Day 7: Exploring the Muslim and Christian Quarters
Jerusalem Travel Blog› entry 7 of 11 › view all entries
I begin today in a most precarious situation. Our group is taking a tour of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City including the grounds around the Dome of the Rock (a mosque that covers holy ground of all three major religions) and I am denied entry because my skirt is too short (it ends just above my knees). Lucky for me there is another girl on my tour who has come prepared with an extra skirt and I quickly throw it on over my dress so I can enter. We have a very brief tour of the area (it's close to noonday prayers and only Muslims can be in this area at that time--a loud alarm will sound when it's time for Muslims to gather and us to leave). We learn that Jerusalem is the third holiest place to Muslims (behind Mecca and Medina) and that the Dome of the Rock is on the site where Abraham offered his son in sacrifice to God (also significant to Jews and Christians, but they claim that son was Isaac, while Muslims believe it was Ishmael).
One woman in our group is muslim and is allowed to enter the mosque, but only after close scrutiny. First she must delcare allegience to Allah and name Mohammed as his phophet. Then she must recite the first chapter of the Koran and finally she must completely cover her head. Only then is she allowed to go in. We learn that the Dome of the Rock is generally used as a mosque for women and that most men come to pray at the nearby El Aksa mosque which faces toward Mecca.
After a quick lunch back at the hotel, we travel back to the Old City again to visit the Christian Quarter.
Our tour guide tells us that the Christians in Israel are mainly those of Eastern influence (Greek Orthodox, etc), but that there is a growing number of Western influenced Christians arriving.
Tour Guide: This was the room where Helena discovered Jesus's cross.
Lady in my group: Which cross?
TG: THE cross
LIMG: Which one? The one Jesus carried?
TG: Well, yes, um.
LIMG: Oh, really...oh, okay.
After our tour we go back to the hotel for dinner (more veggies, rice, pita, hummus and watermelon) then a concert of North African music featuring an amazing Moroccan singer. Then Sara and I go back to our room where we are lucky enough to find an episode of "The Office" on TV (Jim: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Dwight: I can travel anywhere in the world...except Cuba.). We waste precious sleep minutes watching it, but it's well worth it. Tomorrow we're up early for Tel Aviv.