Published: April 9th 2008April 2nd 2008
Ben & Heather love the fun glasses they wore to watch the intro movie to the City of David.
On to Jerusalem from Tiberius....
After leaving Tiberius we drove through some more beautiful country on our way to Jerusalem. Driving into Jerusalem trying to find our Avis drop off outside the Old City I came to understand why they say don't drive in Jerusalem. At one point I was beginning to feel save in the middle lane but realized the middle lane turned left while the left lane went straight. Just when we lost track of signs directing us to the Old City and figured we were going to end up driving all over town, we saw the Old City walls and right in front of us was AVIS car rental! Wow, what a relief. There was even a gas station right across the street to fill up the tank.
We walked across the street from Avis through Jaffa gate and straight to the tourist office who tried to explain how we could get to our guest house. We figured it didn't seem to complicated and there were plenty of tall land marks to find our way by. Then we entered the suk. The suk is an Arab market that lines many, many of the streets and the
Rooftop walkway above the Jewish Quarter.
streets are all covered, so it feels a bit like walking through a covered maze with hawkers on all sides. We wandered for quite a time and missed what ever turn off we were supposed to take. It didn't help that we were carrying our backpacks which made us stick out even more as a likely prospect for someone directing us to his cousin's hostel. We were well introduced to the suk by the time we finally realized the little alley through which lay the Lutheran Guest House. It was a fantastic place and hard to describe. Somehow we got a room with a private balcony overlooking the rooftops of the suk. The place was absolutely beautiful, very old, and appeared like the inside of a midevil castle. The only disturbing thing was that our balcony view afforded us the vantage point of watching several young Arab boys through stones at the Orthodox Jews who use the roof-top avenues as a short cut/by pass of the Arab suk.
We went off to explore the suk
and look for some pastries for me. We found some baklava, but not until after we had transversed the "eateries" section of
Ben walking the Old City walls.
the suk, including the many shops specializing in organs and heads. I particularly loved the pile-o-sheep heads and the 3 large sharks hanging from hooks. They were hosing the blood off the alley with the spray splattering all over the vegetable stand. I don't mean to sound critical.....just that it was such a different experience than going to our local supermarket back home. I wasn't much in the mood for baklava after the sights, sounds, and smells of the eating section of the suk which was well enough because the baklava was nothing like it was in Greece anyway.
The next morning we walked the walls of the Old City, which was one of the best things we did. It was quite interesting to transverse the various "quarters" of the city from Christian to Arab to Jewish to Armenian. The thing that struck the most was that as we progressed to the Arab Quarter things took on a marked ghetto-ish feel, with an incredible amount of trash and junk strewn about. It was so stark a contrast from the previous quarter that is seemed unreal. The Old City is amazing. The walls are only about 500 years old, built
Garbage pile at the bottom of a stairwell in the Arab Quarter of the Old City.
by Saladin the Magnificent. I believe they were in ruins for over a thousand years before that since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem around 70 AD. We were next to the Dome on the Mount when the martinets announced the call to prayer
. We took a short video, which doesn't provide much to watch, but if the sound comes through it might capture some of the calls.
Speaking of the city walls, we took the Tunnel Tour which took us to the base of the temple walls built by Herod the Great. The temple walls (aka, the Western Wall) that you can see above ground are only the tip of the ice berg so to speak, and recent excavations show some of the original stones placed at the foundation with perfectly smooth sides and some are the size of a school bus. The tour also gives a great perspective on the buried "layers" of the city as you are walking along a street complete with arches and paver stones but it has all been buried for many years. Then, at the end of the trip you emerge into the Arab suk and realize on the way back to
Heather at the bottom of a stone stairway...so many stones!
the Western Wall that the group is being escorted by plain clothed security guards carrying oozies. Its times like that that typify Jerusalem, to emerge from a 2,000 year old buried street at the base of the temple mount onto a chaotic, lively market, escorted by men with machine guns....so many varying and opposing feelings and impressions at every turn.
We also took a tour of the City of David, including a tour through the water tunnel dug through the hill several thousand years ago that was just recently discovered and still carries a flow of spring water. That was simply amazing and Heather and I had just one flashlight between us to walk over a 1/4 mile under ground with flowing water up to our knees and tunnel walls at elbow length. It was really cool, but definitely not suitable for the claustrophobic.
We took a city tour but skipped out 1/2 way through as we had already been to most of the places just wandering through the city and it's just not the same with a group of 30 other tourists (of course there's always at least one really, really annoying person in the tour)
Garbage scattered just outside the Old City walls...not really what we expected in the Holy City.
We swithed to the Christ Church Guest House after the first 4 days and it was very nice as well. Not with the same views or off-street location but the people (especially one guy) were friendly.
I guess this blog has been quite long but Jerusalem was quite a place. Probably the most intense place we've visited. To sum it up, we included Israel as part pilgrimage, part sight seeing, part investigation to see what the "real" story is compared to the media presentation. It was not as spiritual as we anticipated with a great deal of contrived hype and commercialism. It was even more of a fantastic location than we anticipated and the historical, present, and future importance of the nation and the city are hard to comprehend, much less describe in words. The "situation" between Muslim and Jew was not as intense as we anticipated with many, many, many (i.e., the vast majority) of both Muslims and Jews walking the same streets with no open animosity, albeit we did not enter either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. But then there are the episodes such as the rock-throwing boys, the operations in Gaza, or the shootings
Heather near a field of bright red poppies on the Mount of Olives.
that occurred on our last night that remind that the feelings of fear, despair, pride, and hatred seem to run deep. It was a different place, and somewhat hard for a at least this Western mind to grasp.
Next we're on to the Dead Sea.
There are more photos below