Falling in love with Jerusalem and journalism: Israel, Day 5

I didn’t write a post yesterday because I was too busy exploring Jerusalem. But I have a few minutes on the bus, so I’ll recap yesterday.

We started our day at the City of David, where we saw ruins of David’s palace. Seeing the ruins overlooking the city brought stories like David and Bathsheba to life.

We also had the opportunity to go through a (ancient) sewer system and see a temple built by Herod.

After the City of David and the temple, we went to the Western Wall, which was probably the most interesting part of our formal tour.

Where I really had the most fun, however, was after our tour ended for the day. The group was given some time to work on our stories, and a group of us headed into the city.

The story I am working on is actually a video and radio package accompanying another story, so I went out into old Jerusalem to profile a tattoo shop. This shop has been run by the same family for 700 years and specializes in pilgrimage tattoos.

My partner and I talked to the father of the man currently running the shop. Because he was unable to come into the shop, we met him outside in his car. And as I crouched outside the car with a camera and a microphone, listening to this man talk about the tradition of his family, I fell in love with journalism all over again.

Because this is what journalism does for you. It whisks you away to a country and gives you the opportunity to talk to people you normally would have never met. It lets you roam the streets with a camera and have a reason to shoot. It lets you tell stories no one else has heard.

Jerusalem may be an ancient city with ancient stories, but it is also young and vibrant and full of life. It is full of stories in a way that it seems cities in the USA are not. Walking the streets, it is easy to feel the richness of the culture.

I was already in love with journalism. Now I am also in love with Jerusalem.

For a lot of students on the Passages tour, Israel is primarily a part of their spiritual journey. They are drawn to the stories of the Bible. Although those stories make up a large part of my experience too, I am here for a different kind of story.

I am here for the man in the tattoo parlor. I am here for the woman selling scarves on the street. I am here for my own story.

But most importantly, I am here for the stories around me.

Time to write.


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!

Bunkers and Bibles: Israel, Day 2

The dumbest thing I have done so far in 2018 is wear sandals in 45 degree weather.

In my defense, I didn’t expect it to rain.

Today was the first full day in Israel. We left the hotel around 8:00 this morning and headed toward the West Bank to hear from a Jewish woman who had immigrated to Israel from America. On the bus ride there, our guide gave us a brief lesson on the history of the area and its conflict.

Because the lectures we hear are considered to be “background only,” I cannot specifically quote anything here.

Although both lectures were interesting, my favorite part of the day by far was the old Israeli Defense Force bunker we visited. Near the Syria-Israel border and roughly a three-hour drive from the West Bank, it was a steady climb up a mountain and into Golan Heights. Even though it’s normally possible to see for miles from the top, the whole place was covered in such a thick mist it was difficult to see even five steps ahead.


The fog made everything slightly faded and lent a spooky atmosphere to the entire place that even the gift shop at the top of the walkway couldn’t quite shake. And it definitely made the cut outs of “armed guards” on top of the entrance to the bunker seem much more real until we got close.

The bunker itself was a series of tunnels built into the hill. Although it was empty and even lightly flooded at the time, our guide told us it could be active and utilized by the IDF within 48 hours.

At the end of one tunnel was a small room that would have been used as an outlook had the bunker been active. All we could see through the slit was fog. Even if someone had been coming, there was no way of knowing until we were face-to-face.​​

After the bunker and another hour bus ride, we visited a church and heard from a Christian living in Israel. He led us through the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic and gave a brief lecture. He also showed us a Bible over 400 years old.

sacred text

We ended the night with dinner at the hotel and then a debriefing session for the journalism students. Because we will be filing a story while here, we have begun to go over exactly how that will happen.

The leaders of the trip warned that tomorrow will be even busier (and colder). We will be exploring the north part of Galilee. If you’re interested in seeing more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter at @JordynPair.

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. 

Community, the Capitol, and Central Hall

Every time I meet someone from Hillsdale College while out here in D.C., they always ask if I know [insert their friend’s name here].

