A friend sent me this hadith which got me all excited and inspired to visit Al-Quds (aka Jerusalem).
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When Solomon son of David, peace and blessings be upon him, built the Sacred House, he asked Allah Almighty for the three things throughout. Solomon asked Allah Almighty for judgment coinciding with His judgment, and he was given it. Solomon asked Allah Almighty for a kingdom none should have after him, and he was given it. And Solomon asked Allah Almighty when he finished the foundations of the Mosque that none should come to it, intending only to pray, but that his sins would be expunged like the day he was born from his mother.”
For our 6 day trip to Palestine we travelled through Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, and took a $16 sherut (shared taxi) to Jerusalem. Even though I wear hijab, we had no trouble at all getting into Israel, I think it's because we had our baby! Below are some of our favorite tips and things we did during our trip.
-Fajr is the most beautiful time to visit the mosque. Generally the mosque gets filled up and elders serve coffees and candy to anyone who passes by. On Fridays after Fajr especially there are several talks going on in the masjid, and there is a small mawlid that happens too if you can find it!
-Try to make as many prayers as possible!
-Make sure to go under the Dome of the Rock (there are stairs leading under the rock), make sure to see the places where Zakariyyah alayhi salam made du’a for a son (inside masjid al-qibla) and where Maryam alayha salam gave birth to Isa alayhi salam (under masjid al-qibla).
Mount of Olives
Hiking up the Mount of Olives for sunrise or sunset is beautiful, and there you can find the Church/Mosque of Ascension, where Isa was believed to have ascended to heaven.
This is the mosque where Umar R. A. prayed rather than in the Church of the Sepulchre, because he said if he prayed in the church he feared it would be transformed into a mosque!
Also in Jerusalem are the Tomb of Maryam, the Maqams of Dawud and of Salman Al Farisi, the Khanqah of Salahuddin Ayyubi. We didn't get to visit but wish we did!
Palestinian-owned hotels in Jerusalem:
Hashimi Hotel: It's Palestinian-owned and very close to Al-Aqsa, which makes it easy to make it to every prayer. It's a bare-bones hotel, but has a beautiful view of the city from its rooftop and also has good breakfast included.
Jerusalem Hotel and Golden Walls Hotel: Both these were other Palestinian-owned hotels we were recommended to. These options seemed a little fancier, but we went with Hashimi because it was cheaper and closer to Al-Aqsa.
Where to eat
We were able to see what we wanted to see of Bethlehem in about 3 hours. We visited the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Umar, and the Walled of Hotel (Banksy hotel -- make sure to check out the museum!). You can also easily visit a refugee camp from there, but we didn't get the chance! We took a bus there from Jerusalem.
We loved Nablus because its Old City seemed so alive and less *occupied* than most of the other cities in Palestine. To get there, we took a 1 hr bus to Ramallah and a 1.5 hr bus to Nablus. We ate *the most amazing knafeh in the world* at Halwiyat al Aqsa, we visited the soap factory, walked around the old city, and took a taxi to the top of Mt. Gerizim to see the temple that the Samartians believe to be Temple Mount. The highlight of Nablus for us was really just to see a vibrant Palestinian city and that knafeh. It was also recommended to us to visit the Balata refugee camp, but we didn't get the chance.
The highlight of Ramallah for us was to visit the Yasser Arafat Museum (he's also buried there). The museum is super well done! Other than that we walked around the old city and fruit market a little bit and ate ice cream at a place called Baladna. Ramallah is the 'NYC of Palestine' but overall Nablus' old city is more enjoyable to walk around.
The tomb of the patriarchs (grave of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob) is in Hebron which is why it's one of the worst points of the occupation, as there's a settlement in the center of the city. For Hebron, we did a tour with Breaking the Silence, which I highly recommend. It gives a much deeper understanding of the occupation, and is led by former IDF soldiers. It took us the whole day. But if you just visit Hebron for the graves you could get there and back in a couple of hours.