Jerusalem is probably the holiest place on earth; the city is sacred for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It is also an amazing place to visit for tourists; the UNESCO World Heritage Site has so much to offer. As I was on a family vacation in Tel Aviv, we only went on a day trip to Jerusalem. Guess who regrets not spending more time in Jerusalem?! What an interesting city! The culture, the religions and the history – I loved it!
Jerusalem is frequently visited by pilgrims and other religious travelers. Personally I am an atheist, so I went there for the culture and the history, which was very interesting. Jerusalem is not only a holy place; the city is also very central in the political conflict between Israel and Palestine. Today, Israel considers Jerusalem as its capital, but this is not internationally recognized. To show this, there are no embassies in Jerusalem – they are all placed in Tel Aviv. Lately, this discussion has reached a new level; Trump has said that he wants to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Anyway, I will not go into the details of the political conflict here, as everything is so complicated.
Back to the tourist stuff! The Old City of Jerusalem is the main sight (along with for example Mount of Olives), and within the walls of it, you can find dozens of interesting places. There are nine gates where you can enter the old city, and the old city is so big that you probably can spend days exploring it.
When we entered the Old City of Jerusalem, we went to the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), where we also could see the Dome of the Rock in the back. The wall is one of the world’s holiest sites in Judaism, and it was especially crowded as we went there because it was Sabbath. It was really interesting to see how people were praying; with their head against the wall, folding small notes and putting them into the wall and then walking backwards away from it. Sadly, I could not take any photos because of the Sabbath, but it was still a very cool experience!
Many consider the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the holiest place for several Christian denominations. The church is actually controlled by six different denominations, so it is quite a complicated arrangement. “But, who should be responsible for the church? Instead of fighting about the keys, the Christians decided to give the keys to a Muslim family”, our guide told us. So today Muslims are opening and closing the church every day, while different denominations are all using it. Such a nice and peaceful arrangement!
We also visited a few other holy places in the old city. Many of these sights were not the most interesting ones for me as I am not religious (our guided tour had a lot of free time for praying), but I still became really fascinated of everything I saw! For example, when we entered The room of the last supper, a group of Americans started singing religious songs, and they were really good, just like a professional gospel choir! As that was not enough, everyone in the room sang along – it was so cool! So, I do not think you need to be religious to enjoy a trip to Jerusalem. The atmosphere is really special and you will be amazed by their spirituality no matter what.
Jerusalem’s old city is divided into four quarters; the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter and the Christian Quarter. The Armenians often consider themselves as a part of the Christian Quarter, as the Armenians are treated quite badly by the Israeli government (and they are very few – less than 1000 inhabitants out of almost 40.000 in total). Most of the inhabitants in the old city are Muslims, and the Muslim quarter is the largest one. We spent most of our time in this quarter, and I loved the bazars; I suddenly felt like I was in Marrakech or Istanbul! If I had more time in Jerusalem, I would spend it exploring the rest of the quarters, but at least we had time to walk through all of them while checking out the old city’s main sights.