Thursday, January 29, 2009

half time - by b

we are half way through our time here---mas o menos. and some of you now know that we are thinking of possibly staying another year.

or not

auuuuurrrghhh!!! what to do???

sure we have some months before we are scheduled to return to s.f..... lotsa time to decide. but certain people need to know now (or reasonably soon) principally the kids' schools here and there.

what do i want to do?


my feelings on this matter have not changed ... but the nature in which i feel them has. In the early days here these feelings came to me in an almost euphoric way... I would walk around the city ecstatic wanting both san francisco and barcelona, wanting to never die because i wanted to cram it ALL in, wanting somehow to live this life and then know i would get the chance to live another. they were impossible feelings... yet impossibly happy.

now i just think about it.... and it is a pain in the culito....

soon we'll decide one way or another .. and accept the decision.. but for now ....

i suppose its appropriate i went out alone the other night to see woody allen's "vicky cristina barcelona" ... kristin had seen it before we left the states and i somehow didn't get around to it

it's a movie about wanting it all.. and, of course, not being able to have it all

yo entiendo

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

channeling pippi by k

dorian has been reading all the adventures of pippi longstocking recently, and i have had the pleasure of reading some chapters outloud to him. it's been fun! when i was little and wore my hair in braids people always called me pippi. back then, i don't think i realized how great she was...super strong (literally and figuratively), independent, mischievous, generous, confident, and on and on. i've decided i need to channel the pippi in me more. this sentence from the end of the last adventure, when she is about to leave the island of kurrekurredutt in the south pacific, made me smile and wish i could feel more like this!

"This trip will turn out to be a real beauty treatment for me. I have more freckles and am therefore more beautiful than ever. If this keeps up, I shall be irresistible."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

yesterday's winds - by b

it is quiet ... very still today

yesterday.... arel's facebook status said "is freaked out by the wind" we left the house early ... it was really picking up... motos were on their sides (this always seems strangely sad to me.... a felled scooter... i am not sure why... it seems like a helpless animal perhaps) we waited a long time at arel's football club as people sorted out directions to the away game... at one point a municipal dumpster blew into the street and arel's coach Aldo and I shoved it back.... during the game out in San Cugat on a sand/gravel field that stung the boys as bits were flying in the air two large trees snapped and fell over.... thankfully away from the field not on it!!!.... i heard the massive crack (it was likely two cracks.. but simultaneous) from across the pitch.... It seemed very spanish somehow that the ref didn't call the game.... The kids were very emotional.... I dont think they even noticed the trees... Their skin and eyes were burning from the wind and sand and the pretty brutal stalemate match (6 to 6 when the ref finally blew the final whistle) on the way home many many more trees were down....including one massive magestic one near school.... one route to our house was blocked ... and at home the news that kids had been killed in the building in which they were sheltering from the wind

today we walked around... this car was a shock... down our hill on our walk

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

new president by k

i'm still a bit in a state of disbelief that we have a new president. i imagine soon it will start to feel real, as obama begins making decisions and little by little things change. these changes will probably have little direct impact on my life, but they will change the tone of the country. the tone has already changed.

i read an article in the new york times this morning about obama's extended family...what a range of backgrounds and beliefs. i don't think i had really thought about it before because families like his are not a rarity in our world, but wow, what a change! what a wonderful change. i kept looking at his daughters during the inaugural ceremony and thinking how to them their extended family and even the inauguration are in some ways simply their childhood experience...just the way things are...not different or strange. but for many, this was the culmination of a dream they never thought would come true. for others, even if i can't fathom it, the inauguration was a nightmare. where on the spectrum am i?

obviously i see the historical significance of this moment. a black president, a first. but i guess on some level it doesn't really surprise me because i was ready for a black president, or a woman or anyone else who is qualified and smart a long time ago. more shocking for me was that bush became president...two times! but maybe it was the bush detour that helped get us here. i only wish four years had been enough to "correct course" instead of the eight years we suffered through. i am moved and relieved and happy, but it's not a momentous moment for me in the same way it is for the black community, and possibly for other minority groups. it just can't be. i haven't walked in those shoes. if it had been hillary clinton up there or another woman, i would have felt it on a different level. i hope i'll live to see that, too!

