Walking in Jerusalem
Jerusalem is called the City of Peace. Yet picture this; a hot, sunny day, the smell of frying falafel, and the cries and chatter of market men, trading, bustling people and boys driving carts down a series of narrow, sloped streets, the haunting cry of the Muslim call to prayer in the background. Hardly peace but to be in a place so full of life is amazing if you like the authentic feel of an old, city that is rich in culture.
Jerusalem is built around its old city. Arrival by bus or train from Tel Aviv is easy and the bus is best. You then walk towards The Old City, passing some of modern Jerusalem’s amazing streets and shops, bountiful cafes and interesting souvenir and craft stores.
Take in an ice coffee and a cake for your morning snack and prepare for entry to the incredible old city. You can enter from seven different gates. Jaffa Gate leads right into the Jewish sector of this amazing place. Clean and smartly refurbished streets and shops line the alleys. You will see the old Roman street as you walk towards the highlight of the area, which is the Western Wall, so called because this is the last remaining part of the original Temple that was built in pre-Roman times and eventually pulled down by the Romans and destroyed. You may visit but out of reverence you are asked not to take photographs, especially on the Sabbath and to wear a Kipa (skullcap – cardboard ones are available on site) or other headcovering if you wish to actually go and visit the wall.
Not far from here is the Dome of the Rock, the centre of Islamic interest in Jerusalem. You may not be able to access this, but on approaching it reverence is important and you are asked to wear a headcovering. The Arabic quarter of Jerusalem is accessed via the Damascus Gate (or Scherem Gate) and rows of busy Souks (markets) abound, with smells of food and delicious Arabic cardomom coffee. Remember to haggle the price down for a bargain as for tourists the price is usually marked up high.
The Christian section is in-between the Jewish and Muslim areas and you will see signs pointing out the Via Dolorosa; the way of the cross. This leads to The Church of the Holy Sephulchre, which is located on the site where the tomb of Christ is supposed to be. This church is a grand building run by Orthodox monks from various denominations. The building is interesting to wander round, with stairs up and down leading to various hidden aspects. If you wish to enter the chapel where the tomb was meant to be located, you will need to queue, and this is controlled by tall, orthodox monks who will firmly tell you to “Yallah yallah!” (meaning go) if you are out of line.
Inside Jerusalem are reasonably-priced guesthouses. These are worth staying in for an authentic feel. At the end of the day it is worth standing at Jaffa Gate and watching the incredible sunset, which, like many places in Israel, reminds one of the beauty of this amazing and culturally rich country.
Outside the walls, and you will need another day for this, are the buildings of the Knesset (the Parliament of Israel) and other government buildings, some amazing parks and museums. Noteworthy is the Holocaust Museum which contains moving and challenging images, lists of names of the dead and is an important reminder of the frightening potential for man’s irrationality and inhumanity to man.
Jerusalem, City of Peace is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. It will awaken strange feelings in you but, like its delicious ice-coffee and falafel, will ensure you develop an addiction to it by the time you leave.