They call Jerusalem the religious capital of the world. Three of the world religions have their holy places in this city. Millions of people come here as a personal pilgrimage or at least because of some sort of religious interest. Around every corner is a church, mosque or synagogue. The sound of church bells or the singing of the minaret fills the air almost every hour.
But before I saw and heard all these, before we even left the airport, I already noticed it in the conversations. A stranger in the plane asked me if I was a Christian, even before knowing my name. In the Nesher taxi, I overheard two people talk about their religious views within minutes of meeting.
It’s such a difference with the Western culture I grew up in, where religion is a hobby, something you try to fit into your schedule. Not here. This city is buzzing with an energy similar to LA, but here it’s buzzing with beliefs. And it’s so incredibly fascinating.
Watchmen on the Wall
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by thick, ancient walls. Although the wall of Biblical times was destroyed in 70CE, the current wall has been standing there for many centuries. We walked on top of this wall with the Ramparts Walk. Do you know the Jewish song “I’ve set My watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem”? Yup, we definitely sang that the whole 2 miles long. The unique experience combined with the stunning views of the city made this walk one of my highlights of the trip.
Seven main gates give access to the Old City, we mostly used the Jaffa Gate. The Old City is divided in four quarters; the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian Quarter. It’s so unique; a city divided up into easily recognizable areas based upon the beliefs of the inhabitants. I found the Christian Quarter surprisingly closed and quiet, and the Armenian Quarter was easy to recognize by the hundreds of crosses. We only briefly walked through the Muslim Quarter, which was filled with markets, shops and covered-up women. But my favorite Quarter was the Jewish one, as I described in my travel journal:
The Jewish Quarter
“I have such a deep respect for this religion, such a deep love for these people. I feel at home here, even though I’m a mere observer. The whole area seems to be shaped by a close community. Sure, there are tourist like us. But there are also children playing, friends meeting each other and families sitting together in front of the synagogue. I see older men with long, grey beards and black hats slowly walk back and forth, deep in conversation. I just wished I could be Jewish and speak Hebrew for a week, so I can sit and listen to the wisdom of men like these. They honor their history, they protect their traditions. I can see it in the way they dress, walk, talk, behave and interact. But Jews also are known for being successful in our current society. This seems like a beautiful marriage between old and new – one I want to learn from.”
(I brought the wrong lens for my camera, so most of my travel pictures are shot with my iPhone. Big bummer, but I still like how the shots turned out.)
Be back here on the blog tomorrow to read my stories about colorful explosion of the Arabic markets! Until then, my Instagram gives plenty of sneak peeks.