Pakistani-American beats the odds to realise her Jerusalem dream

Published: January 12, 2017
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Madeeha Anwar Chaudhry at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Madeeha Anwar Chaudhry at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

While many of us cannot even think about setting foot in Israel, a Pakistani-American woman has realised her dream of visiting Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Washington-based journalist Madeeha Anwar Chaudhry harboured a longstanding desire to visit the city because of her father. “My dad was an avid traveler who was extremely keen on visiting Jerusalem. He couldn’t because he had a Pakistani passport,” she told The Express Tribune.

Soon after her visit, Chaudhry posted over 70 pictures on Facebook featuring a number of sacred sites. Her travel photo album A visit to the ‘Forbidden Land’ (Israel & Palestine) has garnered over 19,000 likes from people the world over. Talking about her father, who passed away in 2014, she said he would have been ecstatic had he lived “to see this day”.

Upon emigrating to the United States, Chaudhry said, she had vowed to visit the fabled city as soon as she obtained an American passport. “A few months after becoming a US citizen, I visited Israel and prayed at Masjid-e-Aqsa, Dome of the Rock and explored the old streets of Jerusalem,” she said.

Chaudhry said she had come to realise that Jerusalem residents — Jews, Christians and Muslims associated distinct stories with the  city. This, she said, was emblematic of the “unique and sacred” connection they had with the promised land.

“I felt the force of history in Bethlehem, Hebron, the Dead Sea area and Jericho — places steeped in antiquity. I got to interact with locals of all Abrahamic faiths,” Chaudhry said.

“It was amazing to be somewhere so far removed from most Pakistanis,” she said. A former Express News staffer, Chaudhry is currently associated with Voice of America Urdu. She is penning a travelogue documenting her visit to the promised land.

Here is a pictorial glimpse to her tour to the “forbidden land”:

Chaudhry at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A pulpit in Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry inside Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An interior shot of the dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An exterior shot of Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

View of Dome of the Rock from Al-Aqsa Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Women entering Dome of the Rock for Friday prayers. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

The foundation stone in Dome of the Rock from where, it is believed, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to the heavens on Shab-e-Mairaj. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

The bottom of the foundation stone opens into a small room where Muslims pray. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry sits in the room under the foundation stone in Dome of the Rock. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Dome of the Rock. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An outside view of Dome of the Rock. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry outside Dome of the Rock. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry at the Israeli West Bank Barrier in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry outside Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry inside Church of the Nativity. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

At the Milk Grotto Chapel in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A view of a street in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A Christmas tree outside Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Falafel, traditional Middle Eastern food, being prepared in Bethlehem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Falafel, a traditional Middle Eastern food. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

$100 conversion to 370 Israeli Shekels. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An outside view of the Mosque of Prophet Yunus (AS) located in Halhul, 5 kilometres north of Hebron (al-Khalil). PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Symbolic tomb of Prophet Yunus (AS) in Hebron. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Tomb of Sara (Prophet Ibrahim’s wife) at Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Tomb of Prophet Ishaq (AS) in Hebron, Palestine. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Tomb of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) in Hebron, Palestine. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Cenotaph of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Kunafa, a Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, at Hebron. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Madeeha Anwar Chaudhry at Yardenit, Jesus Baptism Site, along the Jordan River in the Galilee region of northern Israel. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Yardenit Baptismal Site along the Jordan River in Galilee region of northern Israel. Christians believe Jesus was baptised here. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An outside view of Prophet Musa (AS) Mosque. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Prophet Musa’s (AS) tomb. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry at the border region between Israel and Palestine in Almog. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry at Jericho. Located near the Jordan River in the West Bank, Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry at the Dead Sea, Israel. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Dead Sea, Israel. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A roadside vendor sells Jerusalem Bagels outside Al-Aqsa Mosque after Friday prayers in Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A view of Dome of the Rock and Dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque from Mount of the Olives in Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An outside view of Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

The Stone of Anointing, inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which tradition believes to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old Jerusalem, Israel. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

An inside view of Church of Virgin Mary in Old Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Entrance of the WesternWall (Wailing Wall) in Old Jerusalem. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

A view of Western Wall in Old Jerusalem. The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Because of the status quo policy, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though it is not the holiest site in the Jewish faith, which lies behind it. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall on Sabbath, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall on Sabbath, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

