During my first stay in Israel I met that two Swiss students and since we all wanted to go to Jerusalem, we decided to go together. Thanks to that I saw much more of the city than I would have strolling through the city alone.
One of the Swiss students came from a catholic family and even he wasn’t the guy going to church every week, he was very interested in the relicts of christian culture in Jerusalem. Me and the other student agreed of not being religious but to acknowledge there is actually some spirit in the small streets of the old town. We got lost walking through it and we only realized it because from one moment to the next the streets were empty and it was much quieter than two corners before. We were in Jerusalem during Ramadan and the muslim quarter was still “asleep”. Later when we go through it a second time the sunset was closer and people started to buy stuff for the fasting break. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t get near the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of Ramadan (at least this was what we were told, when we came to one corner of it). In that year Ramadan started with troubles at Gaza and Trump opening the new US embassy on a holiday of Israel, which maybe lead to the trouble, so the atmosphere maybe was even more tense than usually.
From a guy in our hostel I knew that there is a viewing point from the Austrian hospice in the Via Dolorosa. He told me it’s a hidden spot his sister told him about, but as we found out, it’s not really hidden and you actually have to pay. Not much and the view is really nice, so it was fine. We also went to the Western Wall and the spirit we already felt before hit me hard in front of that. The belief of so many people was floating in the air and in midst of that religious school groups, nuns and other believers, the wailing of old and young around me I acknowledged that indeed there is some holy spirit in that town. Personally I think praying is more some kind of meditation than talking to some kind of god, but when I touched that wall I thought about the ones I love and wished they would be fine and hoped someone would listen to that.
When I was a child I read some kind of child bible, so I wasn’t totally lost during our trip and it was amazing to imagine for example Jesus walking through the olive gardens. One of my friends wanted to see as much as possible, so I somehow ended up at the birth place of Maria and in the church with her tomb, we nearly went to see the Way of the Cross in the Via Dolorosa, passed by birth and tombs from other saint people, walked through a muslim graveyard, and went on top of the olive mountain. On the way up we went into every place we could, I think we just missed the opening hours of the Mary Magdalena church. I really loved the Church of all Nations at Gethsemane, the olive garden, and the Tomb of the Prophets. We got small candles from the guy sitting on the entrance and when I stopped a moment to see the writings at a wall and turned back my friends were already around the corner and I could see even less. But what gave me the biggest chills was when we made a break shortly before the top, I think it could have been nearby the Holocaust Memorial. We sat there, I was feeling near death because it was hot and my body wasn’t (and still isn’t) really in a good condition while the others were ten years younger and much faster. Also I was quite hungry all the way up (and down), because since we left the Old City we didn’t found a place were we could have bought food. So, we sat there, catching some breath, looking on the old city of Jerusalem and then we heard the call of the muezzin for the evening prayer. Chills!
After visiting Jerusalem my head was full and spinning, so I was happy that I didn’t had much plans for the other days. I saw and felt so much there, I needed some days to process it all. Because of that experience I don’t like to plan too much on my travels and actually it makes me more flexible. Some days later it was already time for my departure and since everyone agreed on that, I wanted to be on the airport as soon as possible. Most people told me, checking in and security check would need nearly three hours. I also knew that on Friday public transport would stop during the day because of Shabbat. What I didn’t know was that the train going directly to the airport and only need 15 minutes doesn’t drive at all on a Friday. And not many busses go there too on Friday. I managed to get on board of a bus which drove nearby the airport and to change in the one bringing me there directly. I was even lucky that I still had enough coins, since you have to pay in each bus. But instead of four hours before departure I arrived two hours before. Even Tel Aviv has really nice suburbs, I couldn’t enjoy the view on that everlasting ride. But I arrived and the airport was packed with people. I was in so much stress when they asked me at the first check about my whereabouts and who I met et cetera I just told them that I was in Tel Aviv and the name of my Hostel and only later I was remembering my trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. After that I was in the line for checking-in my baggage, but it was too big so they sent me to the bulky baggage counter. At least there was no line there. The security check I got through without problems (in contrary to the woman before me), the electronical passport control unfortunately not. Somehow finally I made it to the gate where I first went to the toilet, then to buy a sandwich and then I finally sat down to take a breath. And after a minute the gate to my flight was opening. It was not my first or last time to have stress on the airport, I often get lost and miscalculate the time I need to get to the gates. But since I wanted to meet some of my friends in the evening because of my birthday and never being so close to miss a flight like on that day, it was the biggest stress so far. I decided whenever I come back, I’ll never fly on a Friday Shabbat again. Or I save enough money to take a taxi to the airport. And I knew I would go back to Israel..