Traveling through Israel was very different to what I had experienced in Jordan and Egypt but that is what makes traveling so interesting. If all experiences in every country we visited were exactly the same, why would we bother to travel?
Wandering through the streets of Jerusalem where Jesus walked to his crucifixion , King David ruled and Prophet Muhammad descended to heaven is an experience that many people flock to this city for. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all strongly represented in the Old City which seems appropriate considering they are all connected through Abraham.
Jerusalem is a fascinating place to explore, especially the old city. You will be amazed at the beauty of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and moved by the emotion that many experience when standing before the tomb of Jesus Christ or kneeling to kiss the stone slab where Jesus was taken following the crucifixion. The same can be said for Jews bowing at the Western Wall or praying at the tomb of King David and Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to the Dome Of The Rock.
Walking through the alley ways of the old city was like walking through a 2000 year old shopping mall. It’s narrow alley ways are filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. Back in the days of Jesus Christ it probably would have been exactly the same the only difference is the merchandise sold. Goods that would have been relevant in biblical times are now replaced with religious souvenirs, post cards and espresso machines.
Going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv was like traveling to a completely different country, it is modern with nightclubs and strip bars, so much drinking everywhere. Such a contrast to what it was like staying in the Arab district of old Jerusalem, where there are no bars and as a female you feel safer walking around the streets.
Is this really a holy land? Do these historic and grand buildings made of stone make it so? Jesus preached love and forgiveness, Prophet Mohammad spoke of peace and equality, from what I learnt about King David he united his people. All were great leaders and connected to one another as descendants of Abraham. This country is filled with so many holy sites which are beautiful and quite moving yet it exists between people living completely different lives. Different in the kind of rights and freedom they have depending on which side of the wall they live on and religion they embrace.
Israel’s problems are not just about religion, while it does fan the flames the bigger issue is about land that was unjustly taken, people forced to live in exile behind a wall or in another country. The Treaty of Balfour which was drafted by the British and supported by the US in 1917 following the fall of the Ottoman Empire paved the way to form the state of Israel. The US President Woodro Wilson was know to be a strong supporter of the Zionest and the British needed to protect it’s trade routes through the Suez Canal. Both countries have played a part in the conflict we see today and both need to step up to plate right the wrongs of the past.
If you do choose to go to Israel be prepared for an unfriendly welcome at the airport and lengthy security checks on the way out. You don’t have to worry about a stamp in your passport either as they now issue an I.D card when you enter and leave. Visit the holy sites and also take a moment to step back and take in everything around you, the beautiful churches, mosques, temples, but most of all the way people are living and the challenges that they face. Not only will have a religious experience but also a human one that will certainly make you appreciate the life that you have and the freedom that comes with it.