Chaudhry stands outside the Western Wall. Dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque can be seen in the background. PHOTO COURTESY: facebook.com/MadeehaAnwar

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Mohammed Mirza
    Jan 12, 2017 - 2:06PM

    Excellent info!Recommend

  • LoL
    Jan 12, 2017 - 2:08PM

    Lovely, amazingRecommend

  • Munir Akram
    Jan 12, 2017 - 2:22PM

    One day this will be liberated and all muslims and Pakistanis will visit it. Inshallah.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jan 12, 2017 - 2:54PM

    Shame on Pakistani government for failing to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and depriving its citizens of pilgrimage to Islam’s second most sacred sites.Recommend

  • Sarwar Alam
    Jan 12, 2017 - 3:35PM

    It has always been a dream to visit Bayt-ul-Maqdas. Hope one day it will come true. Thanks to Madeeha for sharing such beautiful and informative pictures, especially the ones of tombs of Prophets PBUH. Jazak’AllahRecommend

  • Aamir Aqil
    Jan 12, 2017 - 4:02PM

    Amazing, Chaudhry is lucky to visit such Holy places.
    I assume she also visited the grave of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jahur.Recommend

  • Alex Norman
    Jan 12, 2017 - 5:13PM

    My hats off to the Israelis. They did not ask Maher where her father was born before giving her the visa. Are you listening “India’ and ‘Pakistan”.

    Great job Madeeha. One of these days, I would like to take the same journey.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jan 12, 2017 - 5:14PM

    @Munir Akram:

    One day this will be liberated and all
    muslims and Pakistanis will visit it.
    Inshallah.

    Being Muslim doesn’t prevent you from entering Israel – about 1/4 of Israel’s citizens are Muslim. Having Passports which say “valid in all countries except Israel” remains an impediment to obtaining a VISA.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 12, 2017 - 5:30PM

    It’s a shame that Pakistanis are forbidden from these greatest and holiest places. She is lucky to have American passport. Thank you Israel for keeping these holy sites in good condition. Hope, many of us will visit them in near future. Recommend

  • Sarwar
    Jan 12, 2017 - 6:38PM

    Nice pictures. But she did not “beat the odds”. I have been to Jerusalem three times. If you visit the Old City during Ramadan you wll hear people in the streets speaking Urdu, Punjabi, Gujrati. Thousands of Muslim pilgrims go there every year. Many of them are Pakistan-origin with foreign passports. Recommend

  • Hella
    Jan 12, 2017 - 6:38PM

    Will she now be allowed to visit Pakistan on her American passport or will she have to use her Pakistani passport?Recommend

  • Solomon2
    Jan 12, 2017 - 8:37PM

    My understanding is that Israel accepts Pakistani passports for entry. So the “Israel forbidden” text on Pakistanis’ passports is only there because the Pakistani government wants to discourage its own citizens from doing so.Recommend

  • Avtar
    Jan 13, 2017 - 6:05AM

    Nice to see pictures inside the Al Aqsa mosque. When we visited the mosque was closed to non-Muslims during certain hours. We were able to see the wailing wall and other touristy stuff. Israelis are open folks. Unlike Pakistan, they welcome tourist dollars and no visa fees and enough security is provided.Recommend

  • Usman Hassan
    Jan 13, 2017 - 10:14AM

    Ur blessed..Someday inshAllah we can all visit..Recommend

  • Shah
    Jan 13, 2017 - 10:49AM

    Now she will get into trouble if she decides to visit Pakistan as immigration will grill her about her visit to Israel. Recommend

  • RK Singh
    Jan 13, 2017 - 11:11AM

    @Munir Akram:

    how does a political situation 2500 miles away concern you?Recommend

  • Raza
    Jan 20, 2017 - 3:06PM

    Congratulations to Ms Choudhry that you have visited the holy Places of our Prophets (PBUH).
    and thanks for uploading wonderful Pics.
    it is not Pakistan’s fault to managed relation…. In fact Israel himself don’t want to establish relationship with Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan 30, 2017 - 12:08PM

    Being a Pakistani, I also wish I could visit this wonderful place one day.Recommend

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