Most of the time, I fall back on “I know the name, but not the person,” but the point has been made. Even here, hundreds of miles away, the Hillsdale community is strong. And when I say it is strong, I mean it’s almost obnoxious how many other Hillsdale students and alums are working or interning in the nation’s capitol.

I know it’s because I run heavily in the conservative culture here, but it seems like my alma mater is everywhere I turn. I meet someone from my school almost every week—a speaker at a lecture, someone on the street, a fellow church member. And although Hillsdale’s ever-growing presence is a sort of running joke in town, I am thankful for it.

Community takes on a new meaning when you’re in a city for the first time, and I am lucky enough to have one built in. I haven’t had to flounder for friends, because there is a whole dorm full of them quite literally a block from where I work.

There is something to be said for going it alone, to be thrust completely out of your element, but I think it is only possible to thrive on your own once your roots have been firmly planted. I am only beginning to understand my roots. I am only starting to learn what it means to be grounded in people and places and moments.

Nearly three months in D.C. has only shown my heart has not been uprooted, only transplanted.

This isn’t a post about school spirit. This is not about cheering at football games. This is not about bumper stickers or class shirts or banners.

This is about how I have buried my heart under the well-worn steps of Central Hall. This is about planting my hopes among the flowers of Arb, rooting myself in the blue and the white, finding my purpose among bustling Midwest halls.

This is about unspoken allies in the city.

No matter what internship or job brings someone here, we both understand what is like to struggle through American Heritage, to see the glow of Central Hall at sunset, to have your heart jump in fear (or excitement) when Dr. Arnn rounds the corner. It’s a shared experience that is irreplaceable, unexplainable.

Knowing there are others—many others—in this town who share these roots is a comfort. Seeing where they are now is an encouragement. Meeting them is a joy, if only because the unspoken becomes the spoken.

The friendships I form at school might fade. Details of classroom lessons will be replaced. But the sense of community will never disappear, no matter where I go.  Once a Charger, always a Charger.

So charge on, Washington. Charge on.

The Love Letter to Michigan I’d Never Thought I’d Write

Lake weeds have always been my least favorite part of swimming. They grab at your ankles, threatening to pull you under and suffocate you. I’m not afraid of much, but the thought of getting trapped always made my chest tighten.

It’s the same tightness I feel now. I never thought it was possible to feel claustrophobic in a city. It’s a strange feeling, cornered among endless buildings and held hostage by countless high-heel events.

Don’t get me wrong, being in Washington D.C. has been a whirlwind. It’s a classic Midwest-Girl-Meets-City-Life story. I’m learning what it means to network, to use the metro, to be yelled at on a street. I’ve been published, I’ve been lost, I’ve bought far too much expensive food.

But a few weeks ago, I tried to explain to some friends what it’s like to miss trees.  They looked at me like I was insane.

I stumbled over my tongue, trying to paint for them what it’s like to drive through the autumn canopies that make the pot-holed roads glitter gold. I showed them pictures of the lake at sunset. I tried to describe the feeling of grass between your toes.

But we have grass here.

Yes. But it’s not the same.

I guess I thought summer was the same everywhere. That golden sun didn’t need a sprawling field to be beautiful or that a starry night would be the same even without campfire lungs.

I forgot the stars don’t shine as brightly here.

I’ve spent most of my time planning how to get out of Michigan. Sure, it’s where I want to settle eventually, but I also wanted to see beyond it first. I still do.

But on summer nights, it’s hard not to miss the comfortable happy place that is my best friend’s backyard, with the fire crackling and crickets chirping. It’s strange that the dark now brings fear instead of fireflies.

I never thought I would miss these things about Michigan. That all the bug bites and dirt roads and occasional smell of horses would ever mean something. I was never an outdoorsy person, but paddleboarding and camping now sound like a slice of heaven served with a side of sunburn.

I have a previously-undiscovered love letter to Michigan scrawled on the palm of my right hand. It screams of lake water.

I never thought I would miss Michigan so dearly.

I never thought I would miss lake weeds.