Bodies can't live without hearts, neither can Palestine, and Jerusalem is the heart of Palestine. Jerusalem is the most important city for Palestinians, for its religious, historical and political significance. However, it is a forbidden city for most Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The first and famous scene waiting for you in Jerusalem is the Damascus Gate. It’s one of the great gateways into the Old City of Jerusalem. The Old City is surrounded by a magnificent and historical wall including 11 gates – Damascus Gate, Jaffa Gate, Lion’s Gate, the Dung Gate, Gate of Mercy, Herod’s Gate, the New Gate, the Golden/ Al-Rahma Gate, Bab Al-Magharebah Gate, Al-Nabi Daoud Gate and the New Gate. Nowadays, most of the gates are kept closed and only a few of them allow entrance into the Old City. Damascus Gate is the main entrance into the Old City, every stone is built with a lot of passion. Each detail in Jerusalem has a story to tell.
The beauty of Jerusalem is hard to describe in words. It will take your breath away, you may even skip a heartbeat or two when you see it yourself. Jerusalem will make you rearrange your thoughts and measures. Its beauty is so incredibly genuine. It is first felt by the heart, then by the eyes. Beauty seen only with the eyes is void. You wish to have the small alleys by yourself and walk with your eyes closed and only be led by your heart – an indescribable feeling, a bit like a river flowing inside you while hearing the heartbeats from the distance.
My name is Alaa'. I am 29 years old and I was born and raised in Jerusalem. Damascus Gate is my everyday destination. Entering the Old City reminds me of Dante Alighieri’s poem “Divine Comedy”. You must pass through different stages until finally reaching and entering heaven (Old City). Stages are extremely hard in Jerusalem’s case. There are two Israeli checkpoints at Damascus Gate itself with many questions being asked by Israeli soldiers. This daily process consumes my dignity as a human being, and it is only because I am an Arab. Their presence at the Damascus Gate and the rest of East Jerusalem violates International Law, our most basic rights as Palestinians and most importantly the city’s heart-melting beauty.
The Old City is full of places to visit as a prayer, pilgrim, tourist, photographer, journalist or whatever else. You always find something amazing to experience in this incredible city. Wait, do you also enjoy good food? Well, you are not alone. Indeed, I believe in a beauty that can be tasted, Jerusalem has an endless eatable “beauty”. Yes, I mean food.
When was the last time you skipped a heartbeat and it was worth the skip? Once? Maybe never? Then come and visit us in Jerusalem and skip one heartbeat at least! I guarantee you that Jerusalem will capture you like no place before. You may come with your complete heart, but a piece of it might remain in Jerusalem when you leave asking you to come back again and again.