By spotogspindel | January 9, 2013
Jerusalem. I think no matter where in the world you are from, you have heard of this city, and some images and associations will pop into your mind. What do you see? A religious centre? A political hot-spot? A historical site?
I´m spending a week in Israel. This mythical land that I learned about in elementary school, in our Christianity-class or at Sunday-school. The land that I learned a lot more about when studying religion at college. The land that I still don´t know almost anything about… My learning-curve is steep. The story of this land is complex.
Israel has a population of 7,7 million. It´s a Jewish state. And it´s a democracy. Anyone who can prove that 1 of their 4 grandparents were jewish, will get citizenship. People have immigrated here in waves over the past century. Poles, Germans, Yemenites, Russians… the original idea was to have a country for all jews, where there would be no persecution. The latest wave of immigrants brought with it a large amount of non-Jews as well: spouses, parents and so on.
In Jerusalem 45% are jews, 20% are arab-Isrealis and 5% “other”. The other include foreign workers, the before-mentioned spouses and such.
A group of Zionist boys in old Jerusalem.
Through the news I´ve heard a lot about the never-ending conflict between jews and muslims, between Israelis and Palestinians. What I wasn´t aware of, was the internal conflicts within these groups. The gap between the secular jews and the ultra-orthodox is wide and filled with a lot of other groups. (Forgive me any mistakes in the following facts)
42% of the jews are secular, not particularly religious at all, except on formal occasions, like circumcision, bar mitzvah, weddings.
25% of the jews are masorati, meaning traditional, which is also more or less secular, but with more of a religious belief.
13% are religious masorati, or religious traditionalists.
12% are religious Zionists, they believe firmly that Israel was given to the jews from God, and that it is their country, and not anyone else´s. Most of the settlers will be found in this group.
The last 8-10% are the ultra-orthodox haredi. They wear black clothes, always cover their head, the men have long curls along their ears. They have a lot of children, have their own schools, where all the time is dedicated to studying the scriptures. They don´t learn any languages or other practical things in school, so they are mainly unemployed, dedicating their whole lives to studying the scriptures. They are usually poor, but don´t require much, and still are of an annoyance to other Israelis, as they don´t pay taxes, and don´t contribute to the workforce. They are very loyal to the government though, and are amoung the few who don´t have to do military-service. Otherwise, all jews, boys and girls, have three years of military-service, from 18-21.
The Dome of the Rock.
The 3rd holiest site for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. Since I am not a Muslim, I can´t go inside, but seeing it from the outside, still can take one´s breath away.
The Western Wall of Old Jerusalem.
This is the only part still left of the old temple of Jerusalem, and the holiest sites for Jews. Jews and pilgrims (and tourists) visit the wall every day to pray and complain their misery for God. Believing that God is still in the stones of the old temple-walls, he will esepecially listen to these prayers.
Me at the Western Wall. Cold. I should have prayed for warmer days.
Spices in the market. Good for both the eyes and nose.
It looks like a market today, but this is where Jesus walked his final walk from he was convicted up to Golgata and the waiting cross. The roads have changed over the past 2000 years, so the route isn´t exact, but relatively the same. Along the route there are signs marking the different stops Jesus made on his walk. Where he talked to the women of Jerusalem, where he fell, where the soldiers played dice over his clothes.
Carved crosses into the stone walls of the Holy Church of Sepulcher.
The most sacred church of them all for Christians is the Holy Church of Sepulcher. This is a church built over the Golgata, the stone where Jesus was anointed after death, the crypt where he was laid to rest. There is a large amount of tourists and pilgrims visiting every day.
Amazing mosaics in the Golgata crypt.
The Holy Church of Sepulcher was built by Helena, Constantine´s mother. It´s been added to in several stages, but the oldest parts are from the 4th century.
An excessive altar.
As a Lutheran, I am not used to all the silver and gold, gems, lights and incense used to adorn the altars in the churches here. It´s quite exotic.
A orthodox priest during a sermon.