THE MIDDLE EAST & EUROPEAN SERIES PT5
No matter what your beliefs are you can’t argue about the history of the city of Jerusalem. I’ll happily admit I grew up as a Christian but now being a cynic who seems to question everything I no longer know where I stand.
THERE WERE PINS FROM SMOKE GRENADES EVERYWHERE
But enough religious chat for now. Israel wasn’t a place I was happy to arrive, explore Tel Aviv and leave again there was so much to see; Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Jerusalem, The Peace Wall, Bethlehem, the list goes on and on. In hindsight a week would have been ideal but I’ll be back!
WHERE IS JERUSALEM?
My time in Jerusalem, a special city divided
Firstly, I am not an expert in the conflict of Palestine and but I can only go by what I was told and through my experience while I was there. Feel free to educate me in the comments below if you disagree.
I checked into Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv and after only a few minutes walking around Jaffa I couldn’t help but be impressed. The old town is very nice on the eye and the beach is one of the best city beaches I have ever seen! I had met a few Israelis during my travels and a group in Brazil told me if I was only able to try one thing it had to be the Hummus.
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
Our first stop home to the two holiest sites of Christianity, the site where Jesus was crucified and his empty tomb. The place was understandably busy. Keep an eye out for the following;
The stone of Unction, where his body was washed after being crucified.
The ornate altar which was built above the Rock of Calvary and was the site of where the cross was.
The aedicule, a small room which holds the empty tomb of Jesus
THE WESTERN WALL
My first visit of the western wall was next. There were as many Jewish praying as there were tourists watching. I found it great that we could mix and get as close to the wall as we wanted. The Western Wall is considered to be the most religious site for Jewish people. It was once the retaining wall for temple mount which was previously the most important religious site until it was destroyed in 70A.D. by the Romans of course. Due to the temple being demolished the wall then became the place of worship ever since.
Today we are exploring Palestine. There is just as much to see if not more on this site of the border than Israel. Crossing into Palestine we were met with a new guide and if I’m honest the place look incredible sad, although I’m led to believe this isn’t down to the Palestinians.
CAVE OF THE PATRIARCHS, HEBRON
The Cave of the Patriarchs is the final resting place for 3 biblical couples; Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah and Jacob & Leah. It is no longer possible to get access and the window is as close as you are allowed.
CHURCH OF NATIVITY, BETHLEHEM
Within the Church of Nativity is the grotto where Virgin Mary is believed to have given birth to baby Jesus. Understandably you only got a short amount of time are there are a insane amount of people. One thing I did notice was the number of Filipinos which were here and a few of them were in tears.
Some of Banksy’s best work is here in Palestine. He seems to enjoy placing his art in contentious areas and there is nowhere more contentious that the peace wall which separates Israel and Palestine. Most of the murals are directed to calls of peace such as “make hummus, not walls”.
TEMPLE MOUNT AND DOME OF THE ROCK
After a quick visited to the Walled Off Hotel it was back to Jerusalem. Today I took a trip to Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock. Considering it is one of the most religious monuments on the planet I was quite surprised to have it to myself, however I am led to believe this was unusual. It is the Holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest in Islam and revered in Christianity.
To explain this; the site was originally home to a sacred Jewish Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans. As Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem and Islam began to spread, a mosque was built, called the Al Aqsa Mosque
MOUNT OF OLIVES
A short walk from the old town will take you to Mount of Olives, giving visitors views right across the city of Jerusalem. It is also home to a large Jewish cemetery. Jewish people believed that during the Messiah, people here will be one of the first to be resurrected.
WESTERN WALL TUNNELS
It is also possible to book a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. Here you can appreciate the size of each block of stone which was carved to fit a specific spot. The exposed wall is only around 60m, however the tunnels run for almost 500m and well worth the trip.
The site of the last supper, The Cenacle is located in Mt Zion, south of Jerusalem. I was again fortunate as to the crowds as there was only one other tour group here.
MAHANE YEHUDA MARKET
During my time here in Jerusalem I fell in love with their sweets. Dried fruit is common in the Middle East however the what you get here is like nothing I have ever had.
- PEOPLE – 7.5/10
- BACKPACKING – 7/10
- SAFETY – 7/10
- WEATHER – 8/10
- THINGS TO DO – 8.5/10
- FOOD – 7.5/10
- VALUE – 8/10
- HIGHLIGHT – I know I’m a beach person but Jerusalem was fantastic!
- LOWLIGHT – The separation
- VISIT AGAIN – Yes
- RATING – 8/10
In some ways my own hometown can relate to Jerusalem but fortunately for me the conflict at home has stemmed and doesn’t come close to what is seen in Palestine. Belfast has it’s own peace walls which is a shame but they have been proved to work and as the years go on things seem to get better. However, things are not that easy in Palestine and at times they take one step forward and 2 steps back. I know I had a back experience arriving here LINK but I honest can’t wait to return.
Europe’s newest city, Kosovo and then Istanbul. Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This post is part of The Middle East & European Series, click to explore or for episode 1 click here.
- Did I miss anything that I should visit on my next trip?
- Have you visited Jerusalem?
- What was your experience like?
Let me know in the comments below . . .