I woke up to a pleasant Azaan (Adhan अझान) broadcasted from one of the many mosques in the Muslim Quarter. Not much to my surprise, it was a very different accent. I wonder if Arabic spoken in India sounds greatly different from that spoken in Israel or any other Islamic countries for that matter. I bet it does. I had some mint tea early in the morning while rest of the hostel was still sleeping, and left for exploring eastern part of Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem is predominantly inhabited by Arabs. Until 1967, this territory was controlled by Jordan. After emerging victorious in the six-day war, Israel annexed this territory and pushed for Jewish settlements in what is currently known as ‘West Bank’. The term ‘west bank’ originates from the fact that this Palestinian territory is located on the western bank of the Jordan River.
Arab bus network:
This area is served primarily by the Arab bus network (different from the Israeli). The Arab bus station is located outside the Damascus gate and was very close to the place I was sleeping. I ate some Jerusalem bread for breakfast and took the Arab bus #75 for 3.5 NIS to go to Mount of Olives.
Mount of Olives:
Mount of Olives (माउंट ऑफ् ऑलिव्), a hill on the eastern edge of Jerusalem and, as you can guess, has many olive trees. View from Mt of Olives is simply fantastic. It gives a complete overview of the city of Jerusalem from the eastern side. Right in front across the valley is the walled old city with the Dome of the Rock looking prominent.
Judaism is the first Abrahamic religion, and therefore preaches the concept of ‘end of the world’. Mount of Olives has a huge Jewish cemetery and it is believed that the dead will resurrect from this location when it is the End of days. There are over 150,000 graves in this ancient cemetery. Jews place stones on the graves of dead and the people I asked “why stones?’, seemed to be uncertain about it. However, it has something to do with leaving a permanent mark to remember the dead and also to let others know that someone visited the grave.
Dominus Flevit Church:
This church, built to commemorate the Lord’s weeping over Jerusalem, offers a beautiful view of the city through its distinct chapel window. I tried hard to get a better picture of the cross and the dome of the rock, but it seemed impossible. Excavations during construction of the church uncovered a number of objects with numerous inscriptions from the time of Jesus.
Church of Mary Magdalene:
This is a Russian Orthodox Church. The distinctive Russian styled golden domes sparkled in the morning sun and looked like a picture ripped off from a fairy tale.
Church of All Nations:
Several countries, Canada included, contributed to build this church. The picture to the left is a painting high up on the wall and was edited using perspective correction tool. Also known as the Church of the Agony, this Roman Catholic church is located adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in this garden that Jesus is said to have prayed before he was arrested by the Romans.
In what was clearly a symbol of anti-Semitism, there was graffiti of Swastika painted in one of the walls in the Arab town. So, the Nazis took one of “our’ holiest symbols, used it for crimes against Jews and suddenly the Swastika became a symbol of hatred. I wonder how many people know that this symbol was in religious practice in India from as back as 2000 BCE!
After traveling through a Muslim neighborhood, a Jewish cemetery and a number of Christian temples, I returned to the Arab bus station outside Damascus gate. Thats right, in Jerusalem, religion is right on your face all the time.