Some travel destinations are overwhelmingly captive – they emanate a limitless number of impressions addressing all your senses, they flip through centuries, no millennia, with every second step you take, they blend sounds and scents, languages, cultures, religions. Quiet, abandoned alleys alternate with loud, bustling streets and squares. They leave you in awe. Between fascination and exhaustion. One of those destinations is Jerusalem.
This level of inspirational overload leaves me even now in a sort of writer perplexity. I don’t know where to start and where to end this story. I encountered too many moments that were special, better said unique and really moving. But I will try to summarize some of my most important moments in words – for the rest I will let the pictures ‘talk’ to you.
During my Israel trip I spent two full days in Jerusalem, the controversial capital, the divided city, the center of three monotheistic religions. The change between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem couldn’t be bigger even thought a mere 50 kilometers separates both cities. You switch from a coastal to a hillside city, from a very liberal, easy-going beach population to a rather conservative, religious population. You switch from a city drafted and built in the past century to an ancient city dating back to 5.000 years of inhabited history.
My first day in Jerusalem was marked by a ‘historic walk’ throughout the old town to grasp an understanding of its variety and dimensions. I walked through the Muslim quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter and the Armenian quarter. I walked through narrow streets with colorful markets and souks and finally arrived at a sign indicating: Western Wall. This marked the beginning of my discovery trail of the important religious monuments in Jerusalem.
Approaching the Western Wall was a magnificent feeling, something slightly bewildering, a mix between curiosity, devotion and reverence. Of course I used the opportunity to stick a little paper with my wish into the ancient wall and say a little prayer. Later on, I walked the entire Via Dolorosa and visited every single stop along it – not alone of course, but with dozens of pilgrims from all over the world.
The trail ends at the overwhelming Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of the Christian quarter. In fact, the church is a conglomerate of many churches and chapels under one roof and is said to be constructed over the Golgotha hill where Jesus was crucified and his close-by tomb. Despite the numerous visitors the church effused an elevating atmosphere of prayers and admiration. And the moment when I approached the Holy Sepulchre was very special and personally moving (look at my happy face when I left the church further down). That said, patience comes in the package too as you have to queue for most of the important sights within the church. Finally, I wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa Mosque from close-by but I was not lucky enough – the two official entrances to the Temple Mount for foreigners were closed that day.
The second day was another one of discovery. First I visited the ancient City of David taking me back to the millennia-long history of Jerusalem including a fascinating walk through a subterranean water tunnel – I walked around 30 minutes through a very narrow and pitch-dark tunnel with my feet in water with my friend Sarah. The only source of light: The flashlight app on our iPhones. What a crazy adventure it was. Unfortunately, no pictures to share with you as it was – you remember – pitch dark! Everything was topped with a visit to the Mount of Olives with stunning views of the old town of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is an amazing place to visit. Especially if you are interested in history. It is like a navel between the past, the present and the future with the levitating eternal question: Will this city be one day not only the capital of a country and three religions but also the capital of peace? A wish well worth to be sticked into the Western Wall. Happy Monday everyone! Oh, and shalom!