Once upon a time, many millennium’s ago, there was a town for Jews. They believed there is one God and worshiped him, observed Sabbath – a day to rest, chill and worship, on sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night . They ate simple food on sabbath, and went on with the life filled with jest. They looked upto Abraham – the one who founded their religion – Judaism.
Then came Passover, an important 6 day Jewish festival. Festivities began.
Jesus, traveled through the Judean desert to a town called Jerusalem. As written in Torah, holy book for Jews, every Jew must visit the Temple Mount, during the Pass-over. Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover. Jesus was a good Jew so he traveled with them and entered Jerusalem through Mt Olives, a mountain then covered with Olive groves separating Jerusalem and Judean desert, descending into Dead sea.
It was busiest week of the year, thousand’s of Jews in one big city, were celebrating Passover. My Jesus was a country boy from Sea of Galilee, North Israel. He chose to live away from the humdrum and rested often on Mt Olives, and spread the gospel.
Passover is a festival which lasts 6 days. Jesus was crucified on Friday. 2 days later, the cave is empty and Jesus resurrected for 40 days. 40 days later, He came back to Mt Olives, where he first arrived, and ascended to heaven.
No sooner than this, the fudge between Judaism and Christianity followers began.
Now as if the cross links between Judaism and Christianity wasn’t complex enough, Islam followers chimed in. The Temple Mount – holiest temple for Jews, is also the third holiest shrine for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. They believe Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the place where Temple Mount stands.
Welcome to Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world. Spiritual Center for three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Revered, besieged, brutalized, vandalized and rebuilt several times – Jerusalem has survived severe gashes of wounds in the history.
Roman arches, Byzantine moats, Crusader walls and Ottoman Ramparts testify that Jerusalem has fallen down several times, risen up even more several times than it has fallen. Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans– different groups have massacred and exiled people.
Jerusalem Old city is divided into 4 quarters – Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter, Jewish Quarter and Muslim Quarter. There are 8 gates to enter the Old city of Jerusalem – Damascus gate, Golden Gate, Lions’s gate, Zion gate, Jaffa gate to name a few.
Golden Gate, called as Sha’ar HaRachamim (שער הרחמים) in Hebrew, has been closed for thousand of years.
For Jews, the Anointed One (Messiah) hasn’t come yet. They believe Jesus isn’t the Messiah, contrary to what Christians think. Jews believe Messiah will enter through Mt Olives and then go through Golden gate, directly to Temple Mount. But currently, it is guarded and controlled by Muslim soldiers. So, it looks like Messiah will have to engage in combat before entering through the Golden Gate.
Burning incense, Sound of bells resonating from Churches, Ram’s Horn used in Jewish religious practices and Muezzin’s call from Mosques will fill you with a potpourri of joie de vivre, intrigue, and wonder in a repeated bouts of varied emotions.
When in Jerusalem, irrespective of your beliefs, eluding from intense historical effervescence is impossible. It will sink right into your lungs, like a puff of wind, and stay there while you’d exhale thinking, ‘Oh Jerusalem, you’re a sweetheart. Stay strong – like you have in past, surviving through centuries’.
Leaning against the wall of the church, you reflect about the stories riveting traditions and mythologies. More the people divulge different stories, the more you can characterize the different characters in story. As scaffolds unfold, through layers of centuries, the characters personify the compulsive desire and need for homo sapiens to hang on firmly, strictly and irrevocably to a specific belief system, akin to a beehive hanging from the branch of a tree; reproducing , strengthening the familial structure around that tree.
1 ) Temple Mount, Mt Moriah
You can hear yourself whispering, ‘What is all the fuss about?’ Prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven here? Good. Jewish Foundation Stone is on top of this mountain which they believe is the center of universe? Good, again. Why fight, pull, snatch, shoot and assassinate? But, uh-oh, that’s another story.
