Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Walking the Old City

I slept much better last night. I didn't wake up even once, and slept until 6:15, meaning I got 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Also, my hand has much more mobility. Sunday night I couldn't button my pants or get the toothpaste out of the tube; today, I can do almost everything with almost no difficulty (carrying heavy sacks is still painful, though). The scar is about 3/4 of an inch, with two little threads tying it together. I'm using this paper tape to hold it in place, but it gets kind of ragged at the end of the day, and that bothers Rochelle, so I'll change the tape this evening.

I liked the breakfast buffet at the hotel, though there were some odd things: Tang instead of orange juice, cold falafel instead of hot, and the eggs were either powdered or strange. Good bread and veggies, though.

We took a taxi to the Jaffa Gate, and I played tour guide for mom, dad, and Rochelle. We walked down the road through the Armenian Quarter, turning left to go to the Jewish Quarter. Someone had left a door open, so I told them to peek inside to see what's behind all the walls. I wanted to go to the Old Yishuv Court Museum, which dad liked so much the last time (he recognized alot of the household items from when he was growing up), but it didn't open until 10, and there was no way I could get everyone to wait for 20 minutes.

Instead, we walked down to the overlook of the Cardo, the Roman main street from the 3rd Century, CE. Then we turned and walked to the Zion Gate to see all the bullet wounds were there was intense fighting in '48. The Israelis controlled Mt. Zion and kept trying to break through the gate to reach the defenders of the Jewish Quarter.

From there we headed by a slightly different path that allowed to walk along another portion of the Cardo. We traced the road from its Roman roots, to the covered Crusader era store fronts, all the way to the current Arab shuk.

I knew there was a stairway leading to the roof, so I took them through a side path and up. There is a wide expanse above the Old City shuk where you can walk around. There are nice views of the Dome of the Rock. Getting back down was a little trickier. I try not to retrace my steps, since I wanted them to see as much of the Old City as possible. We came down a very narrow and low-roofed, covered staircase that had power cables running along side. "Am I going to get electrocuted?" mom asked. I suggested she steady herself on the wall, not the cables. "How many tours come this way?" I heard Rochelle ask, in what sounded to me like "who in their right mind would ever go this way?" I told them I was showing them Jerusalem off the beaten path.

We eventually made our way back to the Muslim Quarter (you could tell which homes housed someone who had made the Hajj by the distinctive decorations on the walls and doors). From there we went back to the Jewish Quarter and saw the Broad Wall, which King Hezekiah built to defend the city from the Assyrians in 701 BCE (see Isaiah for the details). Nearby is the restored Hurva Synagogue, and next to that is the Herodian Mansions Museum, our next stop.

These are the remains six spectacular homes from 2000 years ago. On some, only the basement level has survived, but on at least three there are two or more floors (ground floor and basement). There are signs saying no photos, but since no one was around, we snapped to our hearts' content. Beautiful frescos, mosaics, and columns.

My basic plan was to slowly descend our way down the hill towards the Temple Mt. We exited the archaeologic dig just above the Western Wall plaza. Mom and Rochelle went to the women's side, while dad and I went to the men's. "Why is the women's side so much smaller?" Rochelle asked. She wanted to leave a note in the wall, so we helped her. On the men's side, it was pretty quiet (after shakhrit and before minkhah) . I wasn't sure if I could snap some shots in the area under the arch, but after I saw one kind in payes taking flash photos, I figured it was ok.

On the way out I said a quick prayer for my extended family's health and well being, and then quickly added in a request for world peace. Then we were all a little tired, so we stopped in a cafe ("Al Buraq") in the arches north of the security checkpoint. I ordered falafel and decided to try the sakhlab (a kind of steamed milk sweetened with rose water - it was pretty good), while Rochelle ordered falafel. She didn't want the hummous or the french fries and asked to substitute baba ganoush instead. They wouldn't do it. They did, however, agree to cut her pita in half.

She asked me what sort of people ran the restaurant and I said they were Arab. She said "that's why they won't let me substitute. If they were Jewish they would have." I told her I didn't think so, but she was convinced that was the reason.

I could sense dad and Rochelle were getting a little tired so I suggest we exit the city via the Damascus Gate. We crossed the Via Dolorosa and the Austrian Hospice (which has a great cafe, but we had no time) and eventually reached the gate. I suggested that dad and Rochelle go back to the hotel, while mom and I would go to the Israel Museum. We all agreed and split up.

I was surprised to see they're building a light rail system down Jaffa Road. It's supposed to open in 4-5 months, at which time it will be closed to cars, buses, and taxis. At the Israel Museum, we started with the fine arts collection. They have small, but very nice, impressionist and postimpressionist selection, and they have a nice wing on modernism, grouping the art by theme (space, color, dreams). They have a few very nice fauvists and expressionist works, and a lot of dada. We saw the Magritte that dad liked when he saw the poster of it in the gift shop yesterday. It's of a giant stone boulder with a castle on top floating over choppy sea.

We went upstairs and saw some contemporary video works and then made our way to the judaica. I suggested we just see the synagogues. We started with Italian, which, inexplicably had what sounded like Ashkenazi music. I forgot to look at which community this served, and now I see that it was an Ashkenazi synagogue, so the music was appropriate. From there we went to the Cochin synagogue and then the one from Paramaribo in Suriname. This one only has only just been opened to the public. It was quite beautiful. Finally, we ended with the German.

I wanted to just quickly walk through the archaelogical wing to see how it has been changed since I was last there. I'm hoping to take students there next winter (if the CSU lifts the ban on organized student travel to Israel). Mom's legs were starting to wear out, but I did get her to agree to quickly walk through the Shrine of the Book. Then we caught a taxi to Emek Refaim in the German Colony.

The book I wanted came in, but it wasn't the one I was looking for. I bought an English edition, but it's still not what I want. I'm going to try again later. Mom and I then stopped by Aroma; she had hot chocolate and a cheese/apple tarte, while I had kafe hafukh and an alfajore (an Argentinian cookie with dulce de leche). Afterwards, we walked half a block to my old apartment and then caught a taxi back to the hotel. Everyone is now resting. I'm not sure where we're going to dinner.

No comments: