In the Holy City

JERUSALEM

Random thoughts: This is a more interesting city than I thought it would be.  It is a livable city with a population of about 800,000. Traffic is bad in the narrow streets of the city center and the city is dirtier than I expected with lots of garbage on the ground.  There is no feeling of danger, rather it seems quite safe.  When you think of Israel and Jerusalem you think — bombs, bullets and bloodshed. I saw  none of that. Army soldiers (of both sexes) walked around the streets with their weapons slung over their shoulder, not on patrol but walking home or whenever they are off base. Nothing makes a young girl hotter than a M-16 hanging from her hip.  I can’t imagine some or most American girls in the army and carrying an M-16 instead of an I-Phone. The city shuts down completely on Friday afternoon until Saturday night for the Sabbath. I mean completely with even the metro stopping, no restaurants, nothing.

We spent a lot of time in the Old City, where all  the world’s three main religions (collide) have holy places. The Old City is comprised of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian quarters. The reason the Armenians got a place was because they were the first country to adopt Christianity. The Jewish part has many restaurants, the Muslim part has gift shops and is a big bazaar, the Christian quarter has more gift shops mostly Muslim run and the Armenian area has only churches and residences. The only and best time to see the Old City Jerusalem is at night when the shops close down, when the tourists have gone. No worry about security walking down the silent and empty streets, there are security cameras every 50 feet staring down at you. Israel security is awesome.

On Friday night we went to the most holy spot for Jews — the Western Wall. It is partitioned by sexes — men one side, women the other. The men’s side is larger. I guess men have to pray more although the women’s  side seems to always be more crowded. Jerusalem is the home of ultra orthodox Jews and on Friday night they were singing and dancing by the wall. So were the women on their side, but not as loudly as the men. The men came in groups distinguished by the different black hats they wore. Some men even looked like they had stepped out of a Chagall painting wearing high socks, long coats and large round beaver hats.  See pictures.

The area of the Temple Mount (originally the site of the great Jewish temples 1 and 2) around the Dome of the Rock (Islamic) is a large and quiet area. If you wander in and look like a religious Jew you will have a police escort to make sure you (the Jew) doesn’t do anything crazy and start a war.

Wandering the Old City of Jerusalem and looking at all the churches, holy spots and sacred places( I might offend some of the Christian readers of this post by saying this) but it is really hard for me to believe that 400 years after Jesus was there, the Christians show up and can KNOW where all the holy places are. We went to Mary’s tomb? and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where there were rocks that supposedly had Jesus’s hand print or a rock where they laid his body after removing it from the cross? In Turkey there was also a supposed tomb for Mary.  AND they have in a Turkish museum ( I have seen it) the staff that Moses used. Surprisingly the stick looked in pretty good shape for HOW OLD?

We went to visit the Holocaust Museum and it was a moving experience. If you go to Israel I suggest you take the journey (sad) through the exhibit (no photos allowed). I did have a most strange sensation as soon as I walked into the exhibit. We had just walked into the first exhibit hall and it was crowded with Israelis including young soldiers. I was standing there in this crowded area and became somewhat anxious. The exhibits have TV screens and narration in English. I looked around and observed I was the whitest and most Aryan looking guy in a crowded room of maybe 100 people. I felt people were staring at me with suspicion. All the time there is a narrator talking about the Nazis and showing pictures of Nazi leaders and compared to the rest of the crowd with generally dark hair and darker complexions I was the tall, white Germanic Aryan.  I wanted to say out loud I was Irish American and then start singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Really it was a weird sensation.

Food is expensive for the most part except street food like Shwarma and falafel. For some reason yogurt is very expensive. What cost about a $1 in Mexico or the US for a small carton of plain yogurt cost close to $5 in Israel. The Israeli dairy farmers I imagine keep the price high, but I don’t know that to be true.

The women’s fashions in Jerusalem are pathetic. (My wife tells me.)  We are going to Tel Aviv and maybe women dress a little more stylish. Shalom Amigos.

To view the photos go to: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151160305346516.444949.667416515&type=1&l=112c1d8f07

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