Wednesday, 14 July 2010


In 2002, I lived in Bethlehem for two weeks. The city had just undergone a siege, you know when Israeli's surrounded the Church of Nativity? Bullet holes graced the old walls of the church where Jesus was born and this holy site usually filled with pilgrims was almost empty.

Look closely at the bullet holes that fill the outside walls of the church

My my time flies. Eight years later I stand in the middle of the agora of sorts in front of the church. The siege is gone and the Eastern European pilgrims, probably the crowd from the church of Holy Sepulchre I saw in Jerusalem, are lined up waiting for their turn to enter to the grotto where Jesus was born and pray. It's a different time.

Bethlehem always reminds me of the first time I ever stepped foot in Palestine. It was in 2000 during Christmas that I came here. The crowds were out and the lights were shining - it was after all, Christmas in the city where Christianity started.
The rent for these shops used to cost thousands of shekels, but since the wall came up rent is probably around 1NIS. So everyone's closed up shop.
The entrance to Aida refugee camp
The wall in Aida refugee camp

Bethlehem is the perfect example of Palestinian co-existence. A church stands near a mosque, veiled muslim women shop beside non-veiled women with crosses dangling from their necks and alongside the many tourists.
The old gate in front of Dheisheh refugee camp which was demolished recently (as it was still there in 2002). This was installed during the 1st intifada and of course soldiers were guarding the entrance.
The view from Dheisheh Refugee Camp's roof

A visit to my old "home" of sorts is not complete without returning to the place where I stayed, Ibdaa Cultural Centre in the Dheisheh refugee camp.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


It's midnight and I'm standing on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. My white t-shirt shines in the night as I turn to see where she is and I see him running towards her, hugging her for the last time. Whenever I recall this moment, it reminds me of why I hate saying goodbye, because that's what it is, goodbye. And nothing is worse than a goodbye in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the city that has taught me not to say goodbye. It is, to me, the most nostalgic place on the planet. There isn't more proof than the view from the roof of Ecce Homo. If you're a people watcher, welcome to your mecca. All sorts of people roam the streets of the old city, entering gate to gate, each with their own beliefs. The religious crowd searches for salvation while the tourists search for a facebook photo op.
Damascus Gate
When I arrive, I rush to Damascus Gate, my favourite of all the gates. If you're confused about East and West Jerusalem, just look for this gate, and the excessive garbage on the floor. History drips from the walls here. It's hard to walk around and not feel as if you're in the time of the crusades.
The markets of Jerusalem
I scour the market in search for something similar to prayer clothes as I rush to make it to the maghrib prayer.
Dome of the Rock, Haram El-Sharif
Inside the Dome of the Rock
Of course because of my appearance I have a little argument with the Druze officers placed at the front. If you've ever been to these parts, you know Druze soldiers/officers are the worst.

I've had the chance to pray at the dome of the rock twice before, and this is the first time I reach it during adhan. It is also the first time I see the dome in the night, and what a sight it is.
Jaffa gate, festival of lights
Damascus gate, festival of lights
The church of Holy Sepulchre
As I stand on top of the Austrian Hospice and stare at the festival of lights that illuminate Jerusalem, I notice that the church of Holy Sepulchre, whose domes stand out in the morning, has a cross shining a dark red in the night.

As beautiful at night as she is the morning, I pay her a visit early in the morning, entering via Jaffa gate and make my way over, along with the Eastern European pilgrims that rush to visit the holy site. It's a shame they don't build like this anymore.

I never feel like I've had enough of Jerusalem, regardless of how many hours, days, or weeks I spend here. And I don't think I ever will. That's the power of this place.