Behind the Walls - The Old City of Jerusalem

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August 7th 2012
Published: August 10th 2012
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Half Day in The Holy City

The city was bustling with all types of people. Such a "mixing pot" as Americans like to say when describing the U.S. But this city really was. There were all different types of dress. All different cultures. There's muslims, Christians, Jews, foreign tourists and then there's denominations of all religions - Egyptian Coptics and Greek Orthodox, Sunnis and Shias, Haredi Jews and Reform Jews - just to name a few.

The Old City of Jerusalem is like one giant bazaar, but every once in a while there is a religious site or monument. The Old City is split up into four quarters - the christian quarter, the muslim quarter, the jewish quarter, and the armenian quarter. To start I headed with my friend Moodi to the muslim quarter to see the Temple of the Mount/Dome of the Rock - he didn't believe me that its closed to non-muslims during Ramadan.

He finally believed me when he passed the Israeli guards only to turn around and see me stuck behind the barrier, the guard blocking my path. The guard was actually pretty rude about it too. We went to find something outside the Old City to eat because during Ramadan most people don't eat in front of the muslims fasting. We ate at a small restaurant right outside called Al-Quds (Al- Quds = Jerusalem in arabic) and had a nice rotisserie chicken, 5 different small arab salads, and hummos and pita. Delicious!

After our meal I met up with a friend of mine named Maryam who I met in Jordan through Laila. She and her friends had agreed to meet me and show me around Jerusalem, because she is originally from there so she knows it pretty well. First stop was the Garden Tomb, one of the proposed spots that Jesus might have been buried. There is a garden around the tomb, which is carved out of a stone cave. I'm no expert by any means, but I think this one would be a more biblically accurate site for his burial. The other proposed sight is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But the tomb there is only feet away from the spot they believe Jesus was crucified. In the bible the tomb was described as a farther away than that.

Next stop was the Queen Helen Coptic Church, where we descended down a few staircases to find a large underground cistern that's water was used for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre next door. It was kind of eery down below! When we came back up we walked around the church and its courtyard for a few minutes and then it was time to go the the Holy Sepulchre.

This was my favorite church in Jerusalem. My favorite out of all the churches I've seen actually, including the ones in Europe! It just felt so peaceful inside for some reason. The smells, the sounds, the walls - everything just seemed relaxing. This church is the home of one of the proposed tombs of Jesus - a large shrine that you can walk into marks where they believe he was buried. And just up some stairs away from that is where they believe he was crucified. The church had too much to put into words, but we spent a good 45 minutes inside, exploring all of it. It was actually pretty big. Before leaving I went to a spot where people write down their prayers or requests and
Damascus GateDamascus GateDamascus Gate

Very busy during Ramadan
cast them behind this glass barrier into a room. I had to drop one myself as well.

We spent a good deal of time walking around the Old City and looking at the different shops, which are literally everywhere. It's like one giant market. There are shops for just about everything and there are actually some really great souvenirs. For how busy it is, it actually feels pretty safe. And on that note - while we were there a fight broke out. Not exactly sure what happened, but the Israeli guards that are stationed throughout the Old City had to intervene. It was intense.

When inside the Old City, at times it feels like you're underground. The shops and the coverings hanging along the alleys make it darker and the alleys are all connected like a maze. It's pretty easy to get lost!

Occupied Territory

We had dinner with a young Palestinian named Mohammad (not really but I'm not going to give out names) who had more than a few interesting stories to tell about his life in occupied territory. My friend Dawood asked him, "hey tell them about the times you got arrested."

Mohammad: "I was arrested for throwing rocks........and a bomb"

Us: "At Israeli guards??"

Mohammad: "Yes, of course

Us: "When did all this happen?"

Mohammad: "Well the first time? (stops to think).... when i was 12"

Much like children in the refugee camp that I visited (that I'll write about in a coming blog), young children in occupied territory often lash out by throwing rocks or garbage at Israeli soldiers. This can result in harsh jail sentences - one boy from the refugee camp I met just got out of prison, he's 19 and was in an Israeli jail for 3 years for throwing rocks and yelling at an Israeli soldier. Things do sometimes get out of hand though. The bomb he threw was a molotov cocktail and he ended up going to jail for 2 years for it. Jail times vary depending on who you're arrested by and being American won't stop you from being detained. Israel has a special administrative detention policy which allows them to detain anyone without trial, without reason, and without charge for an indefinite period of time. Mohammad has been to jail twice, once for 6 months and once for 2 years, but he's never seen the inside of a courtroom.

Additional photos below
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12th August 2012

Sobering blog on a city so Holy but in many ways so Troubled
15th August 2012

I love this!
I loved reading about the churches. Especially that part where you leave a prayer. The markets look busier than Suq Jara! The stories you heard from people are quite.. what's the word?.. I'll stick with interesting.. You know what I have to say about the occupation. But hopefully one day سنعود
16th August 2012

yea remember what i told you the prayer said? yea it was like one giant market and it was very busy!! yea :/ inshallah :) maybe next yearrr <3

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