Destinations Magazine

Just One Day in Jerusalem is a Blessing

By Periscope @periscopepost
A day in Jerusalem is a blessing

The card, Jerusalem. Photo credit: Goldberg

Walking through the Old City of Jerusalem was like taking a walk through a history book, or the Bible at least. The more I travel through the Middle East, the more I’m forced to think about my own religious upbringing and the reasons I rejected it. The more I see of other religions, the more I believe they’re all the same and so the fighting makes me sad, rather than angry.

Even so, the day I walked through the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time I was touched by some its magic. It’s not for nothing, I thought, that this city has been fought over for 4,000 years. Perhaps its special brand of magic has always settled on those who’ve wandered its streets. Maybe that’s why the Christian Messiah Jesus Christ and the Muslim Messiah Mohammed were both here and why the Jews believe their Messiah will come here also, not far from the places where Jesus and Mohammed ascended into Heaven (no comment).

This is not a political or religious view posting, so I won’t get into my thoughts on organised religion or people ‘ascending’ into the sky. It’s good enough to know Jerusalem is the holiest place in Christianity and Judaism and the third holiest place in Islam and that you feel it under your feet.

Israelis say that every four steps you take in Jerusalem is a mitzvah – a religious duty. In turn, some suspect, you may receive something good. Walking is like kissing the earth, they say, it is here to be enjoyed, and you see this attitude to the earth in all four quarters – the Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Muslim. The ancient Roman path – the Cardo – is open and walked on by the 40,000 residents and millions of tourists who visit. Nothing is cordoned off completely and while security is intense you feel free to roam and listen and smell and soak up the magic. The assault on your senses is tiring and I wonder who lives here and how they came to live here and if they find it as exhausting and enchanting as I do.

In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in whose grounds Jesus is believed to have died on the cross, been buried and risen from the dead, you can just walk right up to his tomb to touch it. There’s no glass walls protecting it and keeping the crowds at bay, although there is a Middle Eastern queue. (By Middle Eastern queue, I mean a group of people who push and shove to get to the front first, not an orderly first-come, first-served northern European-style procedure.)

There is a little girl, about 10 years old, resting her head on the stone where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial; she has her eyes closed. I imagine she is praying and I think of my little nephew who is just learning about Jesus and how much he loves the Bible stories.

Maybe I just need to go back to loving the stories, I think, and then I sit down at Abu Shukra in the Muslim quarter for hummus and felafel to think about it. When my stomach is sated by the tastiest felafel and hummus known to mankind I leave the Old City with a spring in my step; with a feeling of love and happiness and I feel blessed to be having these experiences.

‘Blessed’ is the word that comes to my mind, the word I say and I write; the word I use. It is a word I never use to describe myself or others. Perhaps the religiosity is rubbing off on me.

And all in the name of a kebab.

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