Walking towards the Damascus gate from inside the old city we watched as burka clad women, robed priests and Hasidic Jews all jostled for space in the narrow alleys of the market place and thought about the city’s significance to each religion and talked about the issue of tolerance.
Before visiting the three places of pilgrimage however, we decided to visit the Me’a She’arim neighborhood, home to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists, some so radical they are referred to as ultra ultras. Noting the signs that called for conservative dress, we wandered past young boys dressed like old men in multi-layered black suits with long coats, black dress hats and long side curls called peyot and noticed the shops catering to the Hasidic way of life.
After our brief side trip, our first stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, celebrated as the place that Jesus was crucified and buried and a holy pilgrimage destination since, at least, the 4th century.
From there, we walked back past the Western Wall, stopping to observe a boy being instructed by a group of men, to the Temple Mount, home of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock which houses the Foundation Stone.
Three monotheistic religions and three of the holiest places to each in such close proximity … mind boggling when you think about it.