i went to a "democrats abroad" party yesterday evening to watch the inauguration. i hadn't done anything on election day and felt somehow that i had missed out on the collective experience. this time i wanted to be around people who were also happy. arel had wanted to come with me, but since he spent the entire previous night throwing up (food poisoning, i think), he decided not to go. barak wasn't as interested in going, so the plan was he would stay with dorian, who had no interest whatsoever. despite dorian's lack of interest, i think it is a day he'll remember on some level...arel too.

i met a woman there who said that in some ways she had bush to thank for her current life...indirectly, of course. she is a married to a catalan man and has one or two children (i can't remember exactly). she's american, but left a few years ago because she couldn't take the political landscape anymore. she also said she felt proud to be an american yesterday. i paused. did i feel proud to be an american? i couldn't bring the words to my mouth. i guess that's just not the way i think. i felt very happy for the united states. i felt more optimistic. i felt thrilled to know bush was leaving office. i felt thankful that obama referred to "our forebearers" instead of "our forefathers" in his speech...subtle, but for me a major shift in tone. i felt pleased that when he listed religions, he included "and non-believers." another acknowledgement of a different way. but for whatever reason, i wouldn't say i felt proud to be an american. i guess i don't feel proud in the collective sense. what is an american, anyway?

often, in significant moments like this, i wonder what my dad would have made of it all. he immigrated to the united states because he felt it was a much more open society, with more possiblities and more free-thinking than germany, or europe in general. i don't think he would have said he was proud the be an american yesterday, either, but i do think he would have said that this is the country he wanted to immigrate to, this is what he was looking for. i think he would have been very happy to see obama become president. and i know he would have had some joke for barak about sharing a name with the president. i'm not sure what form it would have taken, but it would have been there.

i assume our new president is asleep now...four in the morning in washington, d.c. but maybe not. his days of sleep might be over. what must he feel like today? where will he start? where does one begin when so many fires are burning?

what i do know, is that since yesterday, the united states has changed. and of that, i am proud.

Monday, January 19, 2009

barca - by b

a couple from school invited us to dinner at their place saturday... and the guy invited me to go see the barcelona football club play beforehand. Camp Nou (the stadium) is a short tram ride from their apartment. i felt a bit bad going... really arel should have gone in my place since he is so into the game and me, well, i'm not exactly mr. spectator sports. but this is life. i had fun and it gave some appreciation of arel's world. he and i emailed each other during the game... he was watching on tv. arel had told me about the rousing music that begins each game before they announce the players. here it is

barca, which many consider to the the best football club at this particular moment, eradicated their opponents 5-0.

dinner began around 10:30 (quite spanish, no?)

Friday, January 9, 2009

breathe - by b

i have to get back to work. i have to let go. i have to get the taste of that last heavy blogpost outta my mouth. here's a little sorbet. one of my favorite bands that i mentioned in the last post... singing about vacillating between being in jerusalem and tel aviv. it's funny. it makes me smile.

1 land, 2 stories - by b

it is cold here in barcelona. the kids are back in school. the news out of gaza hasn't changed. i am still trying to make sense of our time in israel. and i'm having a tough time letting go. sure i was born there but i only lived there for one year. in almost every way this is not my battle. i am an outsider

but i do care a lot about the people in that place

and i see that something very different has to happen there before things get better

i feel presumptuous in some ways saying what i'm about to say.. but i feel it/believe it so i am going to say it

there are two stories of that place.. it seems that so many people are so quick to insist on their story and jump down the throat of those on "the other side" and few are listening to the other story.

ok.. first story:

when state visitors or VIPs come to israel for the first time they are generally first taken to yad vashem. yad vashem is on the outskirts of jerusalem and it is kind of the mother of all holocaust memorials. one hall there is a spielbergesque hall where you enter in pitch darkness (as i's been a long time) and the images of jewish children killed in nazi camps appear on the ceiling and names are read.. it is designed to be chilling and it works. people are taken there first to set a framework, to explain viscerally why israel needs to exist

we didn't go to yad vashem for the same reason we didn't go to dachau when we were in munich a few weeks ago. the kids are too young. there is time for all of this. but we had our yad vashem moment in a much more intimate, real way when we met my grandmother ester for breakfast part way through our trip. she suggested a place called cafe tapuz, a really nice breakfast spot literally in an orange grove. arel and dorian could run around and we could talk. here are some pictures

esther was born in tel aviv in what then called palestine (which was british-controlled). she went briefly to her parents' hometown of vienna but returned still as a young child to palestine. (btw, my mom's mom died many years ago in israel and my grandfather and esther married). esther told us the story of her uncle, a communist jewish poet named adolf unger, and his wife and daughter. i found the following picture and details on the web at the documentation center of austrian resistance.

