sabbath? I don’t speak Hebrew, so I couldn’t make out most of what was being said.
However, Chip pointed out that some were chanting, “Shabbas,” a reminder that today was God’s day, a day of rest. The Torah says it is forbidden to do any work or create fire, and driving or riding in a car is perceived as both.
By driving through their neighborhood, we were being incredibly disrespectful to them and their beliefs. Our driver didn’t seem to care, with his one goal being to get us to our destination as soon as possible. In my life, I have been taught to respect the ideas and beliefs of others, but never in a way that presented itself so blatantly. As we drove through the crowd of people, they continued to yell, and I got a very uneasy feeling. I felt like I was doing something wrong, essentially telling this group of people that I didn’t respect them. I made eye contact with a young boy as we passed by, and I hoped he could somehow read the guilt I was experiencing.
I look forward to learning more about the religious and cultural beliefs of the people here and on our trip, and I hope we can explore ways to deal with situations like this in the future.