The Holy Land by Ithamar Handelman Smith

The Holy Land by Ithamar Handelman Smith

Author:Ithamar Handelman Smith
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: The Holy Land: Contemporary Visions and Scriptures
ISBN: 9781910924600
Publisher: Watkins Media
Published: 2017-07-28T04:00:00+00:00


by Julia Handelman-Smith

A lot is said, even between the covers of this book, about the invisible walls that divide the Holy Land. Most cities retain a distinct character: Jewish, Arabic Christian, Arabic Muslim, Druze. Yet despite lying at the heart of the Holy Land conflicts, Jerusalem’s Old City maintains a brittle but functioning peace where Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities live cheek by jowl. Barely changing over several centuries, not least because the slightest alteration can cause mayhem not only between, but within communities, a walk through the Holy City captures both a sense of times past as well as (on a good day) what a peaceful Holy Land might look like.

If you can, and it is not too hot, start at the Mount of Olives. Here you will get the iconic view of the ancient city and the Golden Gate. This is the first shot taken for every documentary or newsreel, and it doesn’t disappoint. Walk down the hill (taking the road) and stop halfway at the Garden of Gethsemane, which remains a peaceful spot often left off the pilgrimage trail for being slightly out of the city centre.

Continue towards the city and enter the Muslim Quarter of the Old City through St Stephen’s, or the Lions’ Gate. If you haven’t already guessed, you are taking the route many believe Christ took on his journey to the crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa. Although this has recently been contested by archaeological findings it is still a route of pilgrimage for Christians, with signs en route to show different stages of Christ’s journey. However, you are still in the heart of a modern city, and on this part of the route there will even be groups of young men hanging out on a Saturday afternoon. Some shopkeepers may invite you to see the “real” stages of the cross, often one or two floors below street level because the ancient city of Jerusalem was said to be at least five metres below the present-day city. Single female travellers should beware – this may include an (un)welcome proposition at station five that requires a hasty exit!

At the junction, stop at the Austrian hospice on the right for a touch of old colonial charm. Elegant but worn, the café has a great sachertorte if you’ve already overdone it on the falafel and baklava. Most important is to get up onto the roof of the building for another fine view of the city, which you can probably enjoy in solitude.

From here, take a left and immediate right and enter the labyrinth of the ancient souk. Directions at this stage are useless – the best part is to get lost. If you’re keen, you can continue to follow the stations of the cross, not least because this brings you into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the best route, which is through the Ethiopian and Coptic monasteries on the roof of the St Helena Chapel. At some point in the souk, you have passed


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