10PM, 32ºC. Landing in Ben Gurion Airport – what a start for a journey of breathtaking beauty, an endless cultural site, and a geo-political conflict that I know way more than I knew before arriving, but failed to actually swing in any direction.
In a world where opinions are constructured and shared faster than the speed of light, there’s probably no topic that deserves more calm consideration without pre-judgement, as there is so many history layers that you we are not aware.
As you travel around Israel, I found it almost impossible to not think about this conflict as the background of every picture I took. I knew it was a fruitless quest for an answer to the question of “Who’s right and wrong?”: nobody in the world has it, really. But the journey had to start somewhere, and we started right were it all began. Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is around 5,000 years old as a city. 3,000 years ago, King David conquered it and made it the capital of the Jewish empire. The Jewish people reigned in the city for over 1,000 years, then the Christians reigned for around 400, then the Muslims for over 1,300 years, until the modern Jewish state of Israel conquered the East side of Jerusalem to Jordan in 1967.
Over the millenia, the city always had many ferverent adepts of different religions that had to learn to live together (co-living is an euphemism, mostly they were fighting for control and religious superiority).
In modern Jerusalem, this religious tension is still very much present – despite being militarily controlled by Israel.
The muslim quarter is where most of the shops are. It’s not the Grand Bazaar, but it comes close! Bargaining is expected and respected. If you look on the surface, it’s just your typical market. As you start to notice the details, every corner has a religion, every person a specific kind of clothing.
The fact that this mixture feels so normal gives you a certain hope of a future of co-existence.
There were so many gut-wrentching stories of Israeli abuse of Palestinian land, people and tradition. Confrontation is common.
Last stop was Israel’s biggest city, Tel-Aviv. (There’s debate wether Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.)
If you have the chance to visit Tel-Aviv and nothing more, none of the above will seem familiar. The city is vibrant, full of life, has amazing food, beaches and it’s as modern as Bauhaus can make it.
This contrast between the old and the new, the deeply rooted thinking with avant-garde ideas, makes Israel on the most special places to visit. It’s a trip for your mind, as you debate the current conflict, your body, as you hike up the Masada citadel, and your soul, as you reflect on your own existence.