The Birthplace of Christianity

Continuing on the Easter theme, we’re going to go travelling today! Most religions started out in a specific country before spreading around with the help of missionaries, and Christianity is no different. Some of you may know that it started out in the Levant region, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Hatay Province and other parts of southern Turkey, some regions of northwest Iraq and the Sinai Peninsula. And among them, Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is commonly mentioned in the Bible and other biblical references. Over the long weekend, why don’t you visit the religious city and feel the aura it permeates?

Jerusalem is really home to 3 religions, rather than only Christianity. The other 2 Abrahamic religions represented are Judaism and Islam, so you can see it represents holiness. However, it was also because of religion that it had a violent past, being fiercely contested between Christianity and Islam during the Crusade era. It has a unique history, and maybe because of that its people cherish their heritage all the more. However, even today, adherents of each religion congregate in different districts, though with considerable overlap.

Generally when I think of the Mediterranean area, I’m not sure what image to think of. Is it a desert region like the Arab, or is it like a beach, since it’s close to the sparkling Mediterranean sea? Well, it has a distinct seasonal split between summer and winter, with the former between May and September and having virtually no rain. Its temperature is probably bearable to us Singaporeans though, with the highest being 30 degrees Celsius and dropping to 15 at nights. Winters are wet and cold, with January having temperatures between 12 to 4 degrees Celsius. So be careful when you travel between October and April! Don’t underestimate the temperature over there!

If Jerusalem is a holy Muslim city, does it mean all its food are halal? Well, not all of its food chains are certified, and if you’re uncomfortable they do have American food over there, such as Burgers Bar and New Deli, though hygiene is not a guarantee. If you want to try Arabic food, Abu Shukri and Hashipudia have delicious and cheap meat skewers and hummus and falafel, not to mention the pita bread we all know about.

During the day, there are interesting places to visit in there, such as the Garden Tomb, since we’re talking of Christianity. It is believed to be the location of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus, and is located in a lush beautiful garden. It’s open in the afternoons, which is the best time to appreciate the greens, no doubt. There is also something known as a Biblical Zoo. I’m not sure what it is, but I wonder if it’s related to Noah’s Ark. And of course, don’t forget about visiting the Old City, where all the historical religious sites are situated, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the holiest Christian spot in the world! Being the number one site for Christian pilgrims, built by Queen Helena, it is horribly crowded, so be prepared to listen to an hour’s worth of songs on your MP3.

I must say one part of travel that I really enjoy is learning about culture and looking at the daily way of life of its people. It can differ so much from ours back home, and yet people still live in harmony and contentment. This goes to show how resilient and creative people can be, to construct a social entity for themselves. For those who want a real feeling of Easter, do consider heading to Jerusalem for the next few weeks!

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