Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The Old City
8/18/2010, 8 pm
Micah loves to sleep in the evenings, the hot days and the long walks. I have always been somewhat of an indefatigable traveler, never really wanting to stop, I can lay down for half an hour, but then I'm up and wanting to do something else, no matter how tired my legs are. I just noticed the pictures from the Tel-Aviv Port boardwalk of the dancing mermaids at the bar mitzvah, just when you thought you've seen it all, now that's keeping up with the Steins of Israel, the sequel.
Our day today was yet another one filled to the brim. We had our guide Jamie with us today, he met us at the hotel at 9 am and we started walking and talking and that's pretty much what we did all day. We walked from our hotel to the walls of the Old City and then went into the City of David, which is an archeological site, just outside the walls of the Old City, in the middle of the arab village which sits beneath the old city. Jamie explained to us the entire history of what is now known as The City of David and is believed to be the walled in city which King David conquered from the Jebusites (sp?) around 1000 BC which is when the Jews first came to Jerusalem and made it their homeland... or something like that, I guess we all need to go read the Book of Prophets, which seems to have some pretty good stories in it. Standing there and listening to Jamie tell the story of King David and his girl friend Bersheva you could almost see it as it happened.... It's a great site, the story changes everyday as they discover new things, there is super cool narrow tunnel, 800 meters long which you hike through running water with a headlamp and you can imagine how they built this tunnel one chisel at a time.
We spent a few hours there, Jamie was excited as they had just opened a new path out at the end of the tunnel which showed a new discovery which he thinks is the "sewer" for all the dirty water from the second temple from the thousands of pilgrims and sacrifices...
After the City of David we ate schwarma for lunch in the jewish quarter of the Old City and then we wandered around the Old City with views of the Temple on the Mount mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and then to the wailing wall.
As we approached the Wailing Wall, I felt myself get a little choked up. This is for me a very spiritual place. A place to say thanks, say prayers, and think of all the people I love and have loved.
We viewed it first from above, where Jamie gave us some more jewish history and also Roman history, mostly about Herod who was in charge of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. From above we noticed a man walking around the woman's side of the segregated wall - we both spotted him and were perplexed on how he got in. Later when we were entering the men's side of the wall which is 3 times as large as the woman's side we saw him and his girlfriend get stopped as they tried to enter the men's side. Unfortunately this very holy jewish site, is controlled by the ultra orthodox, though they are a minority in the jewish world they hold the power over the rules of this site so men and women have to go in separate sides, though they can stand almost next to each other divided by the partition at the wall.
My favorite scene of the day was the sweeper at the wall. Traditionally people write their prayers on small pieces of paper and then fold it into the wall. Some of the notes seem to become the mortar of the wall. This man was knocking down all the loose notes and sweeping them up, pushing people out of his way with his broom, like my dad used to when he was closing the store, he would sweep under the feet of the kids playing pinball...
As I stood at the wall and looked up at it's tremendous height, standing next to Micah I had another wave of feeling unbelievably blessed...
We walked into the prayer area, saw lots of hasidic jews with their long beards praying in Minyans at the wall, a Talmud class going on behind us.
It actually was not very crowded at the wall at all. I'm sure we will go back, Micah seemed to really like the Old City. After the wall, we wandered through the Arab Market, Jamie pointed out to us some of the stations of the cross and we went into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Micah was remembering a conversation between a rabbi and a roman emperor that was reanacted at the Diaspora Museum... "how can Jesus have been the Messiah, if we still have wars?" Not really what you should be saying out loud at a place where people make their one pilgrimage to touch what Jesus touched....
Tomorrow we go to Bethlehem for the day and the night, where we will stay with an Arab -Christian family. I better prepare Micah to keep his jewish beliefs about christ to himself and keep an open mind as we visit the Church of the Nativity and a refugee camp.
After leaving the old city we wandered into the new where we rested, hung out, walked around, had a frozen yogurt, then took the bus back to our hotel where we have been resting since. It was over 100 degrees today and that takes a lot out of you.