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5,000 years of history in an afternoon

The Damascus Gate into old Jeruslam - as it once was

 

Continuing my present habit of visiting troubled parts of the world, last week I found myself in Jerusalem.

The city’s history stretches into the distant past – but it seems always to have been embroiled in conflict…

According to the history books (well – Wikipedia) it has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.

And I only had about 4 hours free during my (day job related) visit to explore…

Warning – lots of photos in this blog too – I really want to give you an idea of how the place looks and feels.

I was staying in a fabulous hotel just outside the walls of the old city. According to the guest book, Lawrence of Arabia (the real one and Peter O’Toole), Winston Churchill, Richard Gere and Bob Dylan have been guests. John Le Carre wrote one of his books there. Not bad company to keep.

The Damascus Gate as it looks now

Fifteen minutes’ walk from the hotel, I found myself at the Damascus gate into the old city of Jerusalem.

These walls and the gate and the buildings they protect have been fought over for thousands of years – and while I was well aware of the history – it really didn’t weigh me down as I walked into the city.

The old city is a bustling marketplace

 

That must be partly because the old city is still a thriving community – markets and meeting places, homes, food stalls and many many places of worship.

This isn’t history in a museum – this is history defining today.

 

Considering the past and present conflicts centred on Jerusalem, it was interesting to see Jews, Muslims and Christian working and living and praying side by side.

And treating each other with respect and courtesy.

 

 

 

 

 

It was also very apparent that the conflict is never far away – and entrance to the western wall required airport-style security.

 

The stone of the Western Wall

 

 

 

 

Here I did get a sense of history – as I looked at walls that were begun by Herod the Great.

There’s two thousand years of history in those blocks of stone. I found it quite impressive.

I was prepared to be equally impressed by the Temple Mount – and started up some narrow lanes in the blistering heat – to discover the site was closed.

Rats!

A doomed ascent to the Temple Mount - but security is always close

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead, I wandered back through the city to the Jaffa Gate – where the buildings had a distinctly European – dare I say French feel to them…

 

The Imperial Hotel at the Jaffa gate seemed very French

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the tourists did too, although others had clearly come as part of a religious devotion.

A Christian tour party following the stations of the cross

 

 

 

 

 

And that was it – I was out of time and did not get a chance to go back. I will though. Apparently it doesn’t take long for the city to work its magic and now I am really eager to learn more, see more, experience more.

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Writing retreats 2020 - Intensive tutor-led retreats with Janet Gover and Alison May

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