TRAVEL DIARY: JERUSALEM
What I'm wearinng: (Jacket: Dolce & Gabbana, Pants: Prada, Shoes: Zara, Bag: H&M)
Continuing on with my travel adventures in the Middle East (which took place during the Christmas holidays of 2012), my expeditions in Jerusalem marks the last entry of my Middle East travel diaries (I will post more in fall to keep aligned with the fashion aspect, since these photos were taken during winter), but it certainly is not the last entry in my ‘Inappropriate Outfits for the Middle East’ series. It’s that time on the blog again, where we play the game of ‘Guess which character of Sesame Street Dolce & Gabbana massacred in order to conjure this jacket’… hashtag BIGBIRD, duh. But as ‘flashy’ as it was for such a holy Land, where humbleness prevails, it was so damn comfortable. In all fairness, I do admit that I felt ashamed to have been prancing around in Prada pants whilst I was experiencing so much disparity in my immediate vicinity. But fear not, the hands of guilt struck me, so much so, that (if you so recall) I took down my blog and decided that I would no longer partake in the shallow and materialistic culture of the West. Of course, it did eventually catch up to me, as my Canadian surroundings once again sucked me into the vortex of madness.
In my last post, I had mentioned that I was the victim of 8 hours of grueling interrogation at the Israeli border (and for the record, I was wearing sweat pants), but I would be willing to partake in a life time of interrogations, if it means I’ll have the opportunity to re-live these life-altering and soul provoking experiences in Jerusalem once again.
Obsessed by realpolitik, religious trifle, the peace process, internecine and ultimately unproductive Jewish political polemics, we lose sight of Israel’s, and in particular, Jerusalem’s true significance. Jerusalem is a mix of the old and the new, the ancient being rediscovered, while the modern being imposed around it. The two universes for decades, are now intrinsically linked by a succession of stores, art galleries and cafes that put the spotlight on the exigencies of daily life. The majority of our expedition, however, was centered around exploring the Old City of Jerusalem.
After spending a day in the Old City of Jerusalem, it becomes quite apparent as to why this city is the object of so much religious and political conflict. Divided into Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters, the nearly 2-mile radius of the Old City houses the most significant sites for Jewish, Christians and Muslims. Enter the Old City through the Jaffe gate, and you’ll be greeted to the Tomb of King David, climb two stories up, and you’ll find the room of The Last Supper. Take a left through the Jewish Quarter, and you’ll be bestowed with the Dome of the Rock. Perhaps, Jerusalem is the only place in the world where people of different faiths such as Jewish, Christians and Muslims, live together, not necessarily in total harmony but, at least, in mutual co-existence. One example though, is the site where, according to our tradition, Jesus had His last supper with His apostles. The room is situated on the second floor of a building where the ground floor is a Jewish shrine of King David and the third floor is used by Muslims. Another example is the Church of Holy Sepulcher, the keys to which are administered by two Muslim families who have faithfully opened this church every morning and closed it every night for generations.
Within the old city, we also visited the Wailing Wall, but because of the Jewish Sabbath, we were not allowed to approach the Wailing Wall or take pictures, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which, according to tradition, is the place of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the Dome of the Rock, the site where Prophet Muhammad, according to Muslims, ascended to heaven and the subsequent Al-Aqsa Mosque, considered the third most holiest site in Islam, where the said Prophet experienced his Night Journey to Mecca.
Perhaps the greatest experience for me was having the opportunity to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque. For the first time in my life, I completely immersed myself in prayer, transcended my ego and subjected to the will of God, utterly and completely, and wept. I don’t know whether it was because I was in such a Holy place, or because I was so overwhelmed by the strength of the Palestinian people who, despite living under dire circumstances and disparity, continue to march forward with utmost appreciation of life. Regardless of your religious affliction, you cannot help but feel overwhelming compassion for the Palestinians who are deprived of basic human rights, liberty, happiness, and treated as prisoners in their own country. I was moved to tears on several occasions, having witnessed some of the exploitation at the hands of Israeli soldiers first hand. My heart feels heavy for the Palestinians…. And I sat in Al-Aqsa, praying for peace and reconciliation for this land.
Towards the end of my trip in Jerusalem, I felt enlightened and animated. It's no longer a story of brave defiance, prejudice and hostility against each other but something that awakens within ourselves. The experience tells us about ourselves, our commitment to faith, our failings, our spirituality that recognizes its openness to social issues and our intellectual gift of discernment. In a land marked with such utter turmoil, I have never experienced so much serenity and tranquility. It is the kind of peace that I have never experienced before, the kind that became overwhelming to the point that I may or may not have a shed a tear or six. It came across to me as a paradox that a place like this that conjures up such pious demonstrations of faith can also be a place so fraught with danger. The very acerbity of the people there amounts to something more than arguments and debate. Like fresh thunderbolts for some reasons, they jolt through places and fray at the end of their tethers.