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So after waking up at a jet-lagged 5:15am, I prepped to go into the Old City of Jerusalem today on Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath, during which every Jewish part of Jerusalem shuts down).

I went with a few people, and we decided that although we had some maps, the best way to get there was to basically figure “its that direction to the Dome of the Rock as we could see it on Mount Scopus, so let’s head that way.” That brought us through several of the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, including Wadi Al-Joz and a few others. We eventually scaled a hill and began to wonder if we knew where we were, until we looked ahead of us more closely and saw the Old City’s walls.

Going in through Herod’s Gate into the Moslem Quarter, we spent a few hours wandering down side streets and through bazaars (all very quiet, because it was Shabbat). We slowly made our way over the Christian Quarter, and our first major visit was to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. We went inside the sanctuary, which was both very simple yet very beautiful Jerusalem Stone, and then paid the 5 shekels to go up the tower. It is clear that the building is nearing 200 years old – the staircase was clearly made for people shorter than I.

At the top of several winding flights of stone steps, we had the best view of the city one can get. Everything was arrayed beneath us, and it was all beautiful. The Dome of the Rock, and towards Mt. Scopus, the Orthodox church with their respective gold-covered roofs were shining like the sun, and the Jerusalem stone of all the buildings was also dazzling (not too bright today given that it’s the rainy season, so I can only imagine what it will be like come June). Almost exactly after we got to the top tier of the tower, the Muslim call to prayer started playing on speakers within our vicinity, and this was another instance of “wow, I’m actually here doing this.” After spending some time in the tower, we returned to the labyrinth streets of the city and went over to the Catholic Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Now, for a building completed in the 4th century Anno Domini, the excellent condition of much of the interior stonework, paintings, incense burners, and chandeliers was astonishing. It was slow moving through the church, because a huge group of Nigerian tourists were slowly on the move throughout the Church and the city, but it was worth the wait.

The third stop on our ambling tour was at the Western Wall, which is quite a sight on Shabbat. There was a large group of Jewish people praying, and in some cases, singing their prayers at the Wall, and their songs carried across the wind. After looking around the rest of the plaza therein for a little while, we started to make out way out to the Armenian Quarter, where we had lunch on the roof of a cafe and looked across the city. We finished and left for Mt. Scopus again, taking the Jaffa Gate to exit the Old City. Along the way, we witnessed something unfortunate and at the same time somewhat unexpected: everyone knows about the tensions between Jews and Arabs, it manifested itself in a very odd way on a small scale. Several Orthodox Jews were crossing the street, and some Arabic guys in a car (waiting at the red light, mind you) started beeping their horn at them repeatedly, with malicious looks about them. The men kept walking, but once they were past and the car started moving, the Arab guys gave the Jews the finger, and promptly had the gesture returned. Not what I was expecting to see on Shabbat, and all too unfortunate: if such things happen frequently, it becomes easier to see how the tensions in this region have remained fueled for so long.

And, all of that said, writing about all of this truly angers me: if not for El Al’s ridiculous insistence upon mailing me my camera and hard drive, I would be posting some truly breathtaking photographs here (especially from the view at the top of the Church of the Redeemer’s tower). Put very simply and politely, if anything happens to my possessions in the mail (or, God forbid, they don’t ever arrive), there will be Hell to pay.

Don’t get me wrong though – today was an excellent day to be sure.

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One Comment

  1. Great stuff son! I hope the camera and HD arrive soon.

    Love, Mom and Dad


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