I apologize for posting this a little late; the last few days have been packed full of learning and exploration, and I never really got around to posting online (I was being lazy). Instead of giving an event-by-event description of our first day in Jerusalem, I'd like to give a more sensory/first-impression account of the city. How to begin describing the old city? For starters, it is surrounded by a wall built by the Ottoman empire. We entered through a gate, a large gate, called Damascus gate, and after passing through its arches, we were immediately confronted with the incredible energy of this bustling, crowded, ancient city. After plunging into the market streets, which twist through the city like arteries, we experienced the colours, smells, and sounds of a deeply entrenched, and what seems ancient, way of life. The stones that make up the roads/paths are slick and polished from countless years of activity; the walls are stained by countless years of work. It is difficult to retain the abundance of experience as we wander these intricate pathways and enter the stone walled buildings. It is even more difficult to try to convey in writing the plurality of feelings and ideas that formed as a result of relating to the city for the first time.
A theme that was striking to me on our first day was how Jerusalem is a poetic city. It has such beautiful people and architecture, and yet there is an undeniable history of animosity. The streets are electric with activity, and two steps to the side one is immersed in the most serene of sanctuaries. Underneath all these occupied buildings are vacant, lost remains of old Jerusalem, much like varying colours of sedimentation in an archaeological dig, except each layer is an ancient civilization. In Jerusalem, there is so much opposition, and that is what makes it beautiful; that is why it is poetic.