As Easter unfolds in Jerusalem I was raised in a Christian family for whom Easter was the most religious event of the year, not Christmas as my boyish desires would have preferred. Each Friday evening during Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, we would re-enact, in a sombre atmosphere in our local church, the Stations of the Cross. To this very day the priest's voice still echoes in my brain: "Third Station: And Jesus fell for the first time... Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem... Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb." Little did I imagine I would one day walk all fourteen Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, on the Via Dolorosa, which is called the Way of Sorrows (also known as the Way of Grief) in the Holy City itself. Walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to the crucifixion, was, admittedly, somewhat surreal at first. When you spend a lifetime reading stories and listening to sermons of events that transpired two millennium earlier, it's almost impossible not to wrap some of those readings and lessons in a cloak of magic. But setting foot in the ancient Holy City actually dispelled, for me, a certain amount of the story-book dimension, and made it more real, more heart-felt in some ways. There are, of course, many ways to experience a travel destination such as Israel. There's the religious aspect of course, which I've also highlighted in an online slide show titled Easter and Passover in Jerusalem: 15 Magical Moments. In that series of images and captions I tried to capture the breadth of cultures and religious traditions in Jerusalem. Then again, because I'm somewhat of an amateur foodie, one can also focus on the local cuisine, as I did during a wonderful market tour when I visited Israel last October. (Make a note: should you plan to visit Jerusalem, devote a morning or an entire afternoon to the Mahane Yehuda Market. Don't eat beforehand!) Here are some photographs that speak to me of the Easter story I learned as a child, but which came to life for me as an adult traveller.
(Images: Israel Tourism and Doug O'Neill)If you're considering a trip to the Holy Land, do check out the FAQ section on the Go Israel web site. Happy Easter! Shalom!