Jerusalem should be on the list of every tourist that respect vacationing around the world. We visited the city in 2008. History is on many levels, hundreds and thousands of years of traces of different civilizations that lived those places. And, of course the city breathes religion, it is the heart of all three monotheist faiths… the most important place for Judaism and Christianity and one of the most important for Islam. The feeling you are in the middle of it… is special.
And the city itself is unique; there is a law on the Jewish side of Jerusalem that states that all houses must be made of white stones, so that Jerusalem is so different. In the picture is the most famous cemetery in the world, those buried there will be the first to go to heaven when the Final Judgement will come (so they say).
But there were drawbacks.
We paid for a guided tour. It included the road of the cross, and my feeling was that the guide was not very interested in the story, he was bored, besides the place looked like a tourist trap attraction rather then something Holly. Also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, hosting the two most holy places in Christianity, seemed too commercial for me.
I could feel the tension among inhabitants of different groups. The holiest place for Judaism is the ruins of the Solomon Temple, only the west wall still standing. And that temple must have been huge before the Romans destroyed it. Just in the middle of that temple it is the Mosque of Al Aqsa, the third holiest place for Islam. The Jewish people would like to rebuild the temple, that implies the destruction of the Mosque, or maybe moving it, and that is unacceptable for the Islam world. There are articles suggesting that this situation can generate a devastating war.
I have a little story to tell when I visited the west wall of the Solomon Temple. Men on one side, women on the other, the checking to get closer to the wall was like the checking to board a plane. OK, I was in. A rabbi approached and said in English “Do you want to have a good life on Earth?” I could say nothing else but “Of course.” The rabbi stretched his right hand toward me, palm up “Twenty dollars.” I checked my pockets and found a $20 bill and placed in the rabbi’s hand. Pleased, the rabbi said: ”Come with me.” I followed him through a corridor until we reached a library. Outside the library, on a table, a huge book, I assumed it was the Torah, was opened somewhere in the middle. “Put your hand on the page of the right,” ordered the rabbi. I obeyed. He put his right hand over mine, and with the left hand he followed some lines on the page on the left reading in Yiddish (I assume) for about 30 sec. When he finished he released my hand, ”From now on you will have a nice life on Earth” and he directed me back to the court outside. Did it worth the twenty dollars? I say YES, most of my friends hearing the story liked it, some made funny remarks, but surprisingly, very few said it was a waste of money.
The tour included a visit to Holocaust museum. The Holocaust is a tragedy that should be remembered for ever; I remembered seeing movies or reading books about one-two individual tragedies, and that took away my sleep for the night, and multiply this by millions… it was a catastrophe that words can hardly describe; still I did not want to see the museum, I was not in the mood, but I could not go around it. So, I visited it. There were pictures, videos and explicative panels about the Jewish people sufferings across Europe during WWII. But I saw a historical mistake inside. On one of the panel it was stated that because the Romanians sided with the Nazis Germany they got half of Transylvania as reward. Well, that was false, Transylvania belonged to Romania since the first World War, and lost half of it during the Second War for Hungary benefit, that also joined Germany. That division of Transylvania lasted only as long as the war, but how many tourists really cares who benefited from the Transylvania split during WWII, Hungary or Romania? But history should be recorded as it was. Maybe the mistake on the panel was corrected, my visit was in 2008.
With all the problems the city has because of ethnic tensions, still, I think it is a must go tourist destination.