This is Haifa – delightful –
Here we are – into the melting pot of Jerusalem where the fanatics push the populace into more extremes and competition. What a mixture of sympatric separation.
I was converted.
I hadn’t expected much – just religious extremism and over the top architecture as the three branches of the same religion vie for prominence. Our cynical guide peppered the commentary with humour tinged with fears for the future. The Third World War will start here he told us. He might well be right. The most holy of mosques deliberately built on the most holy Jewish temple. Crusader churches built on temples, holy places commandeered and desecrated, and the populace adopting more extreme forms of dress and lavish ritual in response; each more devoutly proclaiming their branch is right. It was all a clamour and melee – the loudness of the call to prayer, the bashing of heads on the wall and the kneeling, kissing and singing before the tomb of Mary. Koptic Christians in medieval garb, fundamental Jews and Muslims – shawls, hats, turbans, veils, robes, black suits, locks of hair, boxes of bibles strapped to the head, texts gripped in hands, rocking back and forth, muttering prayers, singing, chanting, calling to god – all proclaiming theirs is the true way and all else are false. Very colourful. It was amazing watching humans with all their emotions and zeal.
Yet Jerusalem cannot fail to be interesting. Such a diverse mixture of contrasting people, together yet completely separate – such a blend of old and new – such a hotchpotch of architecture of lavish churches, temples and synagogues, cemeteries, tombs and ancient streets – such beauty of embellishment, icons, paintings, architecture. All spray-painted with myth.
Armed guards, soldiers and security, separation of men and women, you take your hats off here and put them on there, shoes off here, on there. You put your left leg in, you take your left leg out.
This was the place that both Jesus and Mohamed are supposed to have risen to heaven, where David and Mary are buried. Well who knows? It’s certainly full of history and myth.
The Mount of Olives, David’s tomb (one of them), the room of the last supper (maybe), Mary Magdalene’s tomb (maybe), the wailing wall, golden domes, minarets, Roman market forum, the old city road, churches and gardens (Gethsemane) – all much more interesting than I thought was going to be the case. We even looked over at Bethlehem and saw the wall, complete with electrified fence and armed patrols, that has been built to separate the Muslims from the Jews. A bit of a Trump solution.
One wonders how all this hatred and lack of trust can be resolved. I’m not sure it can be solved with walls.
Well once again we saw nothing untoward, none of the tensions spilt over.
Off back on the waves towards Malta.
Still in the sunshine for a little while longer.