Only three cities have ever left me nearly speechless, the Vatican, Florence and Jerusalem.
My first view of Jerusalem was when I approached the City by taxi from Tel Aviv on a remarkably sunny day in December, just days before Christmas and following about ten days with friends exploring Israel and reminiscing about our time together in the Netherlands and the loss of a beloved friend. It was the anniversary of her death and I was compelled to participate in the family's commemoration of her life. I had flown in from Amsterdam on KLM and had agreed to meet up with two Dutch friends for Christmas Eve at Bethlehem.
Just as I was unprepared for the glistening wonder of the Vatican, under the Roman skies, I found myself riveted to the skyline of this Holy City. Speechless then, speechless now as to the way the City gleamed, and seemed to be calling me into its bosom.
That first day, I wandered around the Old City, alone, fascinated by the old, the new, the garish, the markets filled with Bedouin clothes (several of which I bought and have still), the cafes, the people, the history. By mid-day I was at the Damascus Gate in the Muslim Quarter drinking very strong coffee with several English speakers and arguing or was it discussing politics.
Before darkness descended on the glow within and outside my view, I made my way to the Jewish Quarter. It was here that one of my friends who had lived in Amsterdam had found her home. She and her family had a remarkable flat overlooking the City. From the roof-top we could gaze at the entire expanse of Jerusalem just above the Western Wall. (See the map, courtesy Ajax for locations.)
|Atlas Tours Map|
It is never long enough, but with Christmas upon us, and promises to Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends in some conflict as to what, where and how, I managed to see most if not all the religious sites and many of the historical ones. Christmas Eve I did meet my Dutch friends and we spent our evening in Bethlehem with thousands of visitors from all over the world--it was both exciting and frightening. Exciting because of the biblical implications; frightening because security forces were high.
During my days in the City, I followed the route Jesus Christ may have taken to his crucifixion, while on another day I stood at the Wailing Wall. Blending all three of Abraham's children's beliefs, customs and sacred places wasn't easy, but it was part of my goal and by the time I headed back to Tel Aviv, I had accomplished much of what brought me to Israel.
I've never returned.