Day 15: It’s Only Just Begun.

by Alexandra Rutkowski

Jerusalem. Home for the next eight days. But let’s backtrack a little to yesterday. There are some details of the day I forgot to mention.

1.)  Efrat, the city we were staying at for the past few days, is where the events of the book of Ruth take place. That means last night, I ran through the land where Ruth and Boaz fell in love. Can’t think of anything I’d rather do at night.

2.)  In the morning, Rebecca and I burned out our appliances and Mac chargers. Nothing would work, no where, no outlet, no converter. Laid hands on it, and all of sudden, God restored power to them. My God cares about ‘frivolous’ things!

3.)  During our lectures yesterday, I needed to move the couch next to me (with Ben on it) a foot or so to fit my chair. He offered to get up and move it, but I said I’d take care of it, sarcastically using this as an example of my “superhuman strength.” I should have kept my sarcasm to myself. I moved it a few inches and OF COURSE, the leg of the couch broke, making it all collapse. I can’t believe it… I broke the rabbi’s couch. The rabbi himself came over and had to fix it. *Shame.*

4.)  Finally… after I finished blogging last night, I headed back up to my room, only to discover that the door was locked. Locked. No way to get in a 2 in the morning. And breakfast is at 6:45. And my bags are yet to be packed. Of course the door would be locked. I ended up going into a nearby room that was unlocked and I curled up on the floor. (It was a long cold night.) That was a surprise for the girls when they woke up the next morning! But thank you, girls, for going to sleep with your doors unlocked. You never know when a stranger will need to crash for the night.

5.)  This is extremely delayed… but I just thought it would be an interesting fact that Mike Huckabee was on our flight to Israel for a meeting with the Prime Minister. He was standing right in front of us at customs, so a bunch of the girls got a picture with him. Cool, huh?

 We left the hotel at 7 in the morning and headed straight to our appointment at the mayor’s office where we spoke about the current economic crisis in Jerusalem. The city is facing a serious problem with finances as 2/3 of the population is on welfare. The people are divided into three equal parts: the first being Orthodox Jews, the second being Muslims/Arabs/Christians, and then last third secular denominations. The majority of the first two groups are on welfare because usually only one member of the household works, and the number of children exceeds the income. Most of these families are having between ten and fourteen kids. Talk about John and Kate Plus Eight to the extreme. Also, Orthodox Jews personally believe that their prayer and studying of the Torah is more beneficial to the city then working or serving time in the army. There have been protests going on for a while now with the price of food, housing, and the poor conditions doctors have to work in. There were 120,000 protestors last night alone all through Israel. Things are starting to become a major problem. In fact, do you know where all the protests started? Believe it or now, it all started with the price of cottage cheese rising. Crazy.

            Our next stop: Yad Veshem Holocause Memorial Museum. I don’t think I have to describe the experience- if any of you have been the museum in DC or have studied the Holocaust, you know exactly how it was. I was holding back tears the whole time. There was one quote written on the wall that still haunts me: 

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
 Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
 Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
 Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

We had the honor and privilege of hearing the testimony of Elieazar Alayar, a Holocaust survivor who went to 5 different concentration camps in Poland and Austria for a period of three years and five months. What a powerful and haunting story.

            You know that picturesque view of Jerusalem that you often see on postcards and calendars? Odds are it was probably taken from the top of Mount Scopus. We parked the tour bus and just spent time marveling at the beautiful view. Wow. It finally hit that we are in Israel. We tried taking pictures in front of it, but with the way the wind was blowing, I think we’re all better off just looking at a postcard of it. That was our last stop before settling in at the Caesar hotel in Jerusalem. We were upgraded to a VIP room, and it’s just Denise and I for the week. You should see the bathroom- it’s a work of art.

            Lecture time. Except this time it’s not theology. We had two lectures tonight, the first on the Durban III Conference, and the latter on the Arab refugee conflict. The best part about these lectures it that they are being held in the basement bomb shelter of the hotel. I’m completely ready for sleep tonight. I was looking back at the entries from the beginning of the trip two weeks ago and I felt overwhelmed. I’m not ready for this trip to end, I feel like I have so much more to learn from God. But I know the learning doesn’t stop when I leave for home. It’s only just begun.