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Arriving in Jerusalem

I'm meeting Wendy, who arrived in Jerusalem two days ago, at the Damascus Gate of the old city.   The mini-bus from Tel Aviv airport agreed to drop me there for US$20. 

I offer Shekels and driver 'rips me off 'on the exchange rate.  I should've just handed over a $20 note.  The difference is less than a dollar but it's annoying and when he drives with the rest of my change my mood blackens.  And where's the blasted Gate?  Ok, across the main road and down through the car park where he could just as easily have dropped me and my bag. 

There's Wendy, that's a relief!  But she's not happy either.  She's apologetic about our accommodation.  Our already paid for hotel is in the Muslim quarter of the old city.  She didn't realise when she chose it using Trip Adviser and she's disappointed. 

On top of that the room is small and dingy and on trying the remote we discover that the TV doesn't work.  I'm trying hard to see the bright side.  The hotel has a pleasant shaded roof garden with one of the best views in the old city. 


Hashemi Hotel3 Hashemi Hotel4
Hashemi Hotel Hashemi Hotel2

Night view from the Hashemi Hotel


We are going out exploring and the manager/concierge says he will have the TV fixed.  But when we get back it turns out that the whole floor is affected.  The Hashemi Hotel is being renovated.

Would we like to move to a larger recently renovated room with a view and a brand new en-suite bathroom, with their compliments?  'Is the Pope a Catholic' seems an inappropriate response in a Muslim establishment that proclaims, on a large notice over reception, that it is alcohol free and couples sharing a room must be married. 

Now the view from our room is almost as good as that from the roof.  And who needs TV anyway when there is free WiFi?  My mood brightens.  Having seen more of the City I'm now quite pleased with the location too.


About half of the old city is Jewish and the other half is Arab, Muslim and Christian.

It's Yin and Yang. The Jewish part is very ordered and institutional. Clean and very neat. All pale stone or blocks like most of the buildings in the country.  It’s quite beautiful, in a sterile way, if you ignore the occasional whiff of sewerage.  There are numerous black suited men with black hats and ringlets moving determinedly from one place to another.  The business of being Jewish.


Muslim Jewish

Yin and Yang


This other part is is predominantly markets, all rough stone pavements and shops and food and spice smells and butchers and lolly sellers and hawkers and big veiled or scarfed women with shopping baskets and people trying to ride motorbikes and delivery trucks through narrow, precipitous lanes and the milling bodies. Anything but sterile.

The nearest cross street to ours is the Via Dolorosa where it is alleged Jesus carried his cross. There are eight of the stations of the cross along it and groups of Christians singing and chanting their way up the hill to Calvary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Specially on my second day, Friday.


One of the Stations of the Cross
One of the Stations of the Cross


Interestingly many fall victim to their imaginations and some think that they have actually become Jesus or a disciple.  

But is not just Christians who suffer.  Jews and Muslims also fall victim to Jerusalem Syndrome:  having their religious feelings amplified by the significance of this place.   It’s similar to the way that some find a house that they have been told is haunted ‘spooky’.  For some, so intense is their imagination that that it manifests as a temporary or even permanent psychosis requiring hospitalisation and ongoing treatment.  It has been observed in religious adherents for many hundreds of years and is so common that Jerusalem Syndrome is a classified mental illness.  To learn more click here.

Wendy said that she was watching for symptoms of Jerusalem Syndrome in me but then claimed that it would be difficult to distinguish from my normal demeanour.



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