THREE brief moments on a whistle-stop tour of the Holy Land were enough to send a shiver down any traveller’s spine:

  • Standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is said to have prayed with his disciples the night before he was arrested.
  • Filing through the Children’s Memorial at Yad Veshem, the candelit monument to the million-and-a-half young victims of the Holocaust.
  • The densely-packed melting pot which is Jerusalem’s Old City, revered by so many of the world’s major religions and its pilgrims, a mind-numbing maelstrom of belief and bloody-mindedness.

Little wonder that Easyjet, which has just launched a Manchester to Tel Aviv service, and the Israeli tourist board, are keen to foster a fresh perspective on this famed locale, away from Middle Eastern politics.

Look left, it’s the Western Wall, City of David, the Mount of Olives is on the horizon and the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s most sacred sites, where the Prophet ascended to heaven, looms overhead.

Outside the historical cavalcade though, it’s easy to lose sight of Jerusalem’s flipside, home to countless five star hotels, including the Leonardo Plaza which we called home, several modern restaurants good enough to put any European capital to shame and markets and bazaars too many to mention.