IMG 2498Blog

"Our trip to Israel and Palestine"

Adventures in the Holy Land.

school trip to Wailing WallWe spent a week travelling around the country, experiencing every aspect of the culture from the food to the arts and crafts, to the language, to the religion and, of course, to the people themselves and their views.

I am now a firm believer that the only way to understand something as complex as The Holy Land is to experience it. We spent the first part of our trip in the Old City of Jerusalem. It's an amazing place and it is hugely important for many people. It's very small - around 125 square kilometres. This may seem large, but compared to London, which is around 1,250 square kilometres, it's tiny.

Everyone lives on top of each other and in such close proximity. This makes tension inevitable, with people fighting over space because it's such a valuable commodity in this city. Looking at the militant Jews reclaiming parts of the Muslim Quarter, they have built on top of the Palestinian homes, forging their claims on this precious space. However, to do this they and their families need a 24 hour guard in case of Palestinian reprisals. Therefore, these Jews cannot leave their heavily guarded homes. So they remain there!

Another surprise is the obvious militancy in the City.At the Wailing Wall we saw soldiers with their guns slung over their backs, putting prayers on slips of paper in the crevices of the wall.
Old Jerusalem was the only place where we experienced 'trouble' - at the Temple Mount, where we witnessed a peaceful protest. As soon as you enter you know this is no ordinary religious site. Instead of tea rooms there are stacks of riot shields and a room full of Israeli soldiers holding guns.

Jewish people are not allowed to enter the grounds of the Temple or the Temple itself, however some Jews seek to rebuild the Temple as a Jewish holy place and oust the Palestinians from Jerusalem. As part of this, every day these religious Jews walk through the grounds of the Temple, which to Muslims is highly offensive. As the Jewish people walk through the Temple, suddenly in protest the Muslim women all around you start to shout out "God is Great", it's a shocking moment!

We spent the next part of our trip travelling the length and breadth of the country; to the Dead Sea in the South and the Sea of Galilee in the North. The Dead Sea is a must. I'd say that swimming in it is not vital, frankly, it's a horrific experience! My favourite moment of the trip was spent watching the sun rise over the sea from a hostel up in the mountains. All the amazing colours of the sunrise were reflected on to the salt and the sheer beauty of the sight was mesmerizing. It certainly led me to question my views and I felt that there had to be some greater cause; the perfection of this world is no accident.

We spent a further few nights at the Sea of Galilee. This was very interesting. When we sit in classrooms at home we have a tendency to disregard the ideas of religion – such as miracles, we simply use science and our reasoning to dismiss them. However, when you visit these places everything feels different. You are often given a few basic facts, but the rest is left to your imagination and I certainly found myself questioning that if Jesus did live here, as he certainly did, why couldn’t he also have performed those miracles here? Could he have even walked on water? It's strange to think of these things in this new way, that normally most of us dismiss as easily as the tooth fairy, but seeing the places makes the miracles believable in a different way.

The food in the country is amazing, we spent a great proportion of our time in and out of restaurants. My favourite food was the pitta bread topped with zatar and goat cheese baked in front of us, but eaten in the pouring rain.

I can't recommend a trip to Israel enough. The whole region is fascinating and provides an insight into religion that will most certainly broaden your views on life. While there is a fear of the dangers associated with travelling to Israel, it's important to remember that there will never be a perfect time to visit such a controversial place and that is why I implore you to take any opportunity you get to travel there.

Kitt Spicer, Age 16

Princess Helena College travelled to Israel and Palestine in January 2015 with the School Travel Consultancy.