I cannot believe how quickly interim is going! Last year's January term felt like it took forever, and this one is just flying by!! I think a lot of this has to do with how incredibly busy we have been - I actually ran into some students from St. Olaf tonight in an elevator in Amman (classic Northfield) and they seemed amazed that we have gotten "around the block" in the Middle East.
We started our trip in the Old City of Jerusalem and I already want to go back. I fell in love with the incredible "skyline" from our hotel, to hearing the Call to Prayer during the day, to the bustling market, and to all the rich culture within the area. I was able to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which has the supposed site of Jesus' tomb and the rock where he was crucified), to walk the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross), and to have a Shabbat dinner with local Jewish families.
We then stayed in East Jerusalem and spent a fair amount of time between the border of the West Bank and Israel. It amazes me how separate these two communities are - Palestinians are literally not allowed to cross the border into Israel (unless they have permission which is super difficult to get). The same goes the other way - Israelis are not allowed into Area A of the West Bank, which is entirely controlled by Palestinians. We were able to hear both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on this issue, and I feel like I understand the politics behind it a lot more now. (That being said, I also think it's gotten a lot more complicated and confusing).
I think my favorite day thus far was when we climbed Masada to see one of King Herod the Great's many fortresses. We hiked up the mountain and then spent most of the afternoon looking at the ancient ruins. King Herod was a crazy guy -- I can't get over how much stuff he built in this area!! We also spent some time in Jericho, Nazareth, Tiberias, and at the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. Yesterday we crossed the border into Jordan and have a lot left to cover in the next 7 days!!
I hope to write about my trip in more detail once I return home and am not blogging from my phone. You can always read our class blog for more info.