Day 13, June 12 (Thursday)
(Chris) We had set up a walking tour of the old city for 9am. Because Dave had to buy bottled water, we barely made it to the appointed spot (just inside Joffa Gate) in time. The tour today had only 1 person besides us (a Chinese-Bostonian named Fay.) For the $9 a head (and $2 a head tip,) we had an awesome guide: a sixtyish Jew
(Matt) bright green pants, and yellow Bob Evans tie, he gave us 4,000 years of history, archeology, politics, religion, and philosophy.
He began with the Armenian quarter of the city by telling us a little about the people, where they had come from (Eastern Turkey) how hay had gotten a whole quarter of the city (Roman legionaries were Armenians and had returned to the city after their duty was over.) Their religion is essentially Monophysite. They are a wandering people now. They had been victims of the Ottoman Turks "Final Solution" where 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered to get them out of Turkey.
We quickly learned that in addition to speaking Hebrew, Yiddish, and English, he also spoke Armenian. He made a point of speaking to nearly everyone who happened across our path. The news media make such a big point of always focusing on any violence that happens in Israel. So he made a big point that politics are politics, but the people, because they have to live together, all get along pretty darn well, despite all their petty differences. We could only visit the residential section of the Armenian quarter; the rest was closed to us.
We passed into the Jewish section and were not too surprised at how nice the residential section was. It was, as we learned, destroyed in 1947 & 8 by the Jordanians. The good news was that because of the destruction, they were able to rebuild bigger, better, stronger with modern sewage and water facilities. It also allowed them to excavate a few thousand years of rubble and find Roman ruins and reconstruct a few of them (just for fun, mind you - not to use.) They did a good job, that's for sure. They made museums, under the new buildings at the original city level which was about 30 feet below street level.
Note: I think he might have taken us to the best Jewish sector and the worst of the Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. But, I must admit, that is just because I'm suspicious.
Next stop: Wailing Wall. We were fortunate enough to have come on a Thursday. You might think, so what, Thursday. What's the big whup? Come to think of it, Thursday wasn't the important thing - it was what happened on Thursday - Bar Midz Fa (spelling weird purposefully). So tons of people of the Jewish persuasion were singing and making little boys with funny haircuts carry huge roundish things with the Torah in it. (We know 'cause we jumped a kid, took his huge roundish thing, busted it open and saw for ourselves.)
We were forced by male chauvinist pigs to split from our friend Fay while she went to the "womans" section. We reluctantly obeyed their obvious male ego society rules and went to the boys section of wall. The picture of all the men standing, facing a wall with writing all over it, with their backs to you, some mumbling and some rocking and shaking a little - reminded me of something. But, as of yet, I haven't figured out what it is.
We all got to wear little hats too, which is kinda like getting the birthday hat at the McDonalds birthday party when you were a kid - everyone knows that you are supposed to be there.
We touched the wall and contemplated its faded glory and what it must have been like in the ancient times. We also marveled how God fulfilled his prophecies and let the temple be destroyed and used the Muslim faith to keep it from being rebuilt. Our guide told us that the reason the Mosque was on the temple mount even though the Israelies had won back control of the land was due to the generosity of the Israelie state and their desire for peace. We thought that perhaps it is because the Jews would be crushed by Muslims from around the globe if they tried to destroy the Dome of the Rock to rebuild the Temple.
We also got to see the excavations to the bottom of the wall's foundation; very impressive sight it was, yes, hmmm, far down it went, 40 feet or more I think. It must have taken great force, yes, to build it.
On we went - to our first of way too many flaffle's (chick peas ground up, fried, in oil, in a pita, with salsa, veggies, fries, salad or whatever strikes the fancy of your local flaffle dealer.) Great the first time, OK the second, and not good the third. Perhaps had we spread the first three out a bit, say, one per day, we might have enjoyed each one equally. This culinary experience led to many heady entrepanuerialistic discussions that centered on the flaffle theme. For example: Flaffle Hut; McFlaffle; Flaffle King; Flaffle Castle; Flaffle Bell, etc. Who knows what could happen.
