It was a tough day, I can’t lie. I think Nichelle and I both went through every possible feel imaginable. We started the day visiting Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. I am still processing what I encountered there and will be for some time… Trying to make sense of how something so horrible could happen, how could others let it happen, how could such an evil person lead legions into his own gut wrenching beliefs. We were there over three hours and felt like it wasn’t nearly enough time to not only understand the facts let alone to fathom the meaning and consequences.
From there we went to Bethlehem, a city not at all like I imagined. It’s a Palestinian city in the west bank, inhabited by 80% Muslims, 20% Christians. The streets were filed with people, and as we navigated our way through, I could instantly feel Nichelle’s energy shift. Soon after mine did too… There was tension. Maybe because we were American. Maybe because we were women. Maybe it was the trifecta that we were two American women, one of color, traveling without men. Honestly I don’t really know. All I do know is that there was tension. And we all know what happens when the tension becomes too much… things break. Needless to say there was much deep breathing.
As we made our way into the Nativity Church we encountered an elderly woman being helped down some steps by a guide. She looked at us both, shined her bright smile upon us, said something neither Nichelle nor I understood, then took turns kissing us both on the cheek. I don’t know who she was or what she said, but my gut said she was an angel…She was my favorite part of the day. While there was such beauty in the church, and such devotion from the visitors as they kneeled down to touch the place where Jesus was placed, there was also more tension. It’s too lengthy of a story to tell but suffice it to say that as a white woman of privilege, I missed a whole energetic experience that regretfully my friend encounters frequently.
Later that day we drove through the desert to the Tomb of Moses and the town of Jericho, and while we met some lovely people and saw kids herding goats (which was my second favorite part of the day and something I will refer to when Griffin complains about feeding the dogs) there was also more tension. It was subtle. It was likely unintentional. But it was there. I tried to stay in the sameness instead of the otherness, but it was a challenge. As we left Jericho we both fell silent. Holding that kind of space wears a body out.
The thing about being in a place with such a long history is that you’re standing in between two worlds, which in point of fact, on a human nature level, are not that much different. Sure, there is more tolerance and we’ve gain certain freedoms over time. But we are still killing people. Racism runs deep. People are being marginalized and judged based on the God they believe in, the stories they are told, the color of their skin, who they love and what gender they identify with.
Here, Nichelle and I are standing near the entrance of the Nativity Church, overlooking the city of Bethlehem. We met a handful of years ago at a Lululemon ambassador summit in Vancouver. I don’t think either one of us could have imagined that some day we’d be touring Israel and Palestine together. But I am so damned grateful that we are. She has eyes that I don’t, and my eyes are not hers. Together our perspectives create more understanding. Our conversations (about the state of the Union or the state of the Kardashians) bring awakenings. Our shared experiences bring about wisdom, (especially helpful when Siri is fucking with the iPhone map.) So as I stand in this photo with her, shoulder to shoulder, it is my contract to not only her, but all beings, that I will stand up, sit in, speak up, open my eyes wider, open my heart more, rise to the surface and break through the ceiling, glass or otherwise, whereever there is tension, uncertainty or injustice.
There was a quote in one of the exhibits at Yad Vashem that resonated with me so deeply… it is my new call to action and I invite you to take it with me.
"I know that when I stand before God on Judgment day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain -where were you when your brother's blood was crying out to God?" (Imre Bathory, Hungary)