2) The Western Wall
‘Judaism without Jerusalem is unimaginable. Wailing Wall is the most significant site for Jewish people in the world.’, says Odded, a local living in Jerusalem.
According to Jewish mythology, the creation of the world began from the Foundation stone, center of Mt Moriah. It is also the place where Adam, the first human, was created. There are other walls too around the Mt Moriah, but you can see people standing only at the Western Wall praying because of it’s proximity to the Foundation Stone in Temple Mount. People write their prayers on a piece of prayer and stick into the walls.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob , later renamed as ‘Israel’ loved Mt Moriah. #Justsaying
3) Jewish cemetery
In Jewish tradition, people never bring flowers while visiting the grave of their loved ones. Every time they visit, they put a stone on the grave. They believe flowers perish. But, stones signify – ‘from dust we came and to dust we shall return’.
4) Dormition Abbey on Mt Zion.
It is said Virgin Mary never died. It is believed it is here in Dormition Abbey that she fell asleep and ascended to heaven.
5) The Church Of Pastor Nastor
It stands on the site of Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. (Luke 11:2-4). In this church, the walls are adorned by Lord’s Prayer written in every language across the world.
6) Tomb Of Virgin Mary
Located in Kidron Valley, at the foot of Mt. Olives.
7) Dominus Flevit
When Jesus first arrived to Bethany ( Mt Olives) and overlooked the city of Jerusalem, he wept and prophesied that Jerusalem will be destroyed. After 40 years, it was captured by Romans and was tethered to pieces.
For Jews and Muslims alike, the Mount Of Olives is where the gates of heaven will open up on Judgement Day.
8) David’s Tomb on Mt Zion
‘Faith is powerful in Jerusalem. If people say, it is the Tomb Of David, it means it is the Tomb Of David’, says Assaf, a local living in Jerusalem.
9) Via Dolorosa
This is the route taken by Jesus leading from Antonia Fortress, where He was condemned to death, to Mt. Golgotha, the place of crucifixion. Via Dolorasa means Way Of Sorrow. There are 14 stations. People praying at the Stone Of Unction which is the 13th Station where Jesus’ body is taken from the cross and washed.
10) Church Of Holy Sepulchre
It is where Jesus’ body was nailed to cross and then laid in the Tomb Of Joseph Of Aramathea.
11) Room Of Last Supper on Mt Zion
13) Al-Aqsa Mosque on Mt Moriah
Muslims pray in direction towards Kabba. But centuries before, Prophet and the followers used to pray in direction to Al-Aqsa. According to Islam, this is the ‘farthest Mosque’ and Prophet Mohammed undertook a voyage ‘Isra and Miraj’, called as Night Journey to this place. He then ascended to heaven from where the Dome Of Rock stands.
Entry into the mosque is prohibited to non-muslims.
14) Church of Agony and Garden Of Gethsemane
After the Last Supper, Jesus knew one of his seven disciples would betray him. He comes from Mt Zion to Mt Olives, in the Garden Of Gethsemane, then a garden full of olive groves. Sits on the rock with agony where Judas comes with Roman Soldiers. From here, Jesus Of Nazareth is taken into custody and was condemned to death.
People Of Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, men have long-side locks and wear a yamakha. The belief goes when they wake up in the morning, it is good to know that somebody is watching over them from above. Men do not look into the eyes of the women while they talk. Now in case you lost your way in twists and turns of Jerusalem, consider yourself a lucky woman if they answer your request. They don’t talk to women because of religious reasons.
Damn, life must be hard for them!
The Book Of Torah – Holy book Of Jews in Hebrew
Streets Of Jerusalem
‘Jerusalem has been physically and spiritually destroyed in past’, says Naomi, a local living in Jerusalem.
With 5000 year old past, the roots of Jerusalem have always been entrenched in the quagmire of controversy, bloodshed and war dwindling with peace and worship on the other side.
You should safeguard Jerusalem in the petal of your memories, which shall last until the end of time .