This is the caption I wrote for an Instagram post about Jerusalem, when I visited it in July 2022. More about the trip can be read on a previous post − Notes from Israel.

Recently, I read it again and thought it was post-worthy, so here it is:

To get lost in the beauty and the aesthetics of the Old City of Jerusalem, you won’t need to try or look closely.

The city naturally presents itself—its hills and vineyards, its grandeur and poise—the moment you step inside its walls. Intangible dust of another era: of untold stories and forgotten past rest in its old and narrow pathways—almost palpable to the trivial and mortal souls of the distant wayfarers—which, upon our touch, dissolves and slips away back to its angelic provenance. Hence, just like how Ernesto Che Guevara saw the ancient city of Cuzco, more than one Jerusalems can be summoned and perceived. And to each of these Jerusalems, we shall dedicate our stay.

From one point of view, the city is about life and death: you can see the cradles of major schools of human thought, and places you’ve only seen in the paintings or heard in a two-thousand year-old book – crowded, breathtaking and timeless. On the other, ominous silence lies inebriated between the nameless tombs of men, women and children who saw no mercy from Gladius—the Roman double-edged sword—from the hydrogen cyanide in the Nazi gas chambers, or from the other numerous battles Jerusalem has witnessed. Yes, the word “Jerusalem”, derived from the word “shalom", meaning “peace”, tends to evoke history and images of anything but peace. But lately, I think there’s a fair amount of life – as so much art, faith, religion, architecture, technology, and knowledge coexist in this little patch of land, at least on the eastern side of the border, where I could visit.

The Old City is also terribly romantic. In the evening, the tall pine trees turn light blonde, the tiny restaurants with tiny balconies decorated with white and red roses open up, the cobblestone streets and the rooftops wear a deep shade of yellow, and the breeze sweeps the afternoon heat back to the Negev – reminding you of some sleepy village in the Alps from a feverish childhood dream. I don’t think anyone can see all this and move on without being slightly evocative, since everything in the Old City has seen more than the oldest person you know. The only thing a person in their 20s like me would want more is a bottle of old French wine and a lover’s familiar hands – not to mention the several outdoor pianos and buskers augmenting the essence.

In a way, Jerusalem also makes you feel small and insignificant in the giant framework of life and the Universe – only a handful of cities in the world have stood still against the ravages of time like Jerusalem. Religiously significant places are scattered throughout the city: Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, The Church of Sepulchre. There is a special element about continuously inhabited places through a huge span of history, such as Damascus, that I am fond of – the fact that every cobblestone tells a story, every narrow alleyway whispers tales of centuries past, and where the weight of tradition and culture hangs heavy in the air. Amidst the bustling markets and the solemn sanctuaries, one can’t help but feel reverence for the layers of civilization that have left their mark on this sacred ground.

Most importantly, Jerusalem presents an unparalleled example of human endurance – and it convinces you that you’re more than just a bag of chemicals, and that the things around you weren’t just always there; people made them happen. Every generation of Jerusalemites—from the Biblical kings of Judah, King Solomon, Crusaders, Romans, Ottomans, and ultimately the State of Israel and Palestine—has an impossible story to share with you: you can rise from your own ruins with sheer willpower – which is what the very existence of the city prove, after the countless battles and invasions it has been through. That having faith in yourself can help you overcome anything; to just get started and hope that everything will converge. To keep doing things and to keep moving. To keep dreaming. And to always keep living.