Largely as a result of my family’s Catholic connections, the one place friends locally are keen to hear about, following my recent trip, is Jerusalem.
Our visit was brief and it is difficult to sum up a place where the most striking aspect was the atmosphere. It is a city where Christians, Muslims and Jews meet; where worshippers, pilgrims and sightseers can be found mixing amongst each other in the historical sites of the Old City, enjoying their own personal relationship with religion in a place where few could leave untouched by its strong sense of spirituality and prayer.
Not only is Jerusalem a place of pilgrimage, it is also a tourist attraction. So I had expected Old Jerusalem, the home of so many biblical landmarks, to have become over-commercialised. In fact it hadn’t. It was more moving than I had expected and there was a distinct aura of calm. As visitors walked round the various landmarks, they did so with an obvious respect for its historical and religious significance, despite the fact they would not have always shared the same religious views.
There did seem a sense of peace and mutual respect. Yet Jerusalem is a hotly contested area and a short distance from the Western Wall, viewed by many as the holiest place on Earth, is the a dividing wall that marks the edge of the conflict region between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Sad that such a spiritual city, renowned as a place of pilgrimage and religious retreat is also known for its conflict.
To those who have asked I would recommend a visit. Just as any visit to Israel would not be complete with a visit to Jerusalem, I would also suggest that any visit to Jerusalem would not be complete without a visit to the fabulous Mahane Yehuda Market, a visit to the Biblical Zoo, and the opportunity dine on one of Jerusalem’s sort-after restaurants. We visited the impressive Machneyuda restaurant, the highlight of which was a three-tiered dessert platter with chocolate mousse, cheesecake and banana cake, bit I digress.
Naturally, as would be the case with travel to any area where tension exists, I would also advise caution, even though the only signs during our visit that this is not a city at peace were the young soldiers patrolling Jerusalem’s streets. It would be so nice to be in a position to re-write this post one day without having to talk of any current conflict.
My lasting thoughts of Jerusalem are that it is a city of contrasts, where old meets new and where an area that emanates peace and spirituality exists so close to one of conflict and casualty, which is a great shame. It is a stunning place to visit.
I’d like to send my thanks to fellow blogger MidlifeSinglemum who travelled from her home to meet us. Proof that blogging truly is an international pastime and one that exists across borders. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you Rachel and to visit the place you call home. I hope to return.