Visiting minister sneaks out of hotel to see for himself: “The most spiritual city in the world … I felt it,” he told Times of Israel.
By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel
With the two countries basking in the warm glow of their new peace accord, Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem this week welcomed the second visit by a high-ranking official from the government of Bahrain.
Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani had a packed schedule, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, four other Israeli cabinet ministers and dozens of Israeli business and industry officials.
But the eloquent minister needed to see the city for himself,. He told Times of Israel that he took an unscheduled evening stroll in Jerusalem’s magical and intriguing Old City – and he was immediately smitten.
“I’ve always spoken to people who’ve been to Jerusalem. And they always told me: It’s probably the most spiritual city in the world. I felt it last night. I felt it,” he told the Times . “And the closer you get to the holy sites — I don’t know, maybe it was a weird feeling, maybe it’s just me — I felt there’s more spirit.”
“Last night I personally went out to walk around the city, on my own, with a couple of friends. I kind of snuck out because I wanted to go and see and feel for myself, as a normal citizen, not as a government official. I spent an hour walking in the Old City, and I went to the shopping mall across the road. I didn’t feel threatened, I didn’t feel any security issues.”
Along the way, Al-Zayani stopped by some shops to ask for directions.
“To my surprise, most of them were Arabs,” he said. “One person asked me where I was from. I said Bahrain, and he was very welcoming. He said, Ahalan wasahlan, good to see you here, and that was it.”
Al-Zayani strolled through the Old City and got to the lookout over the famous holy sites, the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque.
“When I got to the balcony where you can see the Wall and Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount], you could feel — the air was different,” he said. “It was a nice feeling. Probably the closest I felt to that was being in Mecca and Medina, as a Muslim.”
The minister said Jerusalem is an attraction for tourists from across the region because it “has the element of religious tourism for all faiths.”
“We can have Christians from South East Asia coming here; we can have Muslims from India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, which we serve extensively throughout our network, coming here. And we can have Jewish tourism coming to Bahrain or beyond,” said Al-Zayani, who is also the chairman of Bahrain’s national airline, Gulf Air.
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