Spring is creeping over The Holy City. Saturday sunlight drenches the dune colored stones and flowers speckle the windowsills. Today is Shabbat. We meander through the silent and empty streets, through forgotten alleyways and seemingly secret tunnels, taking in the uniformity of the ancient stone attempting to understand this city’s portentous history.
After soaking in the refreshing emptiness of Shabbat in Jerusalem, we leave the secrecy of the alleyways for a vibrant canopied market. Vendors sell hamsas, crosses, and the Star of David, alongside hookahs, postcards, and IDF t-shirts. Yummy baklava, chocolate croissants, halva, shawarma, falafel, coffee, teas, and spices tease my senses. Full, rich scents fill the air, blowing thick gusts of the market around us, sampling the products before we can even see them.
We take in the change in atmosphere, moving with and mimicking the quick step of concentrated customers: dogging and ducking around the stragglers, avoiding hawkers’ curt advancements, and tasting as many free samples as we can manage.
In step with eager tourists and pilgrims, we make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church where Christ’s Sepulcher is housed, a pink colored marble stone upon which Jesus was laid after his death.
Hordes of dwvoted pilgrims gather, hysterical, crying and praying, prostrating themselves at the foot of the marble sepulcher. Vigorously, they rub white cloths along the stone’s worn surface to absorb the holy essence, transfering the energy from the stone to their personal effects. The scene is intense but moving.
We venture around the damp, cavernous church, ancient objects are scattered in nooks and crevices, paintings line the halls, and dangling lanterns accentuate holy relics. The people and the space hold such a force, I feel overwhelmed by the presence and energy of the church.
Humbled by the church’s significance we continue on, allowing ourselves, once again, to wander within the hidden passageways of Jerusalem.
Continue reading about my Jerusalem journey: Meditations in the Promised Land