Jerusalem is close to the heart of most Israelis even if they don’t count themselves as especially religious. It’s a lot higher up and is surrounded by very biblical rocky hills. The Orthodox are in force here in their Polish Aristocratic dress (Did anyone in the Bible wander around in black in 40c.) and you’ll do well to cover up a little if you wander into their neighborhoods.
There’s an undercurrent of tension in the whole city and for many it’s a little too intense to want to live there. The old city is surrounded by stone wall and accessed by various gates. The Wailing Wall and the Golden Dome of Al-Aksa (the Muslim holy site) are what everyone goes to see but the Christian churches are the real attractions. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is mind-blowing and you can catch the Armenian and Greek monks in archaic, haunting choruses around the altars.
Actually you have to feel a little sorry for the Western Christians who come here expecting to find the holy city of their faith. The place is actually contested by the various Christian mafias – the church just mentioned is fought over by the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians, The Assyrians, the Coptics and the Italian Catholics. That’s all pre-Protestant. Sometimes at Easter fistfights break out between the faiths as they compete for first place in the holy processions.
In the Arabic quarter you can buy your knickknacks but best of all eat really good hummous. No one makes it like the Arabs and you should get some Baclawa sweets or k’nafel cheese pastries to finish.
Jerusalem is hilly and spread out which makes walking pretty exhausting. It’s also freezing in the winter and the wind whips in from the hills. It’s hot in summer though and it’s fun to watch the Orthodox walk around in black and fur hats.
Jerusalem is a city with a young vibe as it’s also a big university centre.