A typical street in the old city
Israel is the best city for wanderers in the world! When I am alone this is how I travel – with a map in my pocket I wander down a random street and see where it takes me. Not practical in many places, but in Jerusalem it is perfect. I spent most of my time in Jerusalem wandering the maze of stone alleys that is the old city, and every few minutes I would stumble into some ancient holy place.
Nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of faith, I think. In one day I followed Jesus' footsteps along the Via Delarosa, touched the western wall, saw the dome of the rock and wandered the mount of olives. I am a faithless pilgrim, bewildered by the deep belief of those swaying or singing or crying around me in their holy places. And though I lack the faith to grant me such a powerful reaction Jerusalem is filled with an inexplicable joy. I am in love with the diversity of the place – my last evening I perched on a rooftop and listened to Shabet songs, church bells and Ramadan fireworks as the sun set. It was a moment of perfection!
Now I can understand the importance of Jerusalem, and why it is the center of so much love and so much hated. But I read something on way here which argued that the conflict and cruelty that have surrounded this city, the great evils committed to capture it for the glory of God is a kind of blasphemy. If people behave in a way repulsive to the commandments to love their fellow man for the sake of Jerusalem, it becomes idolatry – the stones lose their holiness when they are soaked with blood. The peace I saw here: Muslims and Jews worshiping just blocks away from each other, headscarves mingling with Hassidic fur hats was beautiful but it is a fragile thing. Like an infant who one night may simply stop breathing. I do not have a god to pray to, but as I leave the city I pray for peace.