As A Muslim American, My Trip To Jerusalem Revealed That Open-Mindedness Bridges Communities

As A Muslim American, My Trip To Jerusalem Revealed That Open-Mindedness Bridges Communities

A life changing trip that opened my eyes up to the optimal dynamics in a community.

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On Dec. 21, my parents and I flew to Amman, a city in the beautiful country of Jordan, where we took a cab to the main part of Jerusalem. We were told by multiple family friends that it is not the safest to directly fly into Jerusalem because of the religious issues and riots going on. As we entered Jerusalem, I put my hijab on. A hijab is a head covering worn to cover a women's beauty in Islam. As I put my hijab on to pay respect to Mosque Aqsa, I noticed a change in perspective from everyone around me because suddenly, there were eyes from everywhere on me — Muslim and Jewish.

After we paid respect to Mosque Aqsa, we went to the hotel to sleep because we were exhausted from our 14 hour flight. The next morning, we woke up bright and early to begin our day by praying at Mosque Aqsa. I wore traditional American clothes, jeans and a top, because it was often worn in Jerusalem, though I kept a hijab on for prayer.

After praying, I was astonished by the gathering of all the Muslim people in the mosque area. This made me want to see the Wailing Wall and the place of the first church to view how others gather for their god. I knew the Wailing Wall was sacred because it was a prayer and pilgrimage place for Jewish people, while for Christians, Jesus was born inside the first church.

As we exited the mosque community, we found a kind man at the kiosk who gave us pomegranate and mangoes. My dad decided to ask this gentleman directions to the Wailing Wall. The man began screaming at me and my dad. He told us we are not allowed to even want to view the wall of the Jewish people. I responded and explained that we just want another perspective on other religions. The man yelled even louder. He told us that the Jewish people would convert us and that we should not leave the Mosque surroundings. With this, he furiously sat back down and did not give us any directions to the wall that was right behind this mosque. My dad and I were quite confused on what had just happened and the way our question for simple directions were handled.

We decided to walk along the sidewalk until we found someone to help us out. It was a 61-year-old man who seemed to be a Jewish person with his religious hat. He happily helped us out and gave us exact directions for the Wailing Wall, though he did say he was excited new people wanted to convert to his religion.

We followed his directions and successfully reached the Wailing Wall. There were gates at the Wailing Wall that had security checks that allowed people to enter as there were at the mosque. Although, the experience entering the wall and mosque was not the same. As a muslim woman wearing a hijab, I was able to walk through the mosque without anyone questioning me, I was easily able to walk in without questions asked.

At the wall, a security guard first made my family go through metal detectors, checked our passports and asked an immense amount of questions about why we wanted to go see the Wailing Wall if we were Muslim. Finally, after various obstacles and issues, we made it into the Wailing Wall.

As I experienced such obstacles, I thought about how different the community in Jerusalem was from the United States. It doesn't matter what group, each religion in Jerusalem was highly conservative. This is quite different from the United States.

The culture in the United States is significantly diverse, which allows the people here to be open minded. As an everyday routine, Americans interact with people of various religions and cultures that they don't question or change their perspective toward a certain race. Yes, there are always racist citizens who are not comfortable with other religions, but a majority of the United States depicts unity because of how culturally different every person is.

This is not how Jerusalem is seen. Religions are significantly segregated with one another through security check, restaurants, hotels and even streets. Every religion has their streets in Jerusalem and going to the one you are not a part of can result in awkward stares along with rude treatment.

As I had previously booked a hotel before arriving to Jerusalem, we were not aware that the street we booked was on the street of the Jewish people. This wasn't a major issue, but glares and different treatment were conveyed. As my parents and I would eat breakfast in the lounge, we would often get glares for the hijab or clothing we were wearing because it was different from everyone else around us. This was quite disturbing because every day we would go inside the hotel or leave and get glares that clearly depicted that we weren't wanted in this hotel. The hotel workers were indefinitely kind and caring at all times, though the people living there were not.

The experience I had was definitely an eye-opening lesson. It depicted the perspective of others in America versus Jerusalem. The people in Jerusalem are not open-minded, which detaches the various religious groups in the nation. It prevents various religions to connect or be able to create united communities to be able to act as one.

As for the United States, there are different religions and cultures blended together with majority of the people who are open-minded. This allows the union of communities, while also allowing people to connect without the similarity of religion. I'm glad that I was able to have a once in a lifetime experience with my family. Although the segregation in the country was a little uncomfortable, I am glad that I was able to understand how lucky I am to live in an open, happy and united country and that I am also able to learn about the significance of open-mindedness in uniting people and communities.

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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Our Leaders Need A 'Time-Out'

We all learned a few essential rules as children.

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As I look watch the news, I can't help but wonder if the lessons we learned as children might not serve our leaders well. They seem to have forgotten these basic lessons. I am reminded of the book by Robert Fulghum "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

Watch out, hold hands, and stick together.

I think this could be useful in a couple of different contexts. First, the current divisiveness in the country doesn't serve us well. We are first and foremost, a part of the family of humankind. Differences in politics, religion, and so on come in far behind that one important attribute. What happened to the notion of agreeing to disagree?

Second, when leaders get off a plane in another country, they should remember who they came with and who they represent - "watch out, hold hands, and stick together."

Clean up your own mess.

Trump seems to take great pleasure in blaming everyone else for their "mess." The government shutdown was someone else's fault – any Democrat. When the stock market went up, he happily took credit, but when it went down, he quickly shifted gears and placed the blame on the Federal Reserve Chairman. Daily and hourly tweets out of the White House place blame on someone else for his "mess." Sadly, he still likes to blame Obama and Hillary for his mess.

Don't lie.

Politicians have always had a bad reputation when it comes to honesty. Still, the number of lies that we hear from Trump (and members of his staff) is unprecedented even for a politician.

We all learned these lessons when we were little more than five years old. Now more than any time in history I think our leaders need a " time out" to re-learn these lessons.

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