"Poet of the worker's movement, Adolf Unger (born on November 11, 1904) lived with his wife, Sobel (born on März 1, 1905) and his daugther, Annie (born on Jänner 29, 1935), at Stuwerstraße 19/7 in the second district. Whereas Annie succeeded in escaping on a Kindertransport, her parents were caught in France. On September 11, 1942, Sobel and Adolf Unger were deported form Drancy to Auschwitz and murdered shortly upon their arrival."
annie, or honey as esther calls her, came to stay with her cousin esther for a time in what was then palestine. the two remain close. and they have travelled together to vienna where there is now a street named for adolf unger

this is a truly legitimate story of israel in my view. a vast, complex, rich center of jewish culture in europe was under attack and essentially obliterated. and during the decades leading up to this, some rather plucky jews basically said "fuck this!" and did what it took to scurry up some land and create a working "state in waiting" in british-controlled palestine... the holocaust helped legitimize their needs in the minds of the powers that were and the state-in-waiting (the "yishuv" it was called) was turned into the state of israel.

AND there is another legitimate story

here is an arabic word for you: "naqba" it means catastrophe. and it is what the palestinians and other local arabs in israel consider the forming of the state of israel. i really don't think it's out of a natural hatred of jews but rather because their lives rather quickly changed. in fact, from what i understand, arabs and jews had been living sort of ok together in the region for a long time. this is likely because they kind of GOT each other... both jews and muslims had been tossed out of spain in 1492 and there were jewish pockets of culture across the arab world for hundreds of years. it's also probably because there were fewer people and less stress on natural resources then.

but rather suddenly there were a lot of jews (northern european ashkenazim, vs. the southern-european-exiled-to-arab-lands sephardim) showing up in palestine and buying land. they bought the land (they even gladly overpaid for it) from the arab upperclass (called the a'yan) often unbeknownst to the working class arabs (the felahin).

as the felahin learned "that sorry you can't be a tenant farmer here anymore".. another centrifugal force in the region came into being: that of the palestinian refugee

holocaust. naqba

there is no point in trying to do any algebra and figure out who is more of a victim. it doesn't matter. what's important is to 1)recognize that there are two victims here and 2)drop the whole victim bullshit.

ok.. here's where i start to feel presumptuous.. but anyway:

i actually think many jews in many ways dropped the victim bullshit a long time ago.. and that's why they have a state. they use victimhood as rhetoric ... but they don't act like victims.

many palestinians, it seems, both use victimhood as rhetoric and still act like victims. and it's not working.

israel, fueled by self-determination, Worked It smartly and effectively with whatever powers could help them (the first prime minister ben gurion really kept his options open with both the u.s. and the soviets, as an example)

and the palestinians just got angrier and angrier --- and quite ineffectively and quite literally painted themselves into a corner (actually two now-physically disconnected corners --- gaza and the west bank)

you can blame israel for this all you want.. but i don't think this will do anything to get the palestinians a state.

at one point the palestinians had more than enough power and resources to build themselves a state. many people were (still are) sympathetic toward their cause (me included)--in europe, in the arab world, in the u.s. a bit, even in israel. and there is a growing palestinians diaspora that is getting stronger and richer. there was/is/and would be money. i have read that per-capita, palestinians have received more international development assistance in the world than any other people

but where is the palestinian state in waiting?

the palestinians need to TAKE their state. and they need to take it effectively. by carefully looking at what very real powerbase they do have and could build.. and not wasting power by throwing some rockets at israel trying to draw them into a land incursion..... and then hoping the world gets pissed at the tank shellings so that israel tells it's soldiers to get out of the tanks... and then hoping to take hostages..

