Neshama Sheli…

I went to a place once…

Not knowing at first that once would become a lot.

I went to a place once…

A place on this earth that I can’t believe my soul has ever forgot.

I went to a place once…

It will always heave my heart…

June 22nd 2016. I took a flight towards a city in the middle east named Tel Aviv. I was longing to travel again. Reasons for me only restricted my heart but eventually I booked the flight anyway.

A place some know as Israel.

This is my ever changing long term photo essay about Israel and the Palestinian territories. A place so complex and beautiful at the same time.

My own version of Aliyah. The act of going up…

Jerusalem…

There is no city more named in history than the city of Jerusalem. Being attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. Not only making it one of the most oldest cities in the world but also one of the most complex and fought over.

For me it feels like a sort of second home by now.

My favorite places vary from the old city, to the vibrant parts of the new city like the Mahane Jehuda market.

There is always so much going on. You see pilgrims going too all of the holy sites, Israeli’s and Palestinian coexisting and make somehow most of the situation. On one hand you see a very modern lifestyle with bars live music and craft beer, and on the other you see traditions being continued that have been done for centuries.

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is not what you will experience at the surface. At least during this time, and the times that I am there. Of course the vast amount of soldiers and police are a giveaway. And when tensions rise everything is on the surface, no matter where you are. No, you will find it more in the nuances. A dirty look, a remark, flags, a spit, or during memorial day that some people stop with what they are doing, and other just keep doing what they do…

But on the other hand you will see plenty of beautiful moments. My key moment was the first day I arrived. An old Palestinian man with his grandson asking a Israeli solder to take a photograph of them together. Other than that I have met so many beautiful souls and had so many beautiful moments that I can’t count them on my hand and feet anymore.

And I am sure everyone that will visit the old city of Jerusalem will find them instantly.

It literally is a place of magic.

Western Wall…

Once there was Temple Mount… The holiest place in Judism. The place where once a huge temple was. And the second one was destroyed by the Romans. Not giving the last standing piece of wall giving any significance since it was no part of the temple itself.

Having no holiest place to return to and for a long time, ironically a Muslim conqueror named Sultan Suleyman encouraged Jews to settle in the city which has been expelled from Spain and Portugal.

His decree remained in force and was honored by his successors for more than 400 years.

Throughout the centuries Jews from throughout the world made the difficult pilgrimage to Palestine, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi or as we know, the Western Wall, to thank God.

Prayers so passionate, it have gotten the name, the Wailing Wall.

Via Dolorosa…

Believed is that this is the path that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. Also known as the way of the suffering… The route begins at lions gate and ends at the church of the Holy Sepulcher and is about 500 meters long. And therefore you will see a lot of pilgrims walking along the path the entire day.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher…

From Via Dolorosa you eventually end up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Believed is that Jesus was crucified here and goes by the name Calvary or Golgotha. Also it holds the stone of anointing, the stone where Jesus his body was prepared for burial. It is a very emotional place where you see pilgrims not only touching and kissing the stone, but also rubbing pieces of clothing, scarves, or other trinkets on the stone to have it blessed.

Despite it is one of Christianities holiest sites. The keys to the church are kept safe and protected by a Muslim gatekeeper. It is their sacred duty for more than five hundred years…

Dome of the rock…

Important to Muslims as well as Jews the Dome of the Rock is one of the most impressive places you will ever visit, and towers over the city and you will see from afar. Believed is the founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammad, went up to heaven on his winged horse name Al-Buraq.

In Jewish religion this is the place where the Abraham is believed to prepare for the sacrifice of his son.

Mount of olives…

A mountain ridge on the east side Jerusalem. The names hails from the time when olive groves covered the entire mountain side. Now it is part of the Silwan Necropolis and a Jewish cemetery for more than 3000 years…

Ramadan…

Ramadan. The period of the year when during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the Muslim quarter of the old city of Jerusalem turn into one beautiful spectacle of light. All the different streets compete which one has the most beautiful decorations.

Flags…

Bethlehem…

About ten kilometers from Jerusalem lies Bethlehem in the Palestinian territories. Another city with an incredible amount of history… The place where Jesus is born but also in modern day a place where a lot of refugees ended up after the Israeli - Arab war.

The first thing you would one would think when thinking of Bethlehem is indeed the birthplace of Jesus, the songs you sing with Christmas, and the Church of Nativity. But with the passing of time another landmark has arisen. A giant wall that is separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.

Aida refugee camp…

The big key on top of the entrance of the camp represent the key of the homes of the Palestinian people and symbolizes the right of return. The right of return is a principle in international law which states that everyone has the right to return to their country of origin or citizenship. Which therefore makes everything so complicated since it is everyone’s homeland.

You will see this and Handala all across the Palestinian territories.

Handala is a little ten year old boy created by cartoonist Naji al-Ali. And represents his ten year old self when he was forced to leave Palestine and refuses to grow up until he was allowed to return home. It eventually became a symbol of Palestinian deviance.

Aida houses approximately 5000+ people on about an area of 100m2.

Dheisheh refugee camp…