Yu Yee Nee, Elaine
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
An hour’s drive from Jerusalem is Ramallah, a dense and cosmopolitan city in the West Bank. Many Hong Konger’s view the West Bank as a precarious region, rife with protests, riots, and violence. However, this is far from the truth. During my visit to Ramallah, I have observed that most people have nothing to do with the wider agendas of their governments, and what is shown on Western media is not reflective of the majority of people living in the West Bank. After visiting a couple of museums, galleries, and landmarks in town, I discovered that most locals cling on dearly to their history, culture, and heritage and it still plays a huge part in their daily lives. Wherever I went, I felt very welcome by the locals. They are extremely hospitable foreigners, especially it seems, towards Asians. Don’t be surprised if you are greeted with a cup of coffee while out shopping!
As the sun goes down, the hustle and bustle of the day subsides. I stand high up on the Mount of Olives, gazing at what is dubbed by many as “the holiest city in the world” – Jerusalem, home of the three main monotheistic religions. The panoramic view of the city is highlighted by the golden Dome of the Rock, situated on the Temple Mount and known to Muslims as the Harim al-Sharif. The Temple Mount is reputedly the place where Abraham sacrificed his son and the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Nowadays, only Muslims are allowed to worship at this holy site. As the blazing sun gives way to the silvery moon, Jerusalem displays another side of its sublime beauty and charm. It penetrates the soul and brings a real sense of tranquility and peace. It is truly a blessing for me to be in the Holy Land.
Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Israel. It commemorates the liberation of the Jews by God from slavery in Egypt. The celebrations usually last for seven days and begin with Passover dinner or Passover Seder. So that we can fully experience this festival, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has paired up my friends and I with a local Jewish family. Our host family was extremely hospitable, not only did they prepare a magnificent feast for us all, but they also invited us to stay over for the entire weekend. On the second day of Passover, Adi, the daughter of our host family, took us to an area near Beit Shemesh to visit a few scenic locations, including the St. Stephen Monastery and the Avshalom Cave or stalactite cave. Later that day, we explored another hidden cave, then had a picnic nearby. Israeli people love camping and cooking in the countryside and it was fun to spend our holiday in an authentic Israeli way. Under the glorious sun, we drank cinnamon tea and savoured delicious local snacks, but most of all we enjoyed great conversation. It really has been a fantastic and memorable Pesach!