Observations from my Jerusalem adventure
I was invited by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate in a three-day training programme on Public and Digital Diplomacy in Israel. As part of the training, I had the opportunity to tour some parts of Jerusalem and a bit of Jaffa.
Jerusalem has been the historical, spiritual, and national centre of the Jewish people since King David’s time, 3000 years ago.
It is home to more holy sites than any other city in the world.
For us Christians, Jerusalem is revered as the site of Jesus’ Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.
Jerusalem is also the capital of modern Israel – it hosts the seat of government among many state institutions and ministries.
Due to time constraint, much of my touring was in the Old City of Jerusalem and some streets of Jaffa.
Though the visit was short, I still managed to make some interesting observations worth sharing with you.
- Jerusalem came across to me as a compact city with a blend of old and new. Though an ancient city with ancient relics, Jerusalem greets you with modernity as well. This is depicted in the lifestyle of the people and various architectural designs.
- If you are looking for a city of religions, traditions and culture, then it is Jerusalem. The three world monotheistic religions are found in Jerusalem – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem has a vibrant mix of cultures and traditions which are reflected in the diversity of the city’s neighborhoods, each with a unique ambiance and beautiful architecture. Synagogues, mosques and churches are found at almost every turn in the Old City.
- The people are friendly and hospitable. For the few times I had to walk on the streets, I received warm smiles. My colleagues and I had one evening to explore the city by ourselves and we did it with so much ease. It was not difficult for us to ask for directions to where we could for instance, take a bus or change money to buy things or pay for services.
- The movement of people and goods in every city is vital. I did not have much time to assess this situation properly. However, with my short stay and observation, transportation is fairly easy in the city of Jerusalem. I was impressed with the few transportation systems I noticed around. I had the opportunity of walking to the central bus station, which was a 5 minute walk from my hotel. My colleagues and I had the opportunity to join the Light Rail to the Old City of Jerusalem and it took us 15 minutes to reach our destination.
- Jerusalem, though an ancient religious city is also a business centre with different bustling businesses and enterprises. I noticed all kinds of business entities both big and small. Shops of all kinds (groceries, food, spices, clothes, restaurants, etc) exist in Jerusalem. It was even more spectacular at the Old City. As compact as it is, it had everything within.
- A tourism Centre from dawn to dusk. As an ancient city, Jerusalem attracts thousands of tourists from different countries. The Old City was filled with many tourists and visitors like us. My colleagues and I had the opportunity of touring most parts of the Old City including the famous Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall. The Old City is an entire city on its own, with its own streets, shops, residences, museums, churches, mosques, restaurants and many more. The Old City is divided into four main quarters – the Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter and we had the opportunity of visiting all the quarters. Directly opposite the Old City is the Tower of David Museum which serves as a Museum by day and a theatre centre by night.
- If you would like to visit Jerusalem, please do not be too worried about food. Don’t also expect too much carbohydrate concentrated food and off course, spicy foods are rare. In all, the traditional cuisines are easy to eat and they taste amazing. In restaurants, beware of mistaking a starter to be the main dish.
- As a modern city, Jerusalem is still undergoing various kinds of development especially in infrastructure. I couldn’t help but notice the heavy construction projects that were on going – roads, overheads, and residences. The architecture of both the Old and New Jerusalem is a beautiful blend of traditional and modern designs.
- The City of Jerusalem, and I guess in most parts of Israel, night life is an integral part of the daily life of the people. I could not help but to notice the trendy, vibrant and ecstatic night life even at the Old City. From Jerusalem to Jaffa is an active day and night life that attracts both young and old.
In conclusion, Jerusalem is a very beautiful city with a blend of ancient and modern lifestyle. It has an interesting diverse culture which leaves a lasting impression on you. Visitors can enjoy a wealth of free activities especially at the Old City where I got to enjoy the best panoramic views. Despite all the odds, life and living in Jerusalem is as normal as it is in Accra. It is indeed the land of milk and honey.
The writer is Communication, Press, Public & Digital Diplomacy Coordinator at the Embassy of Israel, Accra.