Please take note of the photo. Yes, those are Israeli army members; they are everywhere. And, of course, never without their huge guns! But look again, the ones facing the same direction near the middle were actually praying together. I also saw many of them worshiping at the Wailing Wall that same day. I am very accustomed to them by now, but it was not always that way. My second day here, I was going on a walk through the Old City with my Old Testament professor's wife who is caucasian and about 5' and 115lbs. As we approached the steps of the Austrian Hospice, the doors were closed and about 5 Israeli army members were sitting and standing in front of the door. It was my first time being close to anyone with a loaded gun that large and I stopped immediately, frozen and wide-eyed. She, however, was undeterred and didn't even flinch as she approached them and asked, "Excuse us, may we get by you?" Then the real suprise came- they politely moved out of our way! I was baffled! There I was, being confined by the horror stories of the war-torn savage state of Israel, not to mention the rest of the Near and Middle East, just to find that those macho guys with glimmering extra ammo in plain sight were quite civil. Not just civil, but normal young adults like myself. Here's the take-home message, life goes on normally here and there are good people everywhere. I feel that most everyone is just trying to get by and are just doing the best they can. Everyone I have met here has been wonderful. Even the Biblical rougues called Money Changers aren't all bad.
Aladdin, the money changer I met today, took the time to learn my name and even joked with me that he was "the most honest crook in the city"- hilarious! These people have good hearts and I hope to get to know them better.