Blessed armed ground
As we leave the airport in Tel Aviv. We look around, confused from the multiple floors of the airport, not knowing which one we are supposed to go to and take the bus straight to Jerusalem. Sights of armed women in green jumpsuits, holding guns,(the real guns) hanging on their small bodies, orthodox Jews with their kippah perfectly placed on their heads and laces hanging around their waist, covered Muslims plus everything that you can see in every single European capital. It is a heavy 40 degrees celcius, but as we have a look around, our breathing feels heavier.
We enter a modern bus that leaves the town and we start approaching Jerusalem. The most holy ground, the center of everything, the birthplace of Jesus, son of the God. Or, at least that is what I was expecting. I googled in advance everything involving Christianity, so I could understand, what kind of religion I was born to and the differences from those I could possibly meet during my travels so far. The places that were absent from my list of destinations were Bethlehem, Olive Mountain, the Wall of Walls, and the whole old town and churches within it.
Walking through armed students, after a few tram stops, we reach the Damascus Gate. The closest gate to our hotel in the old town of Jerusalem. We bump into armed policemen again, and we assumed this way isn’t the right one. We keep going along a wall the measure 10 meters high until we come to another Gate, where we can enter safely. Inside, narrow streets have small shops situated directly within the wall. A Feeling of claustrophobia takes over, in this labyrinth full of people of all races, religions, and faces that do not predict anything good. We are lost. Literally! Policemen who are a everywhere are trying to help us unfortunately with broken not very understandable English. They explain that we need to go back to the beginning and enter the Gate we were afraid to pass by, so we took another way… BUT. I have to add that it was the first time in my life I felt secure and comfortable to talk to policeman. They really wanted to help us J
We have been struggling for more than 2 hours with the map. We already passed by the Armenian, Muslim and Jewish quarters, and our hostel is in the Christian quarter. A two-hour walk in Jerusalem’s old town may sound pleasant, but we had been awake since the last day, after travelling by car during the night, night flight, and morning ride by bus to get here. Leave our stuff in our hotel and continue with planned schedule would enjoyable. We don’t lose our hope and the map is showing us that we are very close to our goal. With the greatest joy on every part of our bodies, we speed up our pace and arrive at our destination … according to the map … In reality, we ended up on a mud roof with a lot of trash, where the Orthodox Jews levitate in their suits and hats.
Our minds are figuring out how to get down while using electric cables from the roof, but we rather chose the option to ask one of the Jews how to get there. There is a question in my head: “Can a Jew actually communicate with an unknown woman?” He could. And he sent us back again! On the way from the roof we meet a charming black woman, and she leads us to the right street.
Our hostel is also part of the old walls, with small smoky windows, the Koran at the reception and a free dinner, where else? if not on the roof. Our souls would like to see more from the town, tick Bethlehem of the list as we planned, but the bodies are dead and done. Moreover, the idea of going out to this labyrinth and not finding the way back before weeping scares us so much that we are only check out the surroundings of the hotel. We decide to have dinner and leave early in the morning to Eilat, where there is a border crossing to Jordan.
Before the sun goes down we can enjoy Jewish prayers and Muslims arias and I am falling asleep with a million questions in my head:
Why are there weapons in the “holy” country? How does it affect small children when they see armed men every day? Why is it obligatory for young people to serve in the Israeli army?, Why and for what do Muslims and Jews have religious dress code when it is 40 degrees ?, Why is the circle of the old town divided into a quarter, when they are all everywhere anyway?
… and why does every religion have to have its own God?
Old town of Jeruzalem
Mosaics showing Israel as the midpoint