ever since we got here, i’ve wanted to take a walking tour of the city. our guidebook had only about 5 pages worth of info about jerusalem, and for a several thousand year old city with an insane amount of history, that was practically no info at all. so, we took a three hour tour around the old city, during which we learned an insane amount of stuff… and yet this small tiny city has experienced so much, and has so much stuff of important significance, that i still feel like i barely know anything about it. our guide taught us about the history of the town, the changes that have occured there, and a little about the religion of the main groups living here. we started off seeing the mian church in the armenian quarter, followed by the western wall, archaeological excavations, and shops in the jewish quarter, and then we got to the christian quarter.
now, i’m not christian, but pretty much everyone in america, christian or not, knows at least a bit about the story of christ. often, religious stories seem so remote and fantastical, that it’s pretty surreal to be in the places where the stories actually took place. the tour took us along the “stations of the cross” where it is believed that jesus walked through jerusalem carrying his cross, and eventually the tour came to the church of the holy sepulchre which is the spot where jesus was crucified and then buried in a cave. now, whether or not you may believe that jesus was the son of god or not, it’s absolutely undeniable that he is one of the most important people in all of history and has influenced modern humanity an incredible amount. it was so intense to be there and see these places. jesus being crucified is one of those events that almost everyone on the planet has heard of countless times, every time you see a cross around someone’s neck, you are reminded of it. everytime you see a chucrch, you are reminded of it. it’s something that’s etched permanently in the psyche of almost every american… and here we were, standing on the spot where it happened. all sorts of people were coming intot he church and kissing various objects in it. the whole scene was quite powerfull.
the last part of the tour took us through the muslim quarter, but unfortunately, we werent able to go see the most important place: the dome of the rock. the dom is only open to non-muslims during a few hours per day, and you can only enter through a certain entrance, so we’l have to save that for later.
after the tour we decided to go buy some lunch. since restaurants here are so expensive, we decided that we should just go buy groceries and cook them ourselves. luckily, buying groceries in the old city was actually super cheap! we bought a pound of steak for just 3 bucks!!
today we strated off the day by going to the tower of david museum. this is a museum in the citadel at the city wall. this is where the people who had to guard the city stayed. the museum was prety interesting, and gave us a good chronological history of the various groups of peole who have lived here. after that, we rushed across town to go see the israel museum, a huge museum with tons and tons of exhibits spread throughout several buildings and a sculpture garden. we rushed through and were only able to see three exhibits: one was an exhibit on japan with lots of japanese pottery and sculpture. the stuff they had here was so beautiful and well crafted. caryn and i both have always been fascinated by japan and the art that comes from there and seeing the exhibit made us really look forward tio when we go there! the next exhibit was another exhibit from japan, but this one focused more on moderrn japan and had different design exhibits, comercials, and artistic electronics. heh, this is actually something else that really makes me interested in japan. i really like both of these sides to their culture… the very beautiful old traditional ways and the new hyper-technological crazy consumer culture. i’m thinking that i would really love to live in japan for a while. not necesarily a long time, maybe even just for as little as a few months, but still i think it would be great. maybe i could somehow work it on this trip. the final exhibit was an exhibit of the dead sea scrolls. they had certain sections of the scrolls on display and we started looking at them, but the museum closed and we had to rush out.
jerusalem is a city that attracts so many different kinds of people who come here seeking religion. alot of them are normal everyday people who just want to be in touch w/ their religion, or come see the holy sights that they have heard so much about… but jerusalem also has the tendancy to attract some reall whack-jobs. we’ve already run into quite a few of them here. there was the man from minnesota, who believes that the garden of eden was actually in minnesota and that the pyramids of egypt were built using stone that they got from minnesota. while talking to us, he kept looking over his shoulder cause he was worried about israeli spies out to get him. there was the old hippie guy with a guitar who constantly plays old songs but changes all the words to be about being born again. there is the angry palestinian, who is constantly yelling at people in the hostel and believes that cigarettes are actually medicine. when asked why people die from this “medicine”, he exclaimed that those are only idiots, and that as long as you smoke only one pack per day, like him, you should be fine. there is the jewish teacher who believes that in just 70 years the ocean levels will rise about 60 meters and all of israel (with most fo europe etc as well) will be swallowed into the sea. he hopes that perhaps the jews can find a new home… in kenya!
and then, there is the altercation i witnessed today, which though having nothing to do w/ religion, left me wondering about some people around here. i was walking to the internet place and overheard this tourist arguing w/ someone on the street saying that he just didnt have much money etc etc. i didnt pay much attention, and sat down at the computer. a few minutes later, that same guy came into the interent place and then announced in a very loud voice “i just want everyone here to know, that the interent owner here is a CHEAT!!”. this was announced to a completely packed interent cafe… at which point the owner comes runnig out from behind the desk and proceeds to punch the tourist in the face repeatedly. two guys jump up to hold the owner back, and while they held the owner, the tourist snuck in a punch of his own and ran off, followed by all of the others. it was nuts!! apparently, they were then all stopped by the police, but minutes later the internet owner walked back in like nothing had ever happened. bizarre.
at night, we wandered thorugh the new city, and jus as luck would have it, we stumbled upon a candle lighting ceremony. perfect timing once again! they had this huge menorah that was about a story and a half tall… so how do you light it? well, they took the three rabbis, and put them in this crane, and the crane lifted them up to light it. to me this was absolutely hilarious. the last place you would imagine a solemn, traditional, old fashioned rabbi is in a large high tech crane. too funny.