Thursday, June 01, 2006

If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem ...

The Zion Gate. Note that it is pockmarked with bullet holes from the Six Day War:
PSALM 137:"By the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the mist thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion.

"How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

"If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember O Lord the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem who said raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof. O daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou has served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."

On Jerusalem Day, supporters of jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard demonstrate in support of his release from custody in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mount Zion and the Tomb of David

Inside David's Tomb, men and women worship separately.

The entrance to King David's Tomb (above) is pretty simple.

In order to make the most of what time I had left. I decided to take a quick walk from the Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate and the Tomb of David. The latter is considered a major holy site for Jews, but pales, of course, in comparison with the Western Wall. There wasn't too much to see, but the area of Mt. Zion is pleasant to walk through ... as long as you're not inhaling fumes from idling tour buses.

Mount Zion itself is dominated by the Church of the Dormition (see above), a 15th century (or so) church. I never did find the Upper Room, where Jesus and his Disciples had the Last Supper. That building was built a bit later than that, I figured, so it was a representation.

Afterwards I walked back to the Petra Hostel and packed up. But the day wasn't over despite our 4 a.m. sherut (collective taxi) to Ben Gurion Airport. Lily and I decided to get a nice dinner at an Armenian Restaurant a few blocks away. There we ran into Maria, whom we'd met earlier at the Armenian Museum. After a really nice dinner in the restaurant's walled back courtyard, we decided to accompany her on a walk to see her hostel (run by the Church of Scotland) and have an espresso in the German Colony. It was a really nice way to end our trip.

The next morning came early and the sherut was right on time. After a wild ride through nighttime Jerusalem picking up passengers we quickly arrived at the airport, with no choice but to face a 22-hour voyage back to Juneau, Alaska.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Peace Be With You"

The drive from Bethlehem to the Jaffa Gate was uneventful except for passing through the securiuty wall which Israel has been built in order to make it more difficult for homicide bombers and the like to cross into Israel from the Palestinian territories. The wall is not all-encompassing, as evidenced by our back-roads drive into Bethlehem which did not involved passing through a check point.

The stop was pretty simple: a talk with the driver and a look into the trunk, and we were on our way. There was very little traffic until we reached the more populated areas of Jerusalem.

The pictures show the barrier as we approach from the Palestinian side (above) and then the three below are of the wall from the Israel side. "Peace Be With You" ... I definitely agree.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Church of the Nativity

Three entrances to the Church of the Nativity: The original entrance is the largest, with the lintel (sp?) across the top marking the gateway. Later the Crusaders built a curved arch, lower, and the present entrance, smaller still, was built by the Ottoman Empire in order to restrict access to horses. Below: Lily at the entrance, below that is the altar area.

The Church of the Nativity was quite a bit more enjoyable to explore and impressive to visit than was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. This is because there were far fewer visitors and the church is actually quite a bit older (to the 300s the guide said). Besides the grotto where Jesus was born, there were painted images left by the Crusaders, and, amazingly enough local church members who were just stopping by. Before the intefada, thousands of pilgrims and tourists visited, with lines to get in lasting hours. The day we visited there was one tour group, but they were easily diluted by the open spaces and quiet of the church.
This star marks the spot where it is said Jesus was born. It is located in a grotto below the Church of the Nativity. Lily in the Grotto, below, with the entrance below that. The small chapel is at the bottom.

Another look ...

ABOVE: Pictures show Crusader artwork on high walls of the Church of the Nativity. Below: Myself outside the newer Catholic cathedral; the outer courtyard, and the sign placed at the entrance to the Church.


Today we met up with our Eastern Europe friends for a morning trip to Bethlehem, where we would be in areas controlled entirely by the Palestinian Authority. For all the talk of kidnappings and other trouble, Bethlehem was peaceful, well-managed, and pleasant-looking. The police vehicles, blue and white, were new, and the officers had sharp uniforms. The only thing amiss was the many closed shops thoughout the hilltop city. Later, our guide explained that since the second intefada (or as he called it, the 'second situation') most of the tourists have gone and the thiving business community which was based on the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square has pretty much disappeared. Many Palestinian Christians have emigrated, our guide said.

The two guys had arranged for the cab to take us there and back for 250 NIS, which would include the cost of the guide. The drive to Bethlehem was by 'back roads' and we never passed through any sort of manned checkpoint. At one point I realized the street signs were a different color and then I saw the Palestinian police car. We arrived at Manger Square, met our guide, and prepared for our tour of certainly the most authentic church (historically speaking) I'd been to in Israel.

From top to bottom: The Bethlehem Peace Center, just off Manger Square; photos of the Palestinian Territories taken during the drive from Jaffa Gate.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Out of the Old City

While we were in Jerusalem, we ventured out of the Old City on a number of occasions. First, we went to the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book, where Dead Sea scrolls are stored. The whole complex was pretty impressive. We also went to Yad VaShem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust. Most of the visitors were young soldiers, 17 or 18 years old, on tours in goups with guides. Perhaps most moving was the childrens' memorial with the single candle in the dark room of multiple mirrors. We also walked along the Avenue of the Righteous of Nations, and found the tree which memorializes Corrie Ten Boom (left).

