"Jerusalem: Monotheism's Controversial Capital" Top 5 Page for this destination Jerusalem by jadedmuse
Jerusalem Travel Guide: 1,882 reviews and 5,396 photos
Where am I? Israel? Palestine?!?
"Michele, don't go to Jerusalem right now, aren't there problems in Ramallah? Aren't there shootings taking place in the Gaza?"
Boy, did that sound familiar.
But that's just the point, folks -- this is the Middle East. It embodies the old axiom "the more things change, the more things stay the same." My curiosity was piqued about these age-old, mysterious cultures that exist collectively - but not necessarily peacefully - in this ancient land so full of history and drama.
If a bite of the cosmopolitan life, interesting cafes and restaurants, hip clubs, beautiful beaches and stunning deserts are your thing, then Tel Aviv is more your place. But for me, the kaleidescope of smells, the sounds - the hustle and bustle of activity inside the historic old city of Jerusalem (known to locals simply as the "Old City") are what mesmerize me the most.
Juxtaposed near every church is a mosque, which in my very Western, very American way of thinking reminded me of "McDonalds vs. Burger King" warfare. Except that the main ingredients in the Middle East are religion and dogma, not burgers and fries.
Five times a day, the haunting "call to prayer" plays over loudspeakers from specific mosques, hypnotizing chants and verses from the Koran; Greek orthodox priests scurry down the narrow cobblestone walkways on their way to daily mass - they are the guardians of Christianity within the holiest of holy cities, keepers of the key to Heaven; down another street, the Arab merchants cajole the wary shopper (including me!) into drinking some mint tea - or some strong Arabic coffee - and then get down to the brass tacks of bargaining their exquisitely rich, silk Persian carpets.
And the Western Wall - aka the Wailing Wall - the only part of the second Temple left untouched since the time of Herod - a powerful, dramatic symbol resonating against the velvet backdrop of a deep blue night sky and a full yellow moon; I stood entranced my first night there as I watched a group of Hassidic Jews wearing round fur hats and prayer mantels and traditional long black overcoats, holding hands and dancing in prayer; further down another street in the Armenian section of the city, I recall an old man bent over a large waterpipe, enjoying the flavorful tobacco of the "narghila" as he inhaled and exhaled. Around the corner, I saw a young Israeli soldier taking a drag on his cigarette while sharing a laugh with a tourist.
These were some of my strongest impressions of Jerusalem - but they are only a small part of what this country has to offer the world. To me, Jerusalem was - is - a complete sensory overload that both proclaims and defies the divisive elements that characterize this beautiful and mysterious land. Just like it has done for years and years.
There's no getting around the beauty, the mystery, the impact, and ultimately the controversy - of this amazing country. Nowhere else will you be welcomed "home" as you are in Israel, and nowhere else will you feel as torn as when you are in Israel.
A friend once asked me which do I prefer: the forest, the desert, the mountains or the ocean? It seemed to be a ridiculous question at the time - why must I choose a single one, when all four of these natural phenomena move me in equally powerful but different ways.
Now add to these four phenomena the unique position of hosting the world's three most powerful monotheistic religions - the one consistent, driving force that has both united and divided the world since man has been waging war with himself - and folks, you have Palestine. Or rather, Israel.
Israel? Palestine? A "desert rose" by any other name, is still...a Desert Rose.
- In a nutshell:"No, REALLY - the more things change, the more things stay the same!"
Jerusalem may have been around in one form or another since the First Temple, but it's not until you're scurrying down... more travel advice
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Written Feb 8, 2004
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jadedmuse's Related Pages
Jerusalem Travel Guide
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- "Jerusalem–the Foundation Stone of three Religions"
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