Saturday, 13 September 2014

JERUSALEM AND RAMALLAH. Arabs and Jews. Opposing but similar. Together but divided

It may be called the City of Peace, but no other city has been more bitterly fought over than Jerusalem.
The Wailing Wall: Like everything else in Israel it is divided in two: men on the left, women on the right
Jerusalem is a divided city in a divided land. And at its heart, is the Old City, itself divided into Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters.
It is home to Judaism's holiest site, Islam's third holiest (after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia) and the spot where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified. Control of the area is one of the toughest issues facing anyone trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
I have seen young men, one Jewish, other Muslim talking in the friendliest possible way and saying a goodbye with a hug but .. relations are not often so cordial.

I stayed near Damascus Gate with Shakar, a friend of Indie who hosted me in Tel Aviv. He took me all around the Old city but what i liked the most was the Muslim quarter and its cafes, souvenir shops and shisha bars. It is a maze of twisty alleyways but even getting lost is fun. 

Orthodox Jews in their black coats and hats watching down the Western wall
Women praying at the Western Wall
Had to do it!
In Muslim quarter
In Muslim quarter. Joined them with my Jewish friend

Spices everywhere
Hummus paradise
Never imagined there are so many kinds of Halva
Jerusalem is 60 kilometers (37 mi) east of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. On the opposite side of the city, approximately 35 kilometers (22 mi) away, is the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on Earth. 
Most first-time visitors to Palestine will stick to highlights like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Old City and Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and Tel Es-Sultan and Quarantine in Jericho. Bit I decided to go to a bit less visited Ramallah. 

It is only 15 kilometers north of Jerusalem. The urban growth of the city has had a particularly marked cultural and recreational flavor.  It boasts a lively nightlife, with many restaurants, bars and discotheques that have cropped up in Ramallah in the last three years. International presence is highly recognizable as the city hosts many Representation Offices and International Non-Governmental Organizations. Unfortunately I didn´t see any of this. It was so heavily raining that the only thing I could do was to hide inside a durum place and try to speak to random Palestinians… It was only going to guess worse since the forecast for the night was snow…Snow in the desert! So I headed back to Jerusalem, pretty cold and wet.

One thing is clear - they love their gold here
I hid here from the rain for a while :(

Back in JERUSALEM. Snow in the desert.
The couch
I got back to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea and was “lucky” to see Jerusalem in white. Jerusalem in Gold was turned into Jerusalem in White for 2 days due to the snow storm that hit the country. I had another host, Daniel and his flatmates. There was 2 other couchsurfers from Check republic too so we had a full house. The more, the merrier!
Since we had no other option but stay in the house, there was lots tea time, stories from South America (we all backpacked there) and my regular questions about everyone's background and family story...
The balcony. It is snowing
It´s piling
And here it is. 

Hunger in the house

Since the Uni was cancelled..Movie time
The road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was closed both directions. I started to get a bit worried since I had a flight to catch in Tel Aviv at 6am next day and I had to make it to Tel Aviv somehow. Luckily later in the afternoon it was open. Still had to make it to the center by foot, everything seemed to be collapsed in the city – no buses, no school, no university…

Fallen trees and broken umbrellas everywhere
Israel surprised me so much. Positively. The week I spent here was extremely short for all the beauty the country has and all the stories people can tell you. I need to come back and see more, talk to more people, go to more Palestinian territories... Soonish and hopefully not while snowing :)

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