Last night, after a quick stop at Idos and Asafs place, we headed to Jerusalem by bus. We arrived in the late evening at Noas place which is a little offside the city centre.
In the morning we woke up early cos there is a lot to see in the Holy City of Jerusalem. We had breakfast in a café called Kadosh near the city hall, which Noa recommended to us. When you realize you, an atheist and an agnostic, are having a conversation about religion before breakfast, you must be in Jerusalem. We had fresh muesli with fruits and nuts, they also have good pastries there. After the morning refreshment in the sun at Kadosh we first visited the Old City which is divided into a Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish Quarter. We started our tour at Jaffa Gate (like most of the people do) where you have the tower of David and first and foremost a bunch of souvenir shops. We then walked through the different quarters towards the Western Wall which we call in German ‘Klagemauer’.
The Muslim Quarter is the busiest and most colorful one. You have a lot of shops here and there is a lot of Arab stuff to eat. Unexpectedly Noa told us that this is the quarter you have the least to mind about veiling yourself. At the very end of Old City when you come from Jaffa Gate there is the Western Wall – the most important Shrine and place of pilgrimage of the Jews. Women and men are supposed to pray separately. The larger part of the Western Wall is for the male prayer.
What the believers do is, they read in the Torah. They go to the wall, say their prayers sometimes by holding their hands and foreheads against the wall. They rock themselves for- and backwards while they are praying and in the end stick a piece of paper with a prayer into the wall. It is said, that when you put your paper there God is more likely to hear your prayer.
It is a quiet place. I stood in front of the Western Wall, touching its stones with my eyes closed and since I am not religious instead of a prayer I made a wish. This experience was very intense. Especially because the two women left and right next to me were not only mourning, they were actually crying while standing at this wall. I also put a piece of paper in the wall – with a wish for someone else and one for me – then I left the prayer area.
In comparison to Tel Aviv you obviously see a lot of Jewish people here: men wearing the Kippa, orthodox Jews with black suits, hats and curly at their temples, women covering their heads with scarfs or wigs (yes wigs!).
After our visit of the Western Wall we made a detour to the big Muslim Cemetery right behind the Old City. On our way a taxi driver slowed down next to us, asking if we wanted him to take us to the Mount of Olives. As we refused he cursed us and reminded us to watch our heads, they might be stuck somewhere. Well, I’d rather do not take a taxi in Jerusalem though.
Back from our detour to the cemetery we fell in line for a visit of the Temple Mount. It’s a very spiritual place cos this is where Judaism, Christianity and Islam combine. In the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of Rocks with its beautifully blue decorated ceramics and the big golden dome. Unfortunately you can only enter the dome if you are Muslim.
So we left that special place and continued our walk to Via Dolorosa where Jesus started his walk with the cross. We walked Jesus’ path and followed the stations he lived through, ending up in the Church of Holy Sepulcher. This is the place where he was nailed to the cross, buried and where he resurrected.
Just right when you enter the church there is a stone in the ground. This is the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. People here kneel to the stone and kiss it.
You will also find a lot of chapels, the Calvary where the believers kneel down to pray as well and the tomb of Jesus in here. Around the tomb people were lining up to enter. There was this couple right next to me. She asked him: You wanna go inside the tomb? He answered: I see this huge queue, I don’t want to go inside, I want a felafel. Well, we needed some refreshment too. For me the Church of Holy Sepulcher was a strange place. I could feel the spiritualness of this place and its meaning. But at the same time it felt like I was carrying the burden of Christianity inside those walls. We relaxed in a café in the Christian Quarter, having an arabic coffee, listening to the muezzins singing.
Our next aim was too explore some of the city center. So we carried on to Zion Square and then to King Georges’ to end at Mahane Yehuda market. Mahane Yehuda is mostly covered and you mostly can buy food. The sellers are offering you sampling of their nuts, sweets and olives. We bought some delicious olives and dried figs here.
In fact we wanted to visit the Israel Museum afterwards, but unfortunately it was already closed. But at least we could get a glimpse of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.