Without any special reason Jerusalem or Israel was not on my bucket list but in March 2017 we have the chance to visit this exciting city .
In the moment we decide to go there we begin to investigate but the history is very complex and this is why it is not that easy to understand this part of the World.
But once we arrive over there and visit all those historical and religious locations, everything is getting clear .
You can better understand Jerusalem and the reason why there is still so much struggle and fight around the city and the region . One of the reasons is that the city is the spiritual and historical center of 3 major religions while the other reason was the ongoing fights between the Israeli and the Palestine people to claim the land .
In 1947 the UN separated historical Palestine into 2 states under British control which one was for the European Jews and one for the Palestinians .In the first Arab – Israeli War in 1948 Jerusalem fell into separation – into the Israeli region ( West Jerusalem )and into the Jordanian district ( East Jerusalem ).One year later Israel claimed Jerusalem as its capital and expanded its city boundaries throughout the years . The disputes are still holding on till today since the Arabs claim East Jerusalem as the capital city of Palestine.
Jerusalem, in Hebrew is called Yerushalayim, in Arabic it is Bayt al-Muqaddas or Al-Quds and is the ancient city of the Middle East and under the rule of the state of Israel since 1967 .
Unfortunately this marvelous city was always a serious trouble spot between the national interests among the Israeli and the Arab Palestine people .
The trouble often ended in serious incidents and violence .
Jerusalem is located at the borderline of Israel and the West Bank and is the holiest place and the spiritual center for all 3 major world religions – Judaism, Christianity and the Islam .
Jerusalem is more then 6000 years old and counts as one of the oldest cities in the World .
It became the spiritual center of the Judaism in 1000 BCE, when King David of Israel first established it as the capital of the Jewish Nation and his son Solomon built the First Temple in the city , the Holy Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah which is the most important religious site for the Jewish people .
Jerusalem gives you an interesting feeling – I don’t know whether it is the tense that you feel that exists between the young armed Israeli soldiers and the young Arabs seeking for their land or whether it is because this land is where so many prophets came along thousands of years ago, suffered or were involved in fights and wars and tried to change mankind with their religious doctrines – somehow you feel very tense in these territories .The atmosphere in the air is tickling – I never had a comparable feeling in any other region or city .
Walking in the streets of Jerusalem means walking on cobble stone streets from thousands of years ago – all look as in the old times – the little shops , the people, the churches , the different districts , the merchandise on the market , the crying merchants , the historical and holy religious locations, the ancient arcs, the very narrow streets – it is an incredible place .It is as if there is a secret hidden behind any wall or around any corner .
First we take a tour to the Museum of Jerusalem – a great museum that definitely needs to be seen when having a trip to Israel . There are so many details that you are explained about Jerusalem and Israel that gives you a lot of insight into the Jewish religion and culture.
After our museum visit it is late in the afternoon and time for sun dawn is approaching so we are leaving for the Olive Mountain … what a magnificient place !
We stand at the top of this holy place – Olive Mountain is where Jesus spent his last night before he was crucified on the Golgotha Hills .On the other hand it is one of the holiest places for the Jewish people as it is the location where the Jewish people will ascend to heaven when the day of the Doom will arrive.
For this reason it is also a place where lots of wealthy Jewish people have their graves.
When you look down from the Olive Mountain you see nearly all parts of Jerusalem – the Western Wall ( Wall of Wailing ), the place of the former Solomon Temple , the Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa Mosque, the different Gates of the City and all the little churches and chapels.
What a gorgeous view and here you can see how all is very grift, close by , in it together – all the holy places either united in one or next to each other – very excitedly we observe the view . This point of view has a very special energy and you don’t want to leave the place as there are so many things to see . You look into history down there , it is like a miracle that you look into – the sun is slowly going down at Olive Mountain , the lights of the city are starting to be switched on , the weather is warm and the evening prayer starts from El Aqsa Mosque – the atmosphere is unbelievable and cant be described …- wow !!! I just try to imagine all these special places. Places where all 3 religions met while Jesus , Moses , David , Solomon ,St Mary and St Joseph , Mohammed , Abraham were living here .
The city lights are giving the place a different appearance …my goodness – this is the place where all the religions became the spirit for millions of peoples’ life in all over the World for thousands of years and there is still an ongoing fight between all.
For me these are long moments of thoughts and questions – how come that all 3 religions met here and how come that all of them based on peace and love for their followers are becoming so cruel and full of hate for mankind and against each other – what is so difficult to live in peace altogether ? Many questions without answers – it sometimes makes me feel very sad .
After being impressed by this outstanding view and atmosphere and after the sun has gone down , we leave for our dinner tonight .
The next day is a walk with great impressions through time and faith.
We start the early morning on the other side of Olive Mountain and walk through the different districts : the Jewish district , the Armenian District , the Muslim District etc .
