Jerusalem, Israel: An Amazing Place

Tourism and Spirituality in Jerusalem

On a roof-top cafe, Old Jerusalem is gloriously sread out before me. To the north is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the site of Christ's cruxificion, burial, and resurrection. To theeast, the Temple Mount, where the first and second Jewish Temples were erected, where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac, and most significantly, where sat the Sacred Altar, or "Holy of Holies." At its center sits the unmistakable Dome of the Rock, the location which for Muslims, indicates where the prophet Muhammad dreamt he ascended into heaven.

Jerusalem is an exceptionally well-kept city with an unexpected European feel. The tourism industry must bring in a staggering amount of money, as even now, in late February, tourists are everywhere. Which is inevitably what takes away from the mystique of a place. Via Dolorosa, for instance, (the path traditionally believed to have been taken by Christ during his last hours) could be a poignant spiritual experience if not for the souq merchants hassling you every five minutes. In the Holy Sepulchre Church throngs of predominantly Christian tourists press against each other to view Christendom's most holy place, but to be perfecly honest, I felt little more than irritation. Firstly, it is not 100% certain that these are the exact spots of Christ's death, burial and resurrection, yet at the supposed site where they took Jesus off the cross, now marked by a highly polished slab of rock, pilgrims kneel before it, digging in plastic bags or purses for various trinkets, rubbing them (whether they be plastic crosses, books or coin purses) upon the slab in hopes of imbuing them with some sort of divine power. (At the time, This brought to my mind those whom flock to view tortillas with burn marks resembling the face of a woman (it must be Mary!) or, as happened in Portland not too long ago, the faithful few who crowded under an overpass to view "Christ's face," manifested, they say, in a combination of accumulated exhaust fumes and sludge-like runoff from the highway above). Secondly,An overpowering sense of ritual pervaded every aspect of this experience: Lighting candles, burning incense, uttering 100 (not 99!) hail Marys. I realize that symbolism can be an effective means of professing one's faith and indicating where one stands, but I can't deny the whole thing felt somehow...contrived, extravagant and generic. Christ, executed and humbly buried, is now remembered here by ornate shrines of silver and gold and intricately fashioned works of art. But of course, this begs the question: Does He deserve anything less? In spite of my, perhaps overly critical observations, Christ himself walked and talked in this very city, and that is certainly reason to pause, and reflect.

The Western Wall

My time spent at the Wailing, or Western Wall (The last remnant of the 2nd Temple built under King Herod) was in some ways a profound experience. Little cardboard yarmulkes are distributed, and though the slightest breeze blows them off, you are required to wear them. Within minutes of my arrival I was approached by a somewhat unconventionally dressed Jewish man who immediately began educating me in Othodox Judaism.

Reluctantly, I followed him into an area seeming much too solemn for conversation, where Jewish men prayed and read, and where intricately designed scrolls containing the Torah were housed. I did notice, from the glances of others, that this was an unpopular man, and after receiving his blessing upon me I found out why. The ever-disappointing plea for money manifested itself for, what else?, an operation for his ailing mother. *sigh* Perhaps three seconds after beginning his pitch, an older gentleman, probably a rabbi, let him have it. Unsurprisingly, it is seriously frowned upon to panhandle in such a sacred area, and the rabbi made it clear:"Do not give him money." He didn't have to tell me twice, or even once for that matter. I finally rid myself of my new "friend" and touched the Wailing Wall. It is inevitable for myself to feel a swelling of emotion in the immediate face of such history, tradition and sanctity. The mind reels, contemplating the religious significance of this small remnant of the 2nd Temple. Notes of prayer fill every nook and cranny of this ancient wall, a wall which has inspired the faith of both Jews and Christians for two-thousand years.

The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock

City of God

Jerusalem has left a great impression upon me, and it's unfortunate that it's so costly, as I could only afford to stay there a few days. There was such a sense of ease there, no feelings of tension, or danger, just a beautiful city steeped in the history of significance. What also was impressed upon me was the strong feeling of community among not only those of the Jewish faith, but Muslims and Christians as well. The sounds of schools are ever-prevalent, as are the children, singing, playing, and walking through the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem unaccompanied, as if there was nothing to fear. And I must admit, it felt as if there was not.

And speaking of singing, it was hardly exclusive to children, My first day in the city had an infectiously celebratory mood to it. People were singing and playing drums inside the Gate of the Moors, singing and dancing in the shadow of the Western Wall, singing in perfect unison, hand in hand, as they hiked down the Mount of Olives. These were not the cacophonous (to my western ear) bellows heard five times a day from every minaret, but traditional Jewish folk songs. Songs that never failed in making me smile, and that stirred something deep inside of me. These are what I will always remember, and If I felt I had the right, or the knowledge, I might have joined in.

More by this Author

  • Ten Most Amazing Places in the Middle East
    46

    Pamukkale, Turkey Pamukkale, or "Cotton Castle," is a natural phenomenon of wonder-like beauty. Hot-spring waters rich in calcium oxide have, over thousands of years, cascaded down the slopes of Caldag,...

  • The Top Ten Must-See Locations in Greece
    29

    A travel guide to some of the best locations in Greece, from Olympia to Santorini, from Delphi to Athens. Includes basic travel info, as well as helpful links to language guides, travel insurance and exchange rates.

  • EDITOR'S CHOICE
    5 Ways to Effectively Annoy Your Cat
    140

    The five methods listed here have, after extensive research and field tests, been found to be extremely effective in getting under a cat's skin. Read on for creative suggestions for annoying your cat!


Comments 9 comments

qatarvisitor profile image

qatarvisitor 8 years ago from Qatar

Awesome hubb, and great pictures too. I look forward to seeing more!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

Great information, and I loved the pictures. Friends have visited and have described it similarly. Thanks for the insights.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for the props guys! I wish I had been able to explore more of Israel at the time, but I'll be back someday.


christinekv profile image

christinekv 8 years ago from Washington

Jreuter, this is a great hub. I too have been to Israel - the region of Galilee being my favorite however, being the country girl I am, as well as knowing Jesus did and spoke some amazing things there. I enjoyed my time in Jerusalem and your comments about /surrounding the Holy Sepulchre church mirror my own sentiments.....again the same w/ the Via Dela Rosa...except that kind of creeped me out a little because I felt a presence of evil that accompanied the mocking of my being a Christian. My experience at the Wailing Wall was incredible...According to our guide though in reference to the Temple Mount, where it sits is actually off by if memory serves me correctly, I want to say at least 40 ft from where God's temple will be rebuilt - thus making it less problematic than some of our earthly minds (won't be a problem for God) would think. I did love seeing some Jews and Arabs co existing peacefully and took a picture of my girlfriend w/ an armed Arab security guard. He and another were accompanying some kids on a field trip in a more rural area....would have to pull out my journal to attempt to recall the place (there was so much to absorb in a really short time!). What made me crazy was the minnorites (sp?) blaring several times a day, calling people to pray...found that obnoxious yet I understand there are places here in the good ole USA where they've been established.

At any rate, beautiful pictures, great writing...you should be a reporter for travel magazine! You have great talent!


christinekv profile image

christinekv 8 years ago from Washington

HI again Jreuter...I wanted to clarify that I was not "creeped out" by your comment at all regarding the Via Dolorosa (guess I spelled it incorrectly in my previous posted comment - oops!) but by my own experience, on this pathway... you said:

"Via Dolorosa, for instance, (the path traditionally believed to have been taken by Christ during his last hours) could be a poignant spiritual experience....

......if not for the souq merchants hassling you every five minutes."

The last part of your statement (directly above) I did feel hassled as well, including there possibly being efforts to oppress spiritually, if only we could see into the heavenlies and get an accurate picture of the warfare... some are able to and would love to hear from anyone who has in regards to this part of the holy city.

So I agree and was personally devoid or a beautiful spiritual experience there (these occured for me on the Sea of Galilee, IN the Garden of Gethesemane (loved your photo of it btw), in the synagogue where Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah and said "today, this prophecy is fulfulled in your hearing" and at the wailing wall.

God bless!


jreuter profile image

jreuter 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for responding Christine, it's unfortunate the effect tourism can have on a place, despite how significant it may be.  I was dismayed by the attitudes of the American Christians I encountered there as well, who seemed to carry a sense of entitlement with them wherever they went.  I definitely agree about the Western Wall, too bad the Church of the Holy Sepulchre couldn't resemble that sense of holy solace that pervaded that area, it was really quite beautiful.

Blessings to you as well.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA

Great pictures! I appreciate the hub. Thank you.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

fantastic hub. I love Jerusalem, although I definintely couldn't live there, the intensity would get to me after a while.

I like your Bar Mitzvah photo at the Wailing Wall.


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

This hub can make a believer out of anyone. If I supposed there was a God, I imagine that this would indeed be his city.

Very good hub. Thanks for sharing.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working