They’ll tell you “it’s a bubble” when you compliment Tel Avivians on their lifestyle.
That, at least, was the common refrain I received on my recent fashion tour of Israel; a friendly people collectively highlighting for you that not every part of the country is quite so secular.
Drive East for an hour away from the Mediterranean and you’ll come to what, I assume, must be the least secular part of Israel: Jerusalem. The birth place of the world’s 3 most influential religions, you’ll find all that religion has ever encompassed permeating from every mortar join of the city’s ancient walls and buildings. Here you’ll find evidence of what it is to be human; the affinity, the intolerance, life, and the great unknown. To spend a few hours walking Jerusalem’s streets is to understand both everything and nothing about mankind.
Amongst so many religious sites and pilgrims you’ll see devout faith; people in tears when faced with the echoes of their creator, people risking the Jerusalem syndrome, and people generally at peace. But as the sun breaks through the narrow corridors of the Old City’s souks and streets, as you ignore seller after seller assuring “the very best price, beautiful lady” (okay, so I never quite heard that) you’ll see the flip side of the coin. The pudgy youth who would have been better off running a mile instead of running his mouth off at a male tourist who he deemed to be “dressed as woman. You dressed as woman!”, not to mention the evidence of disputes aplenty between religions all vying to be the ‘most correct’ in front of the eyes of the same God.
But all this is but a minor blip in the experience that is Jerusalem. You’ll notice the people around you, the crowds jostling for the same view that you are, but they’ll figure into 5% of the whole experience. For Jerusalem is a lesson in both history and humanity all at once, it echoes our best and our worst, but it remains a thing of beauty.
Jerusalem is a city of contrasts. Religions. People. Architecture. But while you can come across much that is ‘old’, it’s never quite as old as you might expect.
Approaching the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, Jerusalem.
There’s was surprisingly scant sign of politics, or the political divide, while we were there.
Delicious looking baked goods + fashion bloggers = Instagram opportunity.
Jaffa Gate; one of eight gates that were a part of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. Each is named after the destination they’d lead you to – in this case, Jaffa.
The religious abound.
As do the commercial; carts transporting goods around the Old City’s stores are abundant.
Never take yourself too seriously.
Part of the Old City
Fashion Toast’s Rumi Neely was also on the tour of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s souk sells everything you might expect, from Middle Eastern carpets…
… to religious iconography.
Though not everything is sacred.
Include fashion labels. Fake Calvin Klein, anyone?
The infamous “Immovable Ladder” of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If you don’t know it’s story, read up on it before journeying to Jerusalem. You’ll learn all you need to know from the city’s simultaneous unity and division from its story.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by Noa Magger.
The inside of one of the domes within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Not all the religion iconography within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is focussed on adoration.
If you want to learn about just how divided we humans can be, even when our interests align, you should pay a visit to this man. You’ll find him within the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, though he himself is a Sunni Muslim. Why is he there then? Since 600AD his family, the Nusaybah family, have cared for the keys to the Holy Sepulchre. He is, effectively, a diplomat, ensuring that one branch of Christianity can’t lock another out from the Church. If you want to get an even deeper of the strengths and weaknesses in humanity, research the history of the Mosque of Omar that Nusaybah sits barely a hundred metres from.
A marker for Jesus Christ’s seventh fall (the 7th Station) within Jerusalem.
Via Dolorosa is held to follow the same path that Jesus Christ travelled with His cross on the way to be crucified.
Looking down Via Dolorosa.
Pilgrimages continue along Via Dolorosa to this day.
Taking up the tour guide’s time in Jerusalem. Photo: Noa Magger.
I suspect this sign is about as honest as the Calvin Klein socks above are genuine.
Yours truly at the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) with Robb Young.
Prayers at the Western Wall.
Prayer notes left at the Western Wall.
The Dome of the Rock.