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Sam-I-Am Violin on the streets, fundamentalist Judaism, planting organic vegetables, and the like.

Old City Redux

ISRAEL | Friday, 8 February 2008 | Views [910] | Comments [2]

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene; the nuns asked me if I spoke Russian; all I know how to say is

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene; the nuns asked me if I spoke Russian; all I know how to say is "My name is Sam. I work in a laboratory."

Each time I return to Jerusalem (it's happened twice), a feeling of uneasiness overcomes me. The reasons are threefold: the bus ride through the Judean Hills is a little unsettling; this city is way too cold for its own good; and the religious fervor is intense and unforgiving. It's mostly this last reason. Just seeing the black-hatted men fast-walking in the dark of night is all too foreboding. It makes you feel lonely.

But then, that's my yeshiva experience talking. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad I did what I did; but I'm not looking at all this religion in the same totally academic/comparative/ethnographic way that I used to. There's a lot more gravity to it right now, and I don't know when it will wear off.

There's a flip side though; I walk through the square in the Jewish Quarter, and a rabbi says "Hey, kid", and invites me to Shabbat dinner. I'm something of a community member. I know how this place functions. I know the names of the streets. I know where the best pizza is.

I'm back in the Old City. Keeping my distance from the Yeshiva a little bit, but I'm talking to my friends there, eating Shabbat dinner with the Rabbis, using their hot water for tea. There's a free hostel for Jews not far from the Yeshiva, so I set my things down there. O Jerusalem.

Today was glorious. Forced out by the hostel's daily closing at 9 AM, I had bonker's bagels for breakfast at the back of the Western Wall Plaza. Seeing the tourists climb up the covered lattice ramp to the Temple Mount, I tossed around the idea of ascending myself. Seriously, I wasn't going to go up for fear of God's wrath. The Chief Rabbinate has a warning sign at the entrance saying the Torah forbids Jews from going up there before the Temple gets rebuilt. Anyways you know how this story plays out. A number of reasons forced the issue, but the biggest motivator for going up to the Temple Mount was my repeated viewing over the last year of the Wikipedia page for 'The Blue Mosque' in Afghanistan, which is totally epic and I have to go there. The Dome of the Rock, though, seems very similarly beautiful, and I have to see it close up. God forgive me.

The Temple Mount is starkly beautiful, with the gaudy Dome dominating an empty plaza, and ruined half-arches surrounding the rustic Al-Aqsa Mosque. Needless to say, I took a number of pictures, and they will be posted shortly in another photo gallery. Today's photos, though, are from Har HaZeitim, the Mount of Olives, where I journeyed to shortly after the Temple Mount.

(First I stopped for coffee and a postcard in the Muslim Quarter and butchered a few arabic phrases, wrote some stuff in my journal; this is the kind of simple thing that really makes the day.)

I thought I would be able to saunter into a couple of the big time churches on the Mount, and I was right, though it was either pure luck or providence, because both churches were only open like 3 hours at a time, two days a week. The Church of Gethsemane and the Church of Mary Magdalene dominate the hillside East of the Old City, and they don't dissapoint up close. Interesting; I think not knowing so much about Christianity makes taking a seat inside these dusty basilicas really mysterious and weighty.

With an afternoon volunteering appointment in mind, I had to skip the Church of Dominus Flevit and the Jewish Cemetery, which surely would have been additional sources of glory. I have to return, I guess. The summit of the Mount called to me, and I could tell the view would be something, so I continued up and took some poorly aligned shots of Jerusalem of Gold. You guys gotta come here. To Jerusalem, I mean.

There really is only one word for it, and I already used it three or four times in this entry alone: EPIC.

Miraculously enough, my timing would be perfect for arrival at the volunteering spot. I stopped in East Jerusalem for shawarma - disappointingly, the pita was incompletely filled, but I think it's safe to say that it was the best-tasting shawarma I've had in Israel. So I'll take it. The volunteering was excellent; bagging vegetables for Or Meir U'Brachah, outdoors in the sun, speaking copious amounts of Hebrew. There might even be a regular work opportunity (the food packing is Thursdays only) if I'm lucky. Further updates as event warrant.

The rest of the day was uneventfully wonderful; I see no reason for this entry to drag on any longer.

Tags: Sightseeing



tebya zavut sem. ti rabotal v laborotorie. si-chaas ti v'israele.

  lena Feb 8, 2008 12:56 PM


Sam, shalom from the hardwood of Hutchinson Gym where your old comrades are off to a 2-1 start and maintaining their always-tenuous grasp of third or fourth place in the PLBL. The Minister of Propaganda's weekly bashing is just as unforgiving as last year's, and we are careening through our usual cycle of ups and downs. Quite literally: Last week we lost by 35, this week we won by 40. We are also adhering strictly to our tradition of never playing with a full roster, and especially never playing with our three best players on the court at the same time. Jerome "Grant Hill" Chase went down with an ankle sprain in week one and still has not made it back off the sidelines, and we're struggling to keep people from going out of town and honoring other bogus law school commitments (myself obviously included). But, of course, we continue engaging in copious self-deprecation throughout the whole thing. J-Lo got himself a mean pair of Starburys for $8.98 last week, and we are contemplating the use of a new offense entitled "Pandemonium" where our point guard starts every play by chucking the ball at warp speed off the rim, and in the ensuing melee we find a way to grab a loose ball and score unexpectedly. We miss you bud and I hope you're having a blast over there. Don't get too out of shape to pull a quick Magic Johnson in spring 2009. Peace.

  Conor Lamb Feb 10, 2008 11:53 AM

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