Jerusalem, unmatched in plurality

27 October 2022 (photos from November 2021)

A view on the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Jerusalem, a city of unmatched history and plurality - holy in three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For those very reasons, many call it the “centre of the world” due to its importance over the past 5000 years.

Travelling to this city is a unique experience, it is impossible to understand the meaning of Jerusalem to millions of people without experiencing it first hand.

I personally knew very little about Jerusalem, except for the recurring headlines often seen in newspapers or on television related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A man looks towards the Western Wall & Temple Hill in the Old City of Jerusalem.

On my arrival, making my way to the Old City, I found myself magnetised by the countless monuments we have all heard in school without really thinking about them over the years. Although myself an atheist with very little knowledge on the topic of religion, I felt totally captivated by its atmosphere and history shaped over thousands of years by three civilisations.

Pilgrims pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Walking through Jerusalem’s tiny alleyways, every turn I took offered me a different vision of the city, its inhabitant and cultures - Just a couple of hundred metres away from Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall of Jerusalem, I stumble into an Arab souk with street sellers offering me coffee and various types of oriental delicacies.

At the end of this street, towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque, I am stopped by Israeli military personnel - only allowing Muslims to access the site on days of worship - this occurrence reminds me of the ongoing conflict in the Middle-East between Israelis and Palestinians.

Locals seating in the Cotton Market in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter.

Walking back to the Western Wall on that Friday afternoon, I had the privilege to witness the preparations for Shabbat with families gathering in the city’s holiest location ahead of the celebrations.

As Israel’s borders had only just reopened after more than a year of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was with relief that on that day, hundreds of Jews from across the world gathered near the sacred wall on Shabbat for the first time in months.

As observant Jews do not work on Shabbat, most of West Jerusalem shuts down as locals begin their day of rest. Restaurants, shops & businesses usually close early in the afternoon ahead of the festivities and will only re-open on the following Sunday, whereas public transport such as trains and buses will resume running after sunset on Saturday.

A man prays by the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

It was the perfect occasion to explore the Old City’s Muslim Quarter as well as East Jerusalem, whose inhabitants are predominantly Muslim. As a result, businesses in this part of the city remain open as usual during Shabbat. Walking past Damascus Gate, life is thriving with musicians, artists & street food stalls offering various specialties to locals as well as to tourists visiting the area.

A man walks through the streets of East Jerusalem, towards Damascus Gate.

Ending my visit to the Holy City, I decided to walk up the Mount of Olives on the edge of Jerusalem - a landmark with a strong significance to both Christians and Jews, dating back to Biblical times, used as a burial site for thousands of years, the mount offers one of the highest viewpoints on the city.

A view on the graves of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel.