Western Wall & Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Jerusalem: A Religious Experience?

Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. The scent of incense filled the air, while candles flickered in the breeze from the doorway. Soot-darkened frescoes and rich fabrics lined the walls, seemingly held together with the dirt and grime of the ages, while bright icons and lamps reflected in the dim light.

Just beyond the entrance, a group of pilgrims knelt on the floor, whispering silent prayers and lamenting quietly beneath a line of eight ornate lamps. Others rubbed their clothes, mobile phones and other items across the surface of a large stone slab set in the floor beneath.

I hesitated, feeling a little like an intruder yet fascinated to witness such devotion. But then this was no ordinary church. I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is, for many Christians, the holiest place on earth.

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Wadi Qelt, Judean Desert

Wild Israel: Untamed Landscapes and Intriguing Israeli Wildlife

Stepping from the cool air-conditioned car, the heat engulfed me. I gulped from my bottle, grateful as the cool water trickled down my throat. The landscape was almost entirely devoid of colour, except for the parked cars and a blanket strewn across the back of a camel, resting in its uncomfortable-looking squat while waiting for a paying rider.

Squinting into the distance, the undulating curves of hills and mountains stretched endlessly, their beigeness broken only by occasional patches of scrub. It was a hostile, dry, hot landscape. We were heading into the Israeli desert.

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