Sunday, February 12, 2017

Israel Travelogues: Visiting The Mount Of Olives

I visited the Mount of Olives with a guided tour of Sandemans New Jerusalem Tours. I heard about them through an other travel blog called Travel The Middle East. Just as the author of that blog I was very satisfied with our tour as well. You can book the tour online already before your trip. After payment you receive a confirmation and you can bring the printed voucher with you to the meeting point which is at Jaffa Gate. The participation fee for this tour is twenty one euros which icludes transportation to the Mount of Olives. They ask for additional fifteen shekels (approx. four euros) as donations aka entrance fee at two places and ten shekels for taking the mini van back to Jaffa Gate which is optional.

One reason why I chose to participate at the tour was that I was traveling alone and was planning to take photos. Therefore it was better for me to join a group where the guide knows where to walk and keeps a strict schedule in order to visit sights while they are still open. You can hear and read a lot about Jerusalem and Israel but I have to say that to see it on the spot is totally different what you might have imagined before. I felt the same safe in West and East Jerusalem- from East Jerusalem I saw only the Mount Of Olives and certain parts of the Old City. I think there is a general rule in both Israeli and Palestinian territories: at places where people live from tourism it is very rare that people behave in a hostile way towards tourists.

The legal state of East Jerusalem is a bit confusing. Certain Eastern Jerusalem neighbourhoods have been separated by a wall from the West Bank suburbs after the Second Intifada (2000). Very simply put Israel claims the whole Jerusalem as Israeli territory, while the State of Palestine refers to East Jerusalem as its capital. The international community sees East Jerusalem as a part of the Palestine state as well. To make it more complicated as you can see from the results of a poll conducted in 2011 just as there are many different, often contradictiory opinions in Israeli politics and among Israeli people, so are they among East Jerusalem Arab residents:

"A poll conducted by Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and American Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council on Foreign Relations, among East Jerusalem Arab residents in 2011 revealed that 39% of East Jerusalem Arab residents would prefer Israeli citizenship contrary to 31% who opted for Palestinian citizenship. According to the poll, 40% of Palestinian residents would prefer to leave their neighborhoods if they would be placed under Palestinian rule"

After this short recap I would like to say what I experienced from all of this above when visiting the Mount of Olives: nothing. We did not have to cross any checkpoints and I did not see the wall there. Our mini van drove through the outskirts of the Armenian quarter which has really narrow streets and the traffic is real slow. Then we drove to the top of the Mount of Olives and started our tour from there. We arrived here early afternoon and as our tour proceeded we could enjoy the beautiful lights of the golden hours before sunset. The main sights we visited were:

  • Chapel of the Ascension
  • Church of Pater Noster
  • Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetary
  • Dominus Flevit
  • Garden of Ghetsemane
  • Church of All Nations
  • Church of Mary`s Tomb

Besides the cultural richness of the tour and all the interesting stories you can hear, the view of Jerusalem and the architectural style of the sites is a huge value added plus. From the Mount of Olives you face the city of Jerusalem and the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock is just in front of you. Religious or atheist most of us heard the name of this city and the Mount of Olives so many times as we grew up that being here visiting these places has a very unique atmosphere.

On the way to Jaffa Gate:

Jaffa Gate:

Chapel of Ascension:

Pater Noster:

To be continued..

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