I learned about this city and its people. I learned about the myriad complexity that has folded in on itself to make this place possible in precisely this form in this moment of history. Of course it was exciting to see the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but it was all the things in between which I had not known about that I received an education in. I began to see how all the pieces fit together and the people who make it all work. These were what I found the most surprising and interesting.
It goes without saying that the Haram ash-Sharif, the area surrounding the Dome of the Rock, is easily the most beautiful part of the city, which makes sense on multiple levels. I liked the austerity of the traditional Christian architecture here, and the unusual fusion of Eastern and Western Christian traditions was informative. Finally, in walking around, one quickly learns that the cultural differences between the neighborhoods is often stark and immediate. As with Nazareth, the Arab “side” felt more familiar to me, but this is likely to have more to do with language than anything else.
Jerusalem was once (and sometimes still is) believed to be the center of the universe, of creation, but I think that even today the rays of its influence shoot outward in all directions. I feel like a I have gained a valuable piece of insight into human beings having seen this place.