Recently I have had to travel to Jerusalem several times. Strangely I have not visited many of the churches or shrines, preferring to wander through the narrow lanes of the old city or the bustling streets of East Jerusalem, getting a feel of the place. The old city is fascinating, with every twist and turn revealing spice shops or jewellers – or, to my consternation, groups of soldiers with their loaded rifles. This is more evident in the Moslem quarter of the city and near the Damascus Gate.
I suppose they are a normal occurrence for most people, but to me it was a stark reminder of the tensions within the city and also that the old city is occupied territory. Saying that, I also noticed that some of the houses are now occupied by religious Jews, with the Israeli flags provocatively hanging outside. This seems to be a determined strategy, as many Palestinians are being evicted from their homes and the religious Jews move in. A major flashpoint is the area of East Jerusalem called Sheikh Jarrah, where several families have had to move out of their homes, to be replaced by extremists. One family have lived in their house since the early 1950s, after they had been expelled in 1948 from their original house. Now they seem to be being expelled again!
The one slightly positive thing is that many Jews have joined the protests against such actions.