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Sophomores Visit Several Churches on their Israel Trip

The sophomores visited several Christian churches on their trip to Israel. Given that Heschel is a Jewish day school, conversations arose questioning the purpose of these visits, considering that they lacked religious meaning to many.

The first church we visited was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Old City of Jerusalem. This is where Christians believe the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place. It is also the traditional location of his tomb. Aside from the beautiful architecture and design of the church, it is a well-known historic landmark. I believe that this was an appropriate sight for us to see. 

On the same day, we walked through the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian quarters of the Old City. Part of being in the Old City was understanding its importance for other religions. It was interesting to see a space that is considered holy by so many religions. 

During our second week in Israel, we spent a day in Nazareth, the city in which Christians believe Jesus grew up. Along with many of my classmates, I thought this day was poorly structured. We spent a long time on the bus to Nazareth, where we had a rather unimpressive tour guide to show us around a city unfamiliar to us as Jewish people. After getting off the bus, the first thing we all noticed was the graffiti with slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “Zionism is Racism.” Additionally, we noticed how few Jewish people there were in the city, and a group of men harassed several students. Sometimes different environments and discomfort can be an opportunity for growth, but this was not the case.

The first church we visited in Nazareth was the Church of the Annunciation, where we were expected to cover ourselves modestly and remove hats. From there, we walked down the path Mary the mother of Jesus was said to have taken a walk on to fetch water. Then, we arrived at the second church, The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, where we once again were expected to cover up. A few girls were not appropriately dressed to their standards, and the gatekeepers of the church treated them rather harshly.
Although both churches were beautiful and pleasant to walk through, I would have left them out of the trip’s itinerary. As said previously, the tour guide was unhelpful, so I was unable to truly learn much about the significance these churches have for Christians, and my lack of understanding contributed to the uncomfortable environment. It is important to learn about and respect other religions, but that lesson could have been taught in a classroom environment. I did not gain enough from this visit for it to have been worth it. 

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