We walked next through the Muslim section of the market (interesting at any speed, but nothing after Cairo) to the Church of the Holy Seplucher. (Where Calvary, the 8th, 9th, 10th stations, Tomb of Christ, Finding place of the True Cross, and plenty of religions share a spot. Quite a strange experience. Most people are used to one holy spot per church and one church for each religion. Not so in Jerusalem, let me tell you. They share, boy do they share. Thing is the Greek Orthodox owned 90% of that church. We only had a quick overview with Ariel (but we came back to it and so shall I) and before we sped through the Christian quarter (again, very run down) which was mostly Arab Christians.
We finished our tour very satisfied that we'd gotten our monies worth and felt we had had a terrific overview of the city. He left and we (with Fay in tow) decided to see what was inside the Muslim's Dome of the Rock (limited visiting hours). We got in, read some bible passages on the presentation, and Solomon building the temple then wandered up to the "Golden Dome." They charged visitors 20 sheckels to see the inside of the two mosques and the Muslim Museum, so Chris and Joe elected to not spend the dough while the rest of us saw all 3 in about 20 minutes.
I'd describe the Mosques in all of their glorious detail, telling you of the enormous carpets and gilded dome and incredible icons and stained glass with the much contested rock in the center. The rock the Jews say Abraham started to sacrifice Isaac on; the rock Muslims say Muhammed ascended to heaven, but I'll let Sam instead.
(Sam) There are no icons on the Temple Mount, neither in the dazzling Dome of the Rock, nor the El Aska Mosque, nor in the Islamic Museum, wich were all accessible to us after the purchase of one simple ticket for 20 NIS. After seeing the outside of the Dome of the Rock with its 24-karat gold dome and facade of Persian blue tiles, I thought that the inside would be disappointing. I was wrong. The inside had even more intricate designs and there was a humongus plush carpet on the floor. There were also stained glass windows, but along with all of this splendor, there were children trying to sell us Malboro's. In the center
(Matt) was "the rock." Although it was a "circle" church (most of us are unfortunately familiar with the concept,) they still prayed facing east.
We didn't stay long because the clock was ticking and sped off to El Aska Mosque. It to was very beautiful, but this one was built like a cathedral except that instead of pews, you had rugs and the men were on the left and the women, right. A funny thing though was the mens section had carved pillars holding up the roof, but the womans section on the right had rough hewn square blocks as support.
NEWS FLASH - Lesson from Franciscan Fr. Tom: Be good; if you can't be good, be careful; if you can't be careful, go to confession. Back to our story.We went to the museum in a flurry of breathless anticipation.
(Sam) NEWS FLASH II - happy 25 b-day GB.
Just inside the Islamic Museum were pictures and bloody clothes from some Muslim martyrs. There were lots of articles of war as well as old Korans. In one display there was a dummy dressed up in chain mail, shield, helmet, and sword. It looked just like the moors in EL Cid. We left the museum with Fay always in tow and started to look for sustenance.
(Chris) We ate at another falafel shop owned by a Muslim and that's all I have to say about that.
Then we went to Holy Seplecure and meditated, prayed, looked, bumped into people, saw a Franciscan procession, prayed, tried to find each other, kneeled, kissed sacred objects, saw religious with funny hats and beards, cursed Franciscans for putting modern art in their part of the church, saw the chapel of St. Helen, tried to rendezvous with each other, read from the Bible. While the rest of us did these and other things, Greg went shopping.
Then, with China-girl hot on our tail, we looked in the shops and Sam and Dave bought
puzzle rings. Upon walking to the hostel, we checked out a Hebraic book fair. It was
really crowded with the society all buying books from outdoor stands. They love their
books. There were virtually none in English. We stopped at a pharmacy and went to the
hostel. I met a cute girl from Toronto. Then we slept after arguing about Petra.