this is not how to build a state in waiting

by all means, use naqba as rhetoric. but use it as just that.. as rhetoric... build naqba memorials. bring in foreigners and get their money by giving them a tour of the naqba memorial... but don't use actual victims and actual blood and actual human shields to build sympathy.. it doesn't work.. it just doesn't. if it did there would be a palestinian state already

the israelis are far from perfect... there are forces in israeli society that are truly fucked in my view. there is no need for ariel sharon to have stuck a big lighted menorah on a house in al wad street in jerusalem. there is no need for the "city of david" to be built in silwan (see earlier post on our visit to both alwad street and the city of david") and other settlements need to stop. and the israelis could do well to own vs. deny the naqba narrative. it's real

yet the israelis can't solve the palestinians problems for them.. the palestinians need to solve it for themselves -- and actively coopt the ample number of people who would be happy to help them all around the world. and i would posit that a surprising number of israelis would want to help too.. would support a palestinian state.. would be greatly relieved for and welcome smart, creative, strong moves by palestinians

as one of my favorite israeli hip hop bands hadag nachash says in their song "misparim" which means "numbers": "one is the number of countries between the jordan river and the sea/two is the number of countries that will be here one day"

if you want to see more pictures of our time in the state of israel you can see them via my flickr account . you will see lots of smiles. but i must admit that even during these moments.. or most of them.. i felt a certain dread there.. a tension. some people don't mind it.. or don't see it.. or can compartmentalize it.. i am afraid i am not one of those people

Thursday, January 8, 2009

some final thoughts on israel by k

i feel like there is still so much i want to say about our time in israel...small observations, personal insights, etc. and if i don't do it now, they'll slowly slip away. i mean, they won't disappear from my mind in a greater way, but they won't be right on the surface, so here is my attempt to put some of it out there before i fully settle back into barcelona.

please excuse what might appear a haphazard collection of memories...i'm simply going to write them as they come out.

hummus! big thing in israel. everyone has their favorite hummus place, and in our one trip to a supermarket, i had to laugh when i saw a whole refrigerator case devoted to hummus. not a tiny case, either, at least six feet long, full of hummus. big packages, little packages, spicy, not spicy and many other variations i couldn't understand. our apartment was less than a block from one of the "best" hummus places in tel aviv. we ate a lot of hummus. i think it's fair to say, i'm hummused-out, which is a good thing. i really like hummus and it's not at all popular here, but i will be fine with a hummus-free diet for at least a month...then i might start pining again...

the experience of being in israel was for me a little like being home alone at night. by that i mean that the more you think about it, the more you see shadows on the wall that could be monsters or hear sounds that could be an intruder. the more i thought about what was going on in gaza and growing arab anger, the more scary it became. one night as i lay awake in tel aviv, i wondered where we should go if bombs started to drop in tel aviv. the underground parking lot, of course. i even imagined us huddled down there, with the raw cement smell. were bombs going to fall on tel aviv...highly unlikely, but my mind went there.

i also noticed that one door in our apartment was different. it was to a tiny room and you pretty much had to slam the door to close it. it was sort of metal, but not super heavy...almost like there was an air pocket in the middle of the door. we never did ask they guy who rented us the place about that room, but i have to assume that door was there for a purpose, and my guess, since it didn't have a lock on it, was that it would be the place to go if some sort of poisoned gas attack happened. be prepared. again, my mind wandered to a moment when we could need to be in that room...very scary. what must it be like to live with that always? to have to plan for a room that is air-tight in case of a gas attack, or a bomb shelter. when we were sitting on the beach in tel aviv, watching international airlines fly overhead to the airport, israelis playing paddle tennis on the beach, a little dog with a purple cast running around happily, tourists and locals alike eating and drinking in the warm winter sun, it's hard to imagine things like war, and yet the military helicopters flying by every now and again, and the small planes "keeping the perimeter secure" as barak said, is a steady reminder of where you are.

as i wrote in my first post, i really liked the food in israel. but even that comes with some complication when it comes to going out. our first night in jerusalem, barak's relatives recommended we go to a nearby street that has lots of restaurants and cafes. sounded nice. but then barak told me that one restaurant there was bombed several years ago and an american doctor, who ironically specialized in dealing with attacks like that, was killed with his daughter. i started to waver. when dorian put his foot down and said he didn't want to walk more than ten feet, we decided to go to a place just down the block. it felt less like a target, but how do i know that? each time we chose a place to sit, i wondered, could this be a target. most restaurants have security guards, and it does give on some sense of security, but still....

honestly, i also felt a little bad about having all these thoughts. israelis live with these things day in and day out, and chances were very slim that anything would happen to us. it was interesting to get emails from friends and family while we were there. some people expressed worry, some were confident we were fine, some said how brave we were. perceptions and perspectives. i certainly didn't feel brave. and i don't think i even felt stupid for going. i mostly felt confused. how careful should one be? what is the real threat to us? shit happens in the u.s. and other places too, so why be so paranoid. on the flight back, i briefly spoke with a woman whose mother was killed in a bus bombing in jerusalem five years ago. the majority of people live and survive in israel. the majority of visitors come and go. but some don't, and that was almost always on my mind.

