תפילת הכוהנים בכותל המערבי בירושלים
Jews praying at the Western Wall during Passover before the pandemic hit
Photo: AFP
Jews praying at the Western Wall during Passover before the pandemic hit

Seeing Jerusalem is not impossible this holiday season

2021 is a special year, with all three monotheistic religions celebrating major festivals - Ramadan, Passover and Easter - in close proximity, and despite the pandemic the holy city can still play a role thanks to technology

Uri Sharon |
Published: 03.27.21 , 13:38
Pilgrimage is a spiritual search for transformation in the presence of God. It is a religious journey in which believers leave their homes to pray, touch and be in unity with their God - and Jerusalem has been a place of pilgrimage since the First Temple was erected in 1000 BCE by King Solomon.
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  • Jews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the three main Jewish festivals, Sukkot, Shavuot and Passover.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    תפילת הכוהנים בכותל המערבי בירושלים
    תפילת הכוהנים בכותל המערבי בירושלים
    Jews praying at the Western Wall during Passover before the pandemic hit
    (Photo: AFP)
    Archeologists and biblical scholars have found evidence that in the Second Temple Period, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims - known in Hebrew as olei regel (lit. those who march on foot) - visited Jerusalem during these festive periods.
    Jerusalem is holy to Christians as well. It was in Jerusalem that Jesus criticized the Temple priests for being corrupt and it was in Jerusalem, according to the New Testament, that Jesus was crucified at Golgotha.
    In the 4th century CE, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built at the site identified as Golgotha by Roman emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena. Today, the church serves as the main Christian pilgrim site in Jerusalem.
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    Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
    Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
    The Holy Fire ceremony is held at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem at Easter 2018
    (Photo: AFP)
    A pilgrimage movement was established soon after Queen Helena built the Holy Sepulcher and other churches in the Holy Land. At first, the pilgrimage was an unorganized movement of people with a personal quest, walking in the footsteps of Jesus and the holy sites.
    It is a spiritual search with the objective to touch and feel, and interact with Jesus, where he performed the miracles and of course, where the crucifixion and the miracle of the resurrection took place.
    Ramadan 2021 takes place from April 12 to May 13 making this year a special one when the three monotheistic religions will all celebrate important festivals - Ramadan, Passover and Easter - in close proximity. As such, Jerusalem will be at its spiritual peek from March to May.
    Ramadan starts at dawn each day with fasting that is held until sunset followed by the iftar, the evening meal at which Muslims break their daily fast, with sweet foods and beverages served.
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    Woman prays in East Jerusalem during Ramadan
    Woman prays in East Jerusalem during Ramadan
    A Muslim woman wearing protective gear against coronavirus prays in Jerusalem during Ramadan 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    According to Muslim tradition, it was during Ramadan that the first version of the Quran was given to Mohammed. It is the holy month in the yearly religious life cycle where the believers take the time to reflect and approach God, and one in which many Muslims come to pray in Jerusalem.
    Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year is unprecedented in the history of pilgrimage and travel to the Holy Land. With a complete ban of international travel to Israel, virtual reality substitutes are for some taking the place of physical pilgrimage.
    Pilgrimage is about emotions and the relation to God so VR could create a solid visualization of the holy sites and together with the scriptures and a good guide can be a relevant option for a spiritual journey.
    Israel is still closed for international travel and Jerusalem will not be a pilgrimage site for Passover and Easter, but there several good virtual options for a VR experience in Jerusalem over these holidays.

    Live cams

    The focal point for Jews during Passover is the Western Wall. Also known as the Wailing Wall, this remnant of the Second Temple is the closest place to the Holy of Holies where Jews can pray.
    In normal times, the Western Wall is very crowded every year with Israelis and Jewish visitors from around the world.
    This year, the best way to get close to the site is using the virtual services of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
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    The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem
    The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem
    The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    There is a live cam broadcast of the Western Wall Plaza and you can keep with tradition by sending a virtual note to be placed in the Wall and you can send the names of your loved ones to be blessed during prayers.
    The virtual note is a very practical service - complete with online forms that are printed out and placed between the huge stones of the Wall.
    The Christian Media Center located in Jerusalem aims to be a communication tool for Christians around the world, bringing events, festivity and liturgical celebrations.
    The center also uses live streaming during Easter and will transmit the important festivities.

    Online virtual guided tours

    Amit Musai realized a year ago that a fast change was needed in order to supply demand for Israel tours for travelers who could no longer physically arrive.
    So Amazing Jerusalem started creating VR online guided tours. The tech structure for the VR tours was already created by Google so with a few changes adding an online interactive live personal guide a series of online live VR tours was created, including especially for Passover and Easter.
    (Virtual Jerusalem tours)
    This technology will continue to work even after the tourists have returned to Israel.
    There are three reasons for this: existing demand for online tours, a preparation tool for groups that plan to come to Israel and also as a guiding tool for groups that do visit Israel and the sites.

    VR Headset
    The Tower of David Museum has a big choice of virtual tours and also offers a VR headset tour.
    (Tower of David virtual tour)
    This exciting production lets you be immersed in Jerusalem, providing an intense audio visual experience from the comfort of your headsets for the celebrations of Passover, Ramadan, the Holy Fire and much more.

    Uri Sharon is a tourism professional with a Master's degree in Tourism Development and Planning from Haifa University. He is the founder and editor of trvltrend.com and has many years of experience in digital and offline marketing, e-commerce, integrative media planning and public relations. The main focus of his writing is digital trends in travel and hospitality

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