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Before you read this post, I just want to point out that there is another new post right below this one; there were posted at similar times because I am currently forced to access the Internet on campus, and therefore somewhat infrequently. The other post is about Purim, and has some photographs as well.

This past Friday, I was nearly ready to leave to go see the Holocaust Memorial and Museum, when Scott sent me a text message. He asked if I wanted to go check out “that one art museum we pass by every single time we get on the 19 bus,” and I thought it sounded good. We went to “On the Seam,” as it is called, and walked through the building, admiring and considering the 41 pieces of “contemporary socio-political artwork examining human suffering.” In all, this meant a whole series of different methods of examining what it is like for humanity to suffer, from photographs of (literally) shell-shocked and wounded IDF soldiers, to the ruins of an IDF outpost marring an otherwise beautiful skyline in the West Bank area. This museum went so far as to have several rooms designed and constructed as though they were the interior of IDF outpost bunkers. In different areas, though, suffering was also examined: a video montage of video footage from an artist who published her own obituary and then committed suicide the next day, in an effort to show how difficult it really is to die privately any more (a strong statement, to be sure). The roof of the place had some interesting pieces, but the house next door trumped it. As you will see, the first photograph attached to this post is of a cat hanging in effigy… not sure of the reasons or cause there, but the homeowner lets it stand. In any event, this is the link to their website, if anyone is interested in more details.

After the museum was well and truly examined by yours truly, I mentioned to Scott as an aside “do you mind if we go over to the Old City?” Well, given my penchant for exploring sans plan, you can imagine how this turned out. The short version is the title of this post, actually 🙂

We walked to the Old City’s Israeli Bureau of Tourism building, where I picked up what will prove to be extremely useful – a Guide to Biblical Sites in Israel, designed specifically for the Christian tourists who come. Opening it to the map in the middle of the Old City, I saw “Mount Zion” and immediately suggested we go there. Scott agreed, and off we went… wandering along a path that cut off a few times, but eventually we got to a part of the road sans sidewalk, but it did feature a very narrow roadway and a narrow stone wall on the edge of it. The sort of stone wall which is above an ever-increasingly large drop to the ground below. The sort of stone wall Scott and I decided to climb up onto and walk along, figuring “this is probably the right way to Mount Zion.” That sort of wall.

Along this walk, we had a great view of an awful thing – the large, concrete wall separating Israel from the West Bank. I only posted 1 photograph of it here, but I think it captures the situation well. Immediately after reaching the scenic vista were I got the photograph from, we turned to our left and saw the sign assuring us that we had reached the Mount Zion we were looking for. The next area we came upon was a Lutheran cemetery. It wasn’t just any graveyard, though: it was well-kept, truly international (people of many nations are buried there), and it is the location of Oscar Schindler’s grave. This is all photographed and presented for you to see, so please check out the photographs.

After that experience, being hungry and right by the Zion Gate into the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, we decided on getting some lunch. There was an issue; only one shop in our vicinity had a cafe in it, so we were forced to go there. It looked like a quaint little place, and we weren’t expecting any issues. We followed the recommendation of the owner to try the Armenian pizza, which is mincemeat wrapped with spices into a very thin wrap; the closest I can explain it is that it was like a Hungarian palacinta, which is a pancake of sorts. It was almost entirely good… except for the vinegar bottle complete with floating dead fly in it… which thoroughly embarrassed the guy working there. The problem? Although very tasty, the meal ended up costing NIS 104 for the both of us, which is approximately USD $25. That is a really expensive meal for a café in the old city. In any event, we moved on and walked up to the Dormition Church.

For those of you who recall, you’ll realize that I am either lying or crazy: this is the second Dormition Church I am relaying my visit within this blog. That is because as with many other highly important sites in Israel, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have a different traditional location for any given event. This Dormition Church is the Roman Catholic one, and “Dormition” is more fitting here because it is operated by a French convent (the word coming from dormir, “to sleep”). There are plenty of photographs of this place, but I will reiterate one point here: the mosaic floors there are amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen, very much because they are either newly renovated or newly installed. They represent to me how amazing the 4th and 5th century Byzantine churches must have looked originally.

We left the Dormition Church and walked through the area around King David’s Tomb. Unfortunately, the Tomb was closed, as was the nearby Holocaust Cellar (a smaller memorial I am told) and the undergoing-renovations ancient Synagogue. Nevertheless, I got a few photographs (attached), and more beneficial, the path we took led us back to the main road and pointed us towards St Peter’s Gallicantu.

This last stop on Mount Zion is the church built on the traditional location of the story of Peter denying his acquaintance of Jesus for the third time, at which point a rooster crowed as predicted. This place also has more than sufficient photographs to describe what it was like. The one anecdote I will relate is that this too was a church run by a French convent. We went into the gift shop, and I wanted to ask about the location of the nearby Valley of Hinnom. This is the topic of my independent study this semester, as well as a very important place – the name of this valley is the word used by Jesus in the Bible in the original Aramaic, and has been oddly translated ever since. For example, many translations turn a real-life place, this valley, into “Hell” for their readers. This is very odd, given that “Hell” is a word drawn from Germanic tribal words for the underworld. In any event, I wanted to get there and was trying to get directions from the elderly nun working. Scott finally prompted me “…en francais?” at which point the nun started to grin. When I actually asked my questions in French, she started absolutely beaming at us. She didn’t know where I was talking about, and we didn’t end up getting to go there on Friday, but at least I absolutely made one French nun’s day by speaking halting French… 😛

And finally, on the Arabic Bus #1 to get home (because so late on a Friday, Shabbat had already started and so the Israeli Egged buses had already ceased operating), I ended up having quite the conversation. An Arabic gentleman leaned over, and with complete gravity befitting a diplomatic meeting, told me “you look as though you are named Michael.” Needless to say, I was amazed. I asked as to how he had guessed this; Terry asked as to how aware I was of my gray luggage-style name tag on my backpack. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. He then asked where we were from, and it turns out that he had lived for 8 years in Youngstown. OH, because his brother went to school at Youngstown State University. He had also lived in Chicago for several decades, and had only recently moved back to Israel. A great conversation, at the end of a great day.

I hope you enjoy the photographs.

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