We’re sitting in Israel’s capital, in many ways, the center of the world. This location is an ancient witness to countless events that influenced the trajectory of at least three major religions. I don’t subscribe to Judaism, Christianity or Islam; yet the indescribably meaningful history of Jerusalem is the story of my heritage just the same.
Innumerable people have lived and died here; you can feel their their presence in the aura of the place. Many of them are unknown, lost to the ages. Yet many of their stories have been passed down through generations, first by word of mouth, then written testaments. As outlined in Jerusalem: The Biography, Israel is the stage for some of the world’s most well-known historical characters. For example, David fought Goliath right here in Israel. It’s fascinating how modern daily life carries on amid such rich history.
During thousands of years of conflict, so much wickedness has occurred in Jerusalem, the most holy geographic location on earth. Access to religious sites continues to be an ongoing struggle. Multiple religions sprang from this region; within the walls of Old Jerusalem, they converge and remain divided at the same time. As illustrated in Jerusalem – a great IMAX film offered at the National Museum of Natural History – Armenians, Jews, Christians and Muslims reside within .35 square miles, dividing the Old City into quarters and interacting only when necessary.
Cultural history is tangible within architecture, symbols and rituals.
Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches points out that rituals and symbolism are marks of culture. If that’s true, evidence of successive and interwoven cultures is all around us. Similar to Old Istanbul, in Jerusalem symbols created by people of different perspectives sometimes overlap and often one symbol has multiple meanings. Etymology of the city’s more than seventy names further indicates Jerusalem’s occupation by many cultures. Like Byblos, Jerusalem has been built and rebuilt, and is composed of layers of archaeological treasures.
As we drop our luggage at Mount Zion Hotel, I prepare to absorb the aura of our surroundings and explore Jerusalem with an open mind and heart.