It was one of those places I never imagined myself visiting, like many others it was never on my radar and with it being on the news every other day, I never thought it was safe enough. But Palestine always held a very special place in my heart and it made me sad that I’d never visit the land. But as my dad always says “never say never”, and alas God always works His magic in mysterious ways. “You plan and He plans but He is the best of planners” (Holy Quran, Surah Al-Anfal 8:30)
Despite what you think you see on social media, this year has been one of the weirdest, hardest, most intense, life changing years for me personally. And naturally, in times of hardship one always turns to the Creator, but it’s a complicated relationship, Sometimes up sometimes down but perhaps He wants you to turn back to Him and you just need to be reminded of the bigger picture, just ONE reminder that He is near. This trip was exactly that, it was the perfect moment, in the best of situations and the fact that I got to do it with my best friend was an immense experience.
Before I left for Jerusalem, I was given 100 tips and warnings from 50 different people about a Muslim travelling to Israeli land. But this was a journey I was willing to make. Side story – about a month ago I was offered a job in London, it was perfect, the role, the team, the salary, the organisational structure, not to mention the offices overlooked the most stunning view of The Shard. The manager offered me the job there and then. The only thing that ate at the back of my mind was the fact that the company was Israeli owned and I’d have to travel to Israel a few times a year for meetings. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing, I turned down the role having a very frank conversation with the manager explaining to him that my strong affiliation and connection with the free land of Palestine would always be a conflict of interest for the organisation. Moral of the story, go with your gut always and going on this trip reaffirmed my decision tenfold!
We travelled from London to Tel Aviv on a very early morning flight and travelled by road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As it was our first time in Palestine and didn’t know what to expect, so we travelled with a tour provider called Ibadah Tours.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is home to the 3 Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Some of the most important Prophets in the history of all 3 religions have walked the streets of Jerusalem including Jesus (who was made to walk down the streets whilst on the cross), Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) who made his journey from Medina to Jerusalem to what Muslims refer to as the Journey of the Night or Me’raj and David and Solomon’s residing place.
Judaism’s Wailing Wall is one of the most important sites for the religion where Jews from all over the world, particularly the Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem visit every Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night) Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit this part of Jerusalem.
Christianity – Jerusalem and Bethlehem are embedded in Christian history but Jerusalem also has the resting place of Mary where she waited for Jesus to be born. Not only that, The Holy Church of the Sepulchre was allegedly where Jesus was crucified and buried before his resurrection.
Is it safe to visit Palestine?
Contrary to popular belief (or what the media portrays) Palestine felt so safe to me. The grounds of Jerusalem are very busy, bustling with sellers, tourists and locals alike. But amidst it all, you will see armed Israeli soldiers on the streets yet the feeling of safety and security walking the streets of Jerusalem is one I cannot explain. What you see in the media is the unrest in Gaza, and it wouldn’t be safe for you to travel there. However we did visit West Bank as well as surrounding cities of Jerusalem and we felt very safe. Bearing in mind, we were travelling with locals guides who had experience and the gift of the local language which made it easier. I’m not sure how easy you would find it were you to travel on your own.
Would you recommend visiting Palestine?
In all honesty, I could not recommend it enough. Palestine is one of the most naturally beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever been to. Being a Muslim, I have always wanted to travel to Palestine for the Islamic history and high significance that is placed on Al Aqsa within the Quran. However, besides the Islamic significance, what I loved the most about Palestine is the mix of people from all different countries, races, languages all gathered together as one Ummah! Moreover, I loved how all 3 monotheistic religions put their differences aside and came together to relive their own individual histories.
Should I book with a tour group or go on my own?
I would always recommend that you go with a tour. I travelled with Ibadah Tours, where our tour guide Ali guided us through everything. One thing I will say is that the immigration going into and coming out of Tel Aviv was intense. It really helped that we were travelling with a group, otherwise we could have been detained for a lot longer than we did (a few of us were held for 4-5 hours going into Tel Aviv and I was held for about an hour coming out)
Ibadah Tours was so well organised, everything was thought out down to the tee. The hotel we stayed at, Hashmi Hotel was just a short walk away from Masjid al Aqsa which was perfect. All our tours were organised by Ali and his team.
Day One – we went on a walking tour of Jerusalem, which included the Muslim, Christian and Jewish qusrters
Day Two – we travelled to the West Bank, visiting some Islamic sites such as the grave of Prophet Ibrahim and others.
Day Three – There was an optional tour to go back to the West Bank to help in distributing care packages to families of need that were provided through the donations of individuals on the group
Day Four – Another optional tour to Ramallah where we planted olive trees
The rest of the days were all free for us to explore the city of Jerusalem and its neighbouring cities on our own.
I’ve never been part of a tour group before but I couldn’t recommend Ibadah Tours and Ali enough, not only did I feel as though I was being looked after safely, but the love and care of the people with us on the tour was immense, never for a moment did I feel like I was away from my family.
On a closing note, believe it or not, this post has been incredibly hard for me to write. Merely because it’s been so difficult to articulate the emotions I felt on this trip – unbelief, total peace, anxiety, ecstatic joy that I was actually on the land of the Prophets, immense sadness for the people of Palestine, fear of the unknown yet it felt like the safest place I had ever been to, like I was home for the first time. I urge you all to make this journey, regardless of what religion or creed you belong to, Jerusalem is a place that will take you in and make you feel like you finally belong. Finally, don’t be put off by what you see in the media, Palestine is waiting for you! May Allah/God/Yahweh make this journey possible for you soon!
Other sites you need to visit in Jerusalem
Islamic Museum of Al-Aqsa
Masjid al Umar ibn Al Khattab
Baab lud – where Muslims believe Dajjal will be killed and thrown in the well by the Mahdi and Jesus.
Church of the Redeemer (has a 360 degree view of the city)
Via De La Rosa – this was where Jesus walked away hilarious on the cross, he always rested his hand on the wall, so there are tiny churches scattered around this small street.
The Wailing Wall (if you’re allowed in the Jewish side) Open 24 hours a day and a scull-cap must be worn by men here.
Instagram – @ibadah.tours
Twitter – @ibadahtours
All the love in the world,
The London Haloodie
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