I visited the Old City in Jerusalem four years ago. Today is Easter, and I reflect back on my time in the holiest site in Christianity somewhat humbled by the opportunity I had then. I’m not the most religious man you’ll ever meet, but I’m highly spiritual and know a place of significance when I see it. The Old City is the most significant place in Western Civilization. Divided into quarters that betray the historical importance: The Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters.
I walked the Old City with a guide who brought me into places I would never have seen otherwise, and of course a couple of jewelry stores for his cousins to hard sell me. I felt perfectly safe while there, and found people respectful of each other no matter their beliefs. Based on my experience, be prepared for guides and merchants to sell you hard on their services and wares. It’s all part of being a tourist, and that’s what I was that day. I never saw them disrupting pilgrims, so they know their audience and no matter how much I thought I was fitting in I stood out as the American tourist I was.
Today Jerusalem is under the same quarantine that the rest of the world is under. Residents are not allowed to move more than 100 meters from their homes except to get food and essential items. Businesses like those jewelry stores are shuttered and the Old City must feel surreally still at a time – Passover and Easter – when it’s normally packed with pilgrims and tourists. Since the world can’t be there this weekend, I’m sharing some pictures from my visit in 2016. May the Old City, and the world, return to better times soon.