At first light, 5:30am, we drove sixty-five kilometres from Jaffa to Jerusalem. With only a few maniacs on the road then, we arrived, without incident, in time for Friday’s sunrise over Jerusalem’s Old City. What a difference it made being able to explore without the masses of tourists vying for the same vista.
With the Old City waking – people setting up shop, the smells of bread baking, fresh loaves of bread dangling from shop doors, and minimal tourists around – we surrounded ourselves with the religious. Strolling through the Christian quarter, along the Via Dolorosa, Way of Grief, the apparent path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion, lead us to the Ramparts Walk.
With Lions’ Gate closed, we scaled the wall, over the fence and made it to the top near the Western Wall Plaza and the Jewish Quarter. Before setting off, we munched on fruit while absorbing the peace and unique views of rooftops, Mount Zion, Mount of Olives and the Dome of the Rock, its gold-plated roof so vivid. Hiking up and down stairs along the wall, overlooking the city on the other side, we arrived at Herod’s Gate, adjoining the Muslim Quarter, to find it locked. With no visible ascent from the gate, we had no choice but to back track. Well worth the effort in the end!
Winding back through the Christian quarter, we walked the Stations of the Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where I couldn’t breath for the crowds, needing to escape as soon as possible.
Jerusalem’s German Colony
From the Old City we drove fifteen minutes to the less crowded German Colony where we settled at Caffit 1987 for a hearty lunch. The deep-fried sesame-coated cauliflower with raw tahini and sweet chilli dipping sauce became my new addiction. Sitting outside the restaurant, along Emek Refaim – lined with upmarket restaurants and boutiques – I could have spent the rest of the afternoon people watching. With only a handful of religious people, the rest could have come from anywhere in the world.
Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center
Three days later, returning to Jerusalem, we spent a few hours exploring the Yad Vashem. Absorbing the hundreds of photographs and videos of the mass murder, the survivor’s stories, letters and diary extracts written by the Jews during the Holocaust, intense emotion completely overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even attempt to imagine what a slaughtered Jew endured before their end. Most had hope, believing one day they’d be free and could live together again in peace, simply thankful for the stale bread they were given to eat.
“Dawn came on us like a betrayer; it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction. The different emotions that overcame us, of resignation, of futile rebellion, of religious abandon, of fear, of despair, now joined together after a sleepless night in a collective, uncontrolled panic. The time for mediation, the time for decision was over, and all reason dissolved into a tumult, across which flashed the happy memories of our homes, still so near in time and space, as painful as the thrusts of a sword.”