I’m currently on board an Easyjet flight from Manchester to Tel Aviv. Jerusalem has been on my bucket list since I graduated as an RE teacher in 2004, over a decade ago.
From my aisle seat, I look down the plane at a mixture of bare heads, Yamulkahs (Jewish skullcaps) and Arabic headscarves. Some of the Orthodox Jews onboard are holding Hebrew texts while the Palestinian Muslim travellers have Arabic books open in front of them.
Both the Hebrew and the Arabic texts would be seen, by your average Brit, to be ‘the wrong way round’. There’s no right or wrong about it, it’s simply that Arabic and Hebrew are read from right to left, whereas English is read from left to right. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. And, when you try to learn a ‘right to left’ language as a native English speaker, you realise the immense challenge of the English language to Arabs and Israelis!
Why no Croque Monsieur?
The air hostess wheels her trolley past and I ignorantly wonder why there is no ‘Croque-Monsieur’. She suggests the salmon and cream cheese bagel alternative, and I gladly accept. When the salmon and cream cheese bagel arrives, it becomes obvious, as it is labelled ‘kosher’. Of course, we’re on the way to Israel – you generally don’t go for a ham and cheese sandwich! My new Israeli friend in seat 14B turned to me, nodded and said ‘it’s happening already!’
Later this week, I’m going to be making my way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; from the modern to the historical. That’s not to say that Tel Aviv is not historical, of course. There is plenty of history to be discovered in Tel Aviv, particularly in Jaffa (Old Town). But for me, Jerusalem really is where it’s at.
Jerusalem: Crucial to the Three Abrahamic Religions
The city of Jerusalem will introduce you to over 3000 years of history, and provides holy sites for the three major Abrahamic religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In no other single place can you find such a concentration of sites sacred to not just one, but three major world religions. (https://goisrael.about.com)
Why the City of Jerusalem is perfect for Temple Seeking
The city of Jerusalem offers holy sites fro all three Abrahamic religions. The Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ascended to heaven.
The Western wall of the original Jewish temple was constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, and is central to Judaism. Orthodox Jews can be seen inserted Hebrew prayers on scrolls into the wall of the temple.
Most Christians will go on pilgrimages to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said to be built of Jesus tomb site by Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics. It is possible to follow in the last footsteps of Christ through Via Dolorosa, the street where Jesus carried his cross as ordered by Pontious Pilate. Many Catholics will pray at each of the stations of the cross. Other Christian Pilgrimage sites include the sea of Gallilee, Bethlehem, Golgotha and the Mount of Olives.
Is it safe to travel to Jerusalem
As with any international destination, you need to pay attention to what the foreign office or your government says about a place. After all, if the Foreign Office recommend that you do not travel, most travel insurances will not cover you.
However, my current observations are that it is safe with low crime rates, just be alert and vigilant. The current advice is to avoid areas of protest and return home when shutters come down in the souks (March 2017).
Before I head to Jerusalem, join me as I am arriving in Tel Aviv during Purim!