In the Jewish district we meet some young students but they are so shy and don’t want to have any contact with foreign people . We walk along their school and they just observe while we pass by . The Jewish community here is very conservative – the clothes , the hair styling of the men and women is very special – somehow it looks a little scary to me as anything that is extremely conservative is creepy for me.
We walk through the gate of David – here is the Armenian district .Shops on both sides of the streets .
We walk down the stairs – there we arrive at the Western tunnels !
This place is such a historical place as it is the last rest and ruin of the wall of the old Solomon Temple , the place of the Jewish people where the old holy Jewish sacraments were stored before it was burnt down and just this part was left behind.
This is the place where the Followers of the Jewish religion believe to be closest to the divine Energy and their God . The so – called Solomon Temple was built by Solomon , son of David ,who was the first founder of the Jewish doctrine .
We have a special permission and are allowed to walk down there through the Western Tunnels , the gateway under the Solomon Temple which is about 500 m long.
I cant believe that we are following the footsteps of such ancient times and we feel like being at least 2000 years back in time.
When you enter the Western Tunnels you will see a 3 D animation of the Solomon Temple at the left hand side which gives you a very good insight on how the Solomon Temple looked like in the past and what its history was about and why it was of such high importance for the people in those days and also today .
We move forward and get into some silent room where we can see a part of the ancient Wall of Wailing below the temple where the Jewish people with their hair locks, their special long clothes and hats are praying – what a view , how interesting and impressive it is …. The other side of this wall actually is the famous Western Wall or also so- called Wall of Wailing that can be seen from outside .
For the Jewish the Wall of Wailing is the closest point to heaven and God and this is why they pray here especially on Fridays .
When we step out of the end of the Western Tunnels we all of a sudden are standing at the beginning of the “Via Dolorosa” ( The Way of Sorrow ).
The “Via Dolorosa” is the pilgrimage of the Christians and the pain route of Jesus of Nazareth that stretches between the Antonia Fortress and Golgotha Hills which Jesus Christ walked under the weight of his cross on his last day before he was crucified on Golgotha Hills.
The way starts near the Lions Gate close to the Muslims quarter and ends at the huge Church of Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter and consists of 14 stations .
These 14 stations are historically the place where during his walk of pain Jesus faced certain events or moments which are marked on this way however the route changed during the centuries as historically it is not that clear where those incidents really took place .
Due to the last version :
Station I : is the Condemnation of Jesus of Nazareth by Pontus Pilatius – this event is told as to be hold at the Madrasa al Omariya .
Station II : is the place where Jesus was forced to carry the huge wooden cross .There is the Chapel of Judgement where Jesus was sentenced to Death. From here the path is going southwards and passes the northwestern Gate of Temple Mount .
Station III : is the place where Jesus is falling down for the first time under the high weight of the cross.
Station IV: is the location where Jesus’ mother Mary is standing and watching her son passing by . Here is the Armenian Church of Our lady of Spasm as it is called .
Station V: this is the corner where one of Jesus apostles ,Simon of Cyrene, is asked by the Roman soldiers to support Jesus at carrying his cross . From this corner onwards the path is getting narrower and turning westwards and up the hill .
Station VI : Up the hill is the station where Veronica is wiping the face of Jesus with her handkerchief .It leaves Jesus face image on this piece of cloth which is today preserved at the St Peters Basilica in the Vatican in Rome .”Vera Icon” is the Latin word for “real image ” – this is maybe where the name Veronica is derived from .
Station 6 is also commemorated by the Church of the Holy Face .
Station VII: is the location where Jesus is falling down for the second time on his way .Here the place is marked with a little Franciscan chapel .
Station VIII: is the place where Jesus is consoling the lamenting women on his path marked by the Monastery of St Charalambos . The route continues with 28 steps up to the next station.
Station IX : is the place of the 3rd fall of Jesus – it is marked with the Coptic Patriarchate which stands next to the Holy Sepulchre . The point of the fall is marked with a Roman pillar.
Station X-XIV are inside the Holy Sepulchre .
Station X: is the place where Jesus is stripped of his garments .
Station XI : is the place where Jesus is nailed to the cross.
Station XII : is the location where Jesus dies on the Golgotha Hills.
Station XIII: is the place where Jesus is taken down from the cross.
Station XIV: is the location where Jesus laid into his tomb ( sepulchre ) . It is the place where it is believed that he was buried for 3 days and then rose to heaven on Eastern Sunday Morning.
All these 14 stations are marked on the path but it might be that you do not recognize all of those while walking there.
Today and since centuries every Friday hundreds of Christians are walking this way in the old quarters of Jerusalem up to the Church of Sepulchre and feel empathy with the suffering of Jesus on his way to crucifixion.
It is also a Friday that we walk this path to see these historical places on a warm and sunny day in ancient Jerusalem – a Friday that is holy for all 3 main religions.
At the end of the walk we stand at the top of Golgotha Hills where it is said that the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth took place – the Holy Sepulchre is huge , really huge, at top of these hills – the building is overwhelming . It is impressive to stand here at the place where millions of Christian people in the World feel for the suffering of Jesus , born as the son of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem ( see also my separate blogpost on the birthplace of Jesus in Palestine On the traces of Jesus of Nazareth , Bethlehem Palestine March 2017 ) .
Inside the Holy Sepulchre we recognize several groups of Christian people – Armenian , Orthodox and others who all have their different places to visit and pray .
In the afternoon we also visit the place of where Jesus had his last Meal .
After our visit of the “Via Dolorosa” , we then walk to the Cotton Merchants Gate, an ancient gate which is one of the entrances to the Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa Mosque .We need to pass a security check at the end of the gate before we enter the site of the El – Aqsa Mosque which is the 3rd holiest place for the Muslim world .Just Muslims are allowed to enter this part of Jerusalem.
First we visit the Dome of the Rock which is a holy site for the Muslims as well as for the Jewish people . The Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century and is one of the eldest monuments in the Islamic World .It has an octagonal base and a golden dome .
The Dome of the Rock actually covers the rock where it is believed that Prophet Mohammed , founder of the Islam , ascended to heaven .At the same time the rock is the place where due to Jewish belief Abraham tried to sacrifice his son Isaac for God .The Dome of the Rock is also located on Temple Mount at the site of the old Solomon’s temple . It is said that the Dome of the Rock was also built as a rival to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as there are also phrases out of the Quran which give hints and underline that Jesus was a prophet only and Allah , God , is unique .
Inside the Dome of the Rock there is also a stairway that leads you downstairs to a natural cave where it is said that Mohammed prayed at this place.
Leaving the Dome of the Rock we walk across the wide place in front of the Dome , down some stairs and then through a garden to the Al Aqsa Mosque which is the 3rd most important location after Mecca and Medina for the Islam .Also here are crowds of people coming to the Friday prayer . Everywhere there are controls since lots of incidents happened here in the past . Due to some ancient historical scripts probably this is the place where one of the first mosques in Islamic history was built – The Mosque of Umar might have stood here which was built in 638. Unfortunately the ancient mosque was destroyed due to earthquakes and rebuilt several times . During the crusades Al Aqsa was used as the royal palace of the crusader kings in 1118. Throughout the centuries the mosque was restored . In 1938-42 it was again rebuilt .In 1951 King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated at the south end of the mosque, bullet holes from the assassination are still in the pillar.
The El Aqsa Mosque means the “Farthest Mosque” which is related to Mohammed ‘s Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back. Today the El Aqsa Mosque is the largest in Jerusalem and can accommodate about 4000 people at the same time .Under the mosque even today is a subterranean hall that leads to some original entrance passages of Temple Mount in the period of the Second Temple .
Both of these 2 buildings , The Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa, are also very magnificent and outstanding . They are also settled on Temple Mount and have also a very special energy .It is a pity that these holy places are again and again places of violence and incidents .
This place returned under the Jewish control in 1967.
We leave the El Aqsa Mosque via the same gate and security check where we got in and arrive outside back to the Western wall and look directly to the Wailing Wall.
It is in the late afternoon and all the Jewish people are now slowly coming in for their Friday prayers . The Western Wall itself is about 50 m long and 20 m high but the Wall goes deep under the ground as we have seen it in the Western Tunnels in the morning .
The people pray here and leave little pieces of paper with their wishes into the cracks of the stone edges of the wall in their hope that their wishes will become true one day . They believe that the divine energy never left the Western Wall , they lament for the destruction of the temple and the wall and pray for the reconstruction of them one day . In contrast to the El Aqsa Mosque , everybody , no matter which religion you follow , is free to approach the Wailing Wall and to stand side to side with the praying Jewish people – men on one side and women at the other side .
What a day it is – a day full of emotions , full of spiritual impressions .
I had the chance to visit all the holiest places for Judaism , for Christianity and the Islam on a Friday prayer day . I walked the way of the Via Dolorosa up to the Golgotha Hills , walked under the ruins of the Solomon Temple in the Western Tunnels , stood at the Wailing Wall next to the praying Jewish women during sun dawn and walked around the Rock of the Dome , the place of Mohammed’s ascension, and at the place of former Umar Mosque in the holy El Aqsa Mosque .
At all holy places of the 3 religions I was praying for a better World and was grateful for what I was allowed to live so far . I believe that the only thing that counts are your feelings in your heart and your well thoughts for your fellows and mankind .Since God created all people no matter what their skin type , their origin or gender is – the most important thing is that people unite in peace and love altogether and do not allow violence and war in the world .
It is a pity that it seems to be so difficult .
We leave Jerusalem after a couple of days and I have a deeper understanding on what the Middle East is and why there are so many fights around .
But it is certainly not enough , it is just like a little dip but for sure the city is worth to come a second and a third time as it is more then a pleasure to walk here at world famous historical and religious places and to feel their specific energy that is affecting the whole world peace since thousands of years .