I accidentally went into a men-only pool: Israel, Day 7

Turns out the hotel pool has separate hours for men and women.

I did not know this when I went in.

Finding this out when I tried to go again the next day explained a lot about my first visit. Embarrassing myself apparently comes naturally, no matter what country I’m in.

We spent all of yesterday exploring Jerusalem and visiting the holy sites of the city.

We started at the Mount of Olives, before making our way into the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Pools of Bethesda

My favorite part of the day was when we stopped at the Church of St. Ann. There is a tradition of singing inside the church, and the acoustics were gorgeous.

After getting lunch in the city, we had the opportunity to do some shopping downtown Jerusalem. My partner and I instead headed to the tattoo shop to interview for our stories.

Being in the field with a camera again felt really good. After working with mostly print over the last semester, it was nice to stretch the audiovisual muscles.

I had to raise my microphone to get some ambient sound

A few of our friends also got tattoos, although I won’t rat out which ones.

Days like yesterday are so busy it’s difficult to process everything we saw, much less pull meaning from it yet.

One thing that did strike me was when we were in the garden. It was full of olive trees, and our guide told us that olive trees have a unique quality where new trees can grow from old root systems. Even though trees themselves might be only a few hundred years old, their root systems might be much older.

This is representative of the church. Even though Christians are only here for a lifetime, their roots go much deeper. The church is our root system; we are merely the branches.

We are nearing the close of our trip, but I will be blogging the rest of it as well. Be sure to check back for a post about today, or follow me on twitter at @jordynpair.

Four ways to know if a mortar is coming: Israel, Day 6

There are four ways to know if a mortar is coming.

1. You hear the explosion of it being launched. If you hear that sound, run.

2. You hear the whistling of it coming in. If you hear that sound, run.

3. You hear it explode. Mortars always comes in groups. If you hear that sound, run.

4. You receive an SMS message from the IDF. They have spotted someone launching a mortar. If you hear the text, you can walk.

Today our group went to the border of the Gaza Strip. We heard from a speaker who told us what it was like to live among consistent sirens and dropping mortars. She described what it was like to have 15 seconds to find your child and the nearest shelter.

I saw a playground with a bomb shelter today. I was in a school protected from falling rockets.

Nothing else puts your own problems in perspective.

Many of the places we have visited on this trip have been of historical or spiritual significance. They have been ruins and tourist destinations. But there were no shops here, no street vendors. Just a quiet town, a few dogs, and the wind clawing at our coats.

We were supposed to visit the border earlier. We had to reschedule because they had three warnings in one day.

I like to think of journalists as the second responders. We are there behind the soldiers, the fighters, the doers. When the rockets fall, we are the ones with cameras pointed. When people run for shelter, we run after them with a notebook.

That is why visiting places like the border of the Gaza Strip is important. It tells you what kind of journalist you are. It tells you what kind of stories you can stomach.

The story of this town is not an easy one to swallow. No child should have to seek a bomb shelter every day. Not everyone can write this story.

But I’d like to try. I’d like to be that second responder.

There are four ways to know a mortar is coming. There are 15 seconds to find shelter from it.

There are a thousand ways to tell this story.

Run.

I still can’t spell Jerusalem: Israel, Day 4

It might take me three tries to spell it every time, but that’s where we are for the next few days.

We started our day with a quick debriefing session at the hotel about the articles we will be writing. Right now, we are working on narrowing our topics down and starting to think about who we need to get in touch with. I am working with the amazing Bre Payton, who works at The Federalist. I also interned at The Federalist this past summer and worked with her then, so having her input on my story is such a blessing.

After we left the hotel, we drove to Mt. Precipice, overlooking Nazareth. We had a short devotional and heard from our guide about the history of the location. Like a lot of places we’ve visited, Mt. Precipice is one where they are almost certain Jesus himself walked.

Next, we headed into Nazareth. We toured a recreation of what part of the town would have looked like, including renactments of traditional industries, such as carpentry and spinning. One thing that stood out to me during the tour, however, was the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the background. Many parts of Israel have Muslim populations, and their calls to prayer can often be heard, even while touring a Christian holy site. This juxtaposition of religions is just one reason this country is so interesting.

While at Nazareth, we also had the opportunity to have an authentic ancient meal. All the dishes were exactly as residents of the town would have eaten at the time, and I can honestly say it is the most flavorful meal I have ever had.

After lunch, we toured a church erected in honor of the Virgin Mary, and then headed to Jerusalem. Instead of having any speakers or events, we were given the rest of the day to explore the city on our own. A group of us went into full tourist mode and hunted down the market place and a few hookah bars (sorry, Mom).

Even on a Wednesday night in the middle of January, the streets bustled with people. In my hometown, the streets are fairly empty after around 9 p.m., and even in D.C. everything was fairly quiet once the sun had set. In Jerusalem, however, everything was still vibrant and busy. Advertisers would stand outside restaurants to try to offer seating, and vendors would hold out samples, even as it pushed toward 10 p.m. I’m so excited to stay here for a few more days. Our group already has plans to return downtown.

Since these posts seem to be getting a good reaction, I have to ask: is there anything you would like to hear about? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter at @JordynPair. And be sure to follow there for updates throughout the day!

Israel, Day 1

I haven’t seen the sun in 28 hours. 

I have spent the last day and a half traveling from Detroit to Israel. I have spent at least half of that time waiting in some sort of line. 

It’s less than 10 minutes to midnight on December 31 in Israel as I write this. It’s strange to think I’ll be technically starting a new year in a completely different place. 

My trip through Israel begins in earnest tomorrow. Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I can hear the waves crashing down on the beach. The city sprawls out next to it. I normally hate hotels, but it’s hard to hate one with a view as gorgeous as this. 

One minute until midnight. 

Normally at this time, I am at a family friend’s house, surrounded by people I know and love. Right now, I sit alone in a hotel suite, writing.

It feels right. 

I am here in Israel for a journalism seminar. We will tour, interview, and write.  At the end, we will publish. Hundreds of students are on this trip, but only a handful are here for the journalism track. We are the first group to try it. We are all excited and terrified. 

At least, I am. 

I can’t promise how much I’ll post. I can’t promise anyone will even hear from me. But here’s to 10 days in Israel and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Happy new year.