Walking Through the Streets of Jerusalem

By Ehab Zahriyeh

From all over the world, prayers are given for Jerusalem. The ancient city accepts them as it holds onto its reputation as the Holy Land. However, for Palestinians, it is not just a place of piety, it is their center for culture and traditions. Palestine’s Jerusalem lives on from the first to the last steps into the city.

The imperfect cobblestones compliment the low arches and narrow alley roads slithering through thousands of years of history and faith. Nostalgia. Entering the old city from the Damascus Gate is like entering a mystical world cut out of our own imaginations of the era of Jesus. Five times a day, the Muezzins echo calls for worshipers to kneel to Allah.

In the midst of religious spirituality, chaos assumes the norm as thousands of locals and tourists over-crowd the slim walkways wandering in awe. Palestinian merchants keep the city bustling while competing with each other for every potential customer. They practice their language skills to welcome everyone from everywhere.

Marhaba! Baruch haba! Welcome! Dobro pozhalovat’! Bienevenidos!

Women in their traditional village thobes balance boxes or bags on their heads as they stroll past so gracefully. Despite the massive congestion, they place themselves on the grounds in the middle of the madness and sell fresh produce from local farms. Cucumbers, grapes and grape leaves, mint leaves, and plums are plenty, but the demand remains high. Customers keep requesting figs – it’s the season for them – they have not reached the markets yet.

The city’s aromas battle for territory. Apple-flavored argheela, Turkish coffee, and shawarma meat are deadlocked in a three-way tie.

Keep walking past the souvenir shops selling t-shirts, Qur’an scriptures, crucifixion carvings, and Palestine bracelets. With a few Arabic words you will be able to bargain and reduce the price, but the merchants are very clever. They always win. Some of the shops display signs that read…






At the gateways to Al-Aqsa Compound, a few armed men in police or military uniforms will profile you with their eyes. Besides the specific tourist hours, only Muslims are allowed to enter. “Where are you from?” “Are you Muslim?” With a subtle hand gesture, I am signaled in.

Away from the chaos and madness of the hectic city’s paths, a stunning golden dome takes your breath away for a couple of seconds. Peace. The sun’s rays beautifully illuminate the holy Mosques where Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessing be upon Him – is believed to have ascended to heaven on a miracle night journey.

Rows of olive trees adds earthly contrast to the magnificent architecture. A group of men gather under the shade of a tree discussing religious thought. Under another tree, a family picnics. The mother divides up falafel sandwiches while the father pours himself bitter Arabic coffee. Some young children run around the open courtyard space playing tag. The other children are playing soccer along the walls of the Noble Sanctuary, the oldest existing Islamic building in the world. Inside Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites to all Muslims, worshipers pray to Allah, recite Qur’an, and repent.

Al-Aqsa compound serves as an oasis from the hardships of today’s realities.

Al-Quds – Jerusalem remains Palestinian in the most vibrant ways, but it comes with serious threat. Israeli Jews reclaiming the city as their own and Palestinian residents struggling to hold onto what has been theirs for the last few hundred years keeps the city sometimes unbearably tense. The fortress-like city has yet to heal from centuries of wars. Its bruises of the past still exist today. If the walls could talk, they would cry instead.

Contact the author:

Email: Ehab_Zahriyeh@yahoo.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/EhabZ

Blog: www.EhabZ.wordpress.com



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