we saw reality for an israeli young man when we visited one of barak's cousins, uri, in northern israel. i had met uri in san francisco 14 years ago when his grandmother ester brought him on a trip to the u.s. i remember really liking him. it was his trip before doing his military service. (he told me that after a month in new york back then, where everyone had warned him about violence, it was in san francisco where he saw a police chase out our windowon guerrero street, and a man pulling a woman by the hair on market street. he was shocked that no one did anything to stop it. so his memory of san francisco is definitely not one of peace and freedom. interesting, i thought. it's all what happens in a moment, and he did see a real side to s.f. that we may not like, but is there.) he's 32 now, married to nice woman, irit, who is working on her phd and looking for a job after getting laid off recently (recession is everywhere).

uri and irit were very welcoming, and as we drove to haifa, i rode with them so i could ask them questions about life in israel. too much to relate, and i don't want to misquote, but uri said he's very "leftist" and definitely believes in room for everyone, jews and muslims and christians and anyone else. i didn't get to hear all the details of what that would look like for him because the car ride was not long enough! he said it was probably better to not have that discussion in the arab restaurant where we ate in haifa, especially considering what is going on. on the way back, dorian joined us and i didn't think he needed to hear it either. but i guess the thing that really sticks in my mind is when uri showed us his military gear, all ready to go when/if he gets called up. it could happen any time and he would go. what must it be like to live with that? for uri, for his wife, for ester, for his parents and siblings. we can all argue until we're blue in the face about what the right thing to do is, but in the end, it's individuals, on both sides, who are being effected.

language: our first night in tel aviv, we went to a restaurant in an "up and coming" (ie dirty and rundown and lots of young people) neighborhood next to the place we were staying. let's just say, not many tourists hit this part of town, so the restaraunt we chose only had a menu in hebrew. i couldn't understand a thing. nothing. that was strange because i usually feel that i can at least deduct a few things. barak was able to decipher the drink categories: beer, wine, spirits, etc, but that wasn't super helpful considering we wanted to eat! israelis speak great english, so our waitress was very helpful and told us what was on the menu, but it was strange being so totally helpless. most restaraunts and cafes we went to did have english, but it was a good reminder that one is not always in control.

i won't forget the sign in the israel museum "please check you weapons here." barak didn't get a shot of it, but really stuck out for me. such a mundane thing as a coat check, but for guns!

i went into this trip really wanting barak to take the lead and be in charge. and i could probably write a long essay about barak in israel, but i won't go there. i was determined to take the perspective that everything would work out, even if it was done in a "different" way, or better said, not my way. and things did work out. the times we got totally lost (numerous), barak did manage to get us to our destination. israelis confirmed that streets are not well marked and signs are confusing. add to that a total lack of sense of direction and refusal to plan, and well, our rental car mileage was a little higher than it had to be. why do i write this? not to blame barak, but just to say that part of being in israel for me was to let go, and i did, but it was hard. especially at 3:00 a.m. on our way to the airport when we got lost! heading south, in pitch black, no gas stations...another half hour and we would have made it to gaza! i guess it just had to be the experience through and through, until the very last moment. and we did make it to the airport, we did get on our flight, and everything did work i need a vacation!

do i regret going to israel? not at all. it was a hard trip in many ways, but also very thought-provoking. i finally know what barak is talking about when he mentions neighborhoods or soldiers walking on the street. i better understand the question of israel and how it effects barak's family and relatives. we had some very nice moments, too...mostly seeing people, but also eating and playing at the beach. do i want to go back? impossible to say at this moment. right now i'm glad to be on the other side of the mediterranean, but i also feel sad for the people there and a bit guilty to be able to leave. i think i would feel the same leaving any war-torn place. why can i simply walk away and get back to life? i will say, that i would love to be able to go back and celebrate if peace ever does come to the region, but after being there, i'm not holding my breath or booking a flight. shalom.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

low resolution - by b

notes from jerusalem... where we were last week.... there's been little time to blog

our first stop was to see my great aunt and uncle, vicky and nokkie. this was a touch of what it was like for me coming to israel as a kid--lots of stops at family, lots of tea and coