September 16 and 17, 2012
About two weeks into the trip, the students and faculty of the Olive Tree Initiative had the opportunity to spend a couple days of rest in Jerusalem with which to go out and explore the Old City.
The first day, spent touring the Old City, ended with a meal celebrating the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. On the next day, the program allowed for students – both religious and simply curious – to celebrate by going to selected Jewish services at synagogues around Jerusalem.
While some students took advantage of this free day to bargain at local shops or take in a few extra hours of sleep, many attended the Jewish services regardless of their religious creed or background.
Among the non-Jewish students who joined the festivities, some took note of the subtle human similarities they saw with their own services: worshippers bustling in a few minutes late, men and women greeting one another, singing and praying along while reading texts provided by the synagogue.
It was moments like these that provided a smaller, more personal education on the trip. In these short hours, students could come to better understand the similarities between all the worlds’ religions and rituals usually thought of only in contrast to one another.
When the three-hour services had ended, some of the students were invited to community member’s houses to enjoy lunch. After the the meals were finished, many decided to go back to the hotels and relax in the last few hours of daylight.
In the relative calm of the Old City, students found a much-needed respite – both mental and physical – for the last week of intensive study ahead.