22 November 2022
You don't need to be a religious scholar or on a holy pilgrimage to enjoy the rich history and culture that Jerusalem has to offer.
For a city that has shared it's treasure's with multiple faiths' over thousands of years, there is much to see and appreciate for any tourist willing to make the journey.
We started our trip from the port city of Ashdod, some 2 hours drive away on Israel's busy highway.
As you enter the holy city of Jerusalem, you immediately begin to notice a change in attitude and attire, with much more visible religious dress versus the casual, trendy styles of coastal Ashdod.
The scenery also becomes more expressive as we arrived at our first stop of Gethsemane Olive Gardens, located at the base of Mount Olive. Here stands the impressive and visually striking 'Church of all Nations', where it is said Jesus was betrayed and arrested.
Inside of this beautiful church, with its tall marble columns and striking façade depicting Jesus as intermediary between man and god, is a space that gives goosebumps to all who enter.
All eyes are immediately drawn skywards toward the 12 small domes, ornately decorated as a deep blue night's sky with shimmering stars and golden arches. Collectively, the domes feature a coat of arms made up of the 12 countries originally donating to it's construction.
A short drive to the Damascus gate and we find ourselves transported back to 1537, wandering through the ancient streets of Old Jerusalem. These narrow streets funnel down in to the lively and chaotic souq's of the Muslim quarter.
All of my senses were immediately overwhelmed as we entered the souq. The air is cloaked with a heavy aroma of burning frankincense. Vibrant colours catch the eye from baskets of Jasmine, Musk, and Rose, lay out on nearly every street corner.
Arabian glass lamps dangle in front of you, enticing you in to one Aladdin's cave after another. Shop owners compete for your attention, inviting you inside to delve in to their treasures. My Arabic is non-existent, but haggling is a universal language, so i leave here with a few treasures of my own.
Next, to the Wailing wall, or Kotel. This is a towering, straight white wall that imposes itself impressively within the large and heavily protected plaza that surrounds it.
Here, the bright white marble reflected the sun back ten fold, almost creating it's only little micro-climate. For the first time today I find myself reaching for the sun lotion.
Nestled in to every nook and cranny of the rocks are small prayer notes. This is after all, one of the most holy sites in the religion of Judaism. Thousands come here to pray and mourn the destruction of the temples.
Males are required to wear a Yamakah, which are freely available as you approach the enclosed praying space. Females take care to cover their shoulders and knees, with many also choosing to cover their hair, though I believe this part is optional.
The pinnacle of any trip to Jerusalem is undoubtedly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Inside this church it is said Jesus was crucified, laid to rest, and later resurrected.
Standing just inside the doorway is the Stone of Unction, a large slab of stone on which Jesus' body was laid and prepared for burial. It was barely visible beneath the crowd of pilgrims', all shoulder to shoulder, desperate to touch and pray on this important Christian relic. Some bring oils and beads that they lay upon the stone, seemingly hoping to bless them with holy grace and power.
The artwork in this Church is truly stunning. Even for those of us who are not religious, it is easy to appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that went in to its construction.
Here I spent my last hour, meandering the maze of corridors and caverns, soaking up the ancient history oozing from my surroundings. In this space, I found my own moment of peace and tranquility, a day I will long remember...