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August 29, 2014

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In 2014, CrossFit hosted its first Level 1 Seminar in Israel. Seminar Staff member Russell Berger took the opportunity to spend an extra week traveling the country, visiting its affiliates and experiencing the culture. In this six-part series, explore the Holy Land with Berger and the local community.

In Part 2, Berger is getting ready to see the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Western Wall—also called the Wailing Wall—is one of Judaism’s sacred sites, and Berger’s visit comes to a halt when his pocketknife stirs up some trouble.

“I took (the pocketknife) out, gave it to (security) to show them,” he says, “and I thought they’d hold it till I got back, but apparently that’s enough of a concern that they’re sending a police officer now to check me out, make sure that I’m OK.”

Despite this, Berger has found Israel to be quite different than he thought.

“I think there’s a perception in our culture that everywhere basically east of Europe or south of Europe is incredibly dangerous and it’s not safe to visit,” he says. “And there are definitely places that are, but this really isn’t one of them.”

During his travels, he visits the West Bank, which used to have the reputation of being very dangerous but is also where many believe Jesus was baptized. In fact, nearby land mines had to be removed when the site was opened for daily visits in 2011.

“Only in Israel can you have such a combination,” says Danny “The Digger” Herman, an archaeologist and Berger’s tour guide.

Berger discovers his sense of Israel is largely based on American media.

“It shouldn’t be too big of a surprise, but it’s completely different than what I thought it would be like,” he says.

Video by Carey Peterson

9min 5sec

Additional reading: “Banishing the Boogeyman” by Pat Sherwood, published Nov. 11, 2013.

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