We also walked one evening through the German Colony and found the Jerusalem Mall (above), so Lily could find some additional shoes. We did some walking, as well. We found the Cinematique, but didn't see a movie that fit our schedule or language. Mainly, we got a perception of just how big the city is -- new and old. As we were walking back to the Jaffa Gate, you could see East Jerusalem and the security wall working its way across the hillside. Occasionally, there's be a plaque or sign marking the place of a battle or skirmish during the Six Day War.

Christ Church Jerusalem

Christ Church allowed Lily and I to worship in the Holy Land, in the church of our faith, in the City of David. Truly, it was an awesome experience. I seldom have felt more at home at a church than I did as Christ Church. (Me in the courtyard of the church, above) The service was 'charismatic High Church' not a mixture you see in Juneau, Alaska ... at least I haven't. The service was very uplifting and at one point I felt a total wave of joy. This experienced balanced out some angst and stress I'd been experiencing over a work screwup, so experiencing God's grace came at a timely moment.

Christ Church also serves lunch (really friendly service, food not too great) and coffees (coffees OK) and has a hostel, which is probably a little more sane than the Petra Hostel. You meet a lot of Christian believers around the Jaffa Gate!

Later in the day we struck up a conversation with two travelers from Eastern Europe, very cool guys. Both were staying at the Petra Hostel, and they liked Lily a lot. Both were lawyers, one worked for the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and the other was in private practice in Hungary. We decided to meet up and find some food in the Moslem quarter. We found a great place and sat for a couple of hours taking about the state of the world. (See below) Both thought Condi Rice was the best choice for President in the next election. After our meal, we made plans to travel together to the West Bank the following day, to see the Church of the Nativity.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ramparts, Citadel and the Tower of David

One afternoon we toured the Citadel and the Tower of David. Probably the most interesting part, however, was taking the Ramparts walk. The walls of the Old City were built in the 1500s by Sulieman the Magnificent, and there's a path you can take from the Jaffa Gate toward the Zion Gate in one direction and the Damascus Gate in the other. It costs a couple of shekels, and it closes to the public at night.

The Walls of the Old City, above that, Lily at the Citadel, the Citadel and the Tower of David from the Ramparts Walk.

The Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall

We walked through the Jewish Quarter on three occasions. One morning I got out of bed early, had coffee, and then walked to find the Western Wall. It was a moving experience, to say the least. I decided not to walk up to the wall because I was in shorts. When you're in the plaza, you begin to get a sense of just how serious and holy the wall is, especially that it was the Shabbat. There's a murmur and an intensity in the air that was definite but hard to put in words. So I stood back and watched.

A day earlier, Lily and I went on a search for an ATM. The only one in the old city, apparently, was in a small shop in the Cardo, the old Roman market place. It was closed when we found it, but after lunch, we found it open. Later in the week, Lily and I took an evening walk from the Zion Gate into the Jewish Quarter (which was mostly all new construction) and back to the Jaffa Gate through the Armenian Quarter. It was fun to just get lost and watch all the families getting set for the evening meal or sweeping up in front of their homes.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Moslem Quarter

One afternoon, I set out on my own to walk a bit in the Moslem Quarter. So I walked out of the Jaffa Gate, and followed the Old City walls until I picked up Sultan Suleiman Street and eventually reached the Damascus Gate (pictured above). The gate and El Wad street beyond was jammed with stalls and street sellers, with fruits, produce, spices, grains and household goods for sale. I never felt as if I stood out, but women all wore headscarves and the men wore robes or keffeyas. Many of the women were clearly stylish despite the attire not normally encountered by an Alaskan. After walking around a bit, I went back outside the walls and walked through a commercial district and past a bus station which serves the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem.
Atop post: The Damascus Gate; above: inside the Moslem Quarter.

Armenian Quarter and the Armenian Museum

Armenians were among the first Christians. This is their procession to church on Sunday morning.

We discovered something quite calming and pleasant about the Armenian Quarter, which covered ground from Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate. The picture above was taken from the ramparts path, and not visible from Armenian Patriarchate Road, which passes below. There's an Armenian Orthodox Monastery and St. James Cathedral as centers of the quarter.

Most peaceful, however, was the Armenian Museum. Armenians are an amazing people with a fantastic and tragic history. The museum (5 NIS) is located in a few rooms of student housing, a beautiful, ancient space with quiet upper floor and sunny courtyard. Armenian hymns play in the background (a boom box by the caretaker's shed). That's where we met Maria, who found solitude and reflection there. (There's a link to her excellent Jerusalem weblog, and I'll thank her for giving me idea of writing this!)

The pictures above feature the Armenian Museum and some of its displays. Below is the first Armenian globe ... but where's Alaska?!