Jerusalem, Israel – March 2015
I explore Jerusalem’s Old City and find much more than the famed religious shrines.
Nearly everybody had horror stories about going through immigrations in Israel. They had their bags searched, text messages read, passports studied, and their facebook friends analyzed. I was already riding bad luck as Jordanian authorities had lost my passport for an hour that morning. I expected the worst when I reached the front of the line. The Israeli immigrations officer stared at me, asked me where I planned to go and how long I planned to stay, and waved me through. 15 seconds at most. Israel was off to a great start.
After arriving at the bus station I made a bee line for Old City, hoping to get there before sunset. Old City is much larger than it looks, its size concealed by the walls engulfing it. Roughly 40,000 people live inside and one could spend an entire day exploring without seeing everything. Which is exactly what I wanted to try.
I checked into a hostel, dropped my bag, and went to the roof to scope out the area. The streets were narrow and the buildings were tall. This meant that what I saw from the rooftop won’t help me much in the city.
As seen from the roof
After trying to get my bearings, I set out. I first went towards the Western Wall and Temple Mount. When I arrived the area was being used for a commissioning ceremony for new Israeli Defense Force officers and visitors weren’t allowed in the area. Bummer, but I was told that the Temple Mount was only open in the mornings anyways and to come back the next day.
Allowed in or not, the view was spectacular and I stuck around a while. Free Advice: Don’t ask Israeli soldiers questions about their rifles.
After getting my fill, I decided to wander around Old City and see how lost I could get. The area being separated into four quarters (Armenian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim) made it pretty hard to get truly lost.
Old City was amazing, with still used structures dating back to over a thousand years and historians still discovering new structures, such as stairs at the Southern Wall and pools on the Temple Mount.
The pillars below were discovered during a recent dig and were largely intact after being buried for hundreds of years.
I quickly fell in love with the architecture and layout of the streets, with the twilight giving everything extra mystique.
After wandering for several hours, I found myself back at Jaffa Gate, meaning my hostel was a block away.
I headed to the Wailing Wall again the next morning but was told it was closed. I decided to the bus stop to catch a bus for Beer Sheva en route to my next job, but wanted to see a bit more of the city first. So I first went around Old City again, soaking in more of the beauty.
From there I set out for the bus station, following a market along the way.
Important sites in the city and stops along the tram route were marked with painted lions. It was probably symbolic, but I didn’t bother to ask. Bah humbug.
Soonafter I was on a bus, en route to my next job.
I returned to Jerusalem three weeks later to experience election day and explore the holy sites, but that is another story and shall be told another time.