I arrived in Jerusalem without mishap. Instead of there being extra security at the airport (I am sure there must have been because of the attack in Paris the previous week) it seemed more relaxed than ever! I don’t fit any of the profiles that Israel sees as problematic, in that I am white, older, female, European without any obvious and superficial worrying identifications, but I have friends of similar age and profile who have been denied entry. It is always a bit of a gamble.
The fact that my suitcase had a tag with a very Israeli sounding hotel in West Jerusalem would have helped and if I had been asked I could genuinely say that I was meeting a Jewish group of women. I was going to spent 5 days with a female Jewish group from Yachad. I chose to go with them to give me some new experiences and perspectives as well as people and places I have not experienced before. I knew that the difficult part for me would be to keep my mouth shut, or at least be clever with my questioning, on hearing views from my own group that I disagreed, which was very likely. Not my strongest point, but very good practice!
After my time with this group I then went on to spend another 5 days meeting old contacts and staying in the West Bank. I always like to find a balance between new experiences and catching up with familiar people and situations.
On the day of my arrival (Sunday) we met for supper, introductions and a talk by Dr Sarah Bernstein before starting our adventure the next day (Monday).
Dr. Sarah Bernstein is the Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR). Born and brought up in the UK, and with a background as a lawyer and mediator, for the last fourteen years she has been working in the field of peacebuilding and coexistence work, specializing in interreligious dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. She was awarded her Phd in Peace and Reconciliation Studies by Coventry University in England for her thesis on the theme of ‘Narratives of Belonging: Life Stories of Jewish-Israeli Women in Jerusalem.’ The Israeli editor of Women of the Book: A Jerusalem Collage, Dr. Bernstein’s article on “Is ‘Interreligious’ Synonymous with ‘Interfaith’? “The Roles of Dialogue in Peacebuilding” was recently published as a chapter in the book, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: Contemporary Challenges and Themes (Pluto Press, 2012).
Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations (www.jcjcr.org)