What makes Jerusalem special

All my visitors from abroad agree; There is something very special about walking around Jerusalem. The past 24 hours confirmed this truism yet again for myself.

Yesterday afternoon was bright, an unusually hot day for early November. I entered the Old City by Zion Gate. As I covered the 500 meters from the car to the gate, I passed on my left a chilling museum on the Holocaust. To the right was Dormition Abbey, still carrying out renovations after 30 years. (The Turkish architect of the walls of the city forgot to include this church in his plans, and thus lost his head!) And the colourful shops of the Armenian Quarter opened out in front of me.

Getting in to the Old City was annoyingly problematic. People were in the way; Not jus Israeli kids on school outings. Guides leading groups, and more groups and more groups. The place was packed, literally swarming with Christian tours from different continents. The impatient drivers gave up trying to hoot people out of the way.

I made my way towards the main Sephardi Synagogue, where I had arranged to meet a dear 80 year old friend, Ezra G. Unexpectedly, in walks a 30 strong party of young Germans. They were fascinated by the history and architecture of the building. And there were more visitors after that.

Now I will tell you what makes all of this so special? The second Intifada started in the year 2000. Since then, tourism has been in the dumps, until now. I cannot remember the last time Jerusalem, a centre for 3 religions, has been that packed. Good news for all.

But the icing on the cake came as I was retracing my steps to the car. I found myself facing southeast, with a direct view towards the Judean desert. I could see the red mountain tops bending towards the Dead Sea and over in to Jordan. A marvellous moment, which stopped me in my tracks even on such a busy day.

I suggest that it is a view that brings out immense feelings in even the most cynical of us. I invite you all to judge for yourselves.

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