Feature

This week’s travel dream: Looking for revelations in Jerusalem’s Old City

Jerusalem is where “our visions of holiness, our longings for something better,” come into frequent, sometimes violent “conflict with our humanness,” said Pico Iyer in Condé Nast Traveler.

One of the “most intense and transporting places” on earth, Jerusalem isn’t just another city you visit, said Pico Iyer in Condé Nast Traveler. This is where “our visions of holiness, our longings for something better,” come into frequent, sometimes violent “conflict with our humanness.” A place in which ethnic and political tensions are “as old as the hills and seemingly as immovable,” Jerusalem is also the place to contemplate religion. Its countless holy sites are a study in “what humans do with and around and in response to holiness.”

In this “city of furious passions,” I decided to make my own “pilgrimage into the conundrum of faith.” As I walked through Damascus Gate, into the Old City, what struck me was not how ancient Jerusalem was but how alive it remained. Ultra-Orthodox Jews crowded a tunnel leading to the Western Wall, where a bar mitzvah was being held. Muslims hurried along the Temple Mount to attend prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Italian and French Catholics gathered large wooden crosses to carry along the Via Dolorosa, re-enacting Christ’s procession toward crucifixion. As I neared the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which stands where many believe Jesus was buried, a Coptic priest emerged, his black skullcap and gold crosses making him seem like a “visitor from another world.” Armenian priests, with dark hoods over their heads, passed through Jaffa Gate looking like they had walked off the set of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

I headed into my Old City hospice and up to its rooftop, just as the setting sun started to cast that “golden glow for which Jerusalem has long been famous.” From up here, it seemed an almost peaceful city, “lit up with holy places.” The everyday sounds of the city seemed far away, though the “call to prayer rose up around me.” I heard chanting and bells ringing nearby. I stood silently listening, trying to believe that there might be some way to “bring some of that stillness and collectedness, a little order and beauty and calm, back into the push and swarm of the streets below.”Contact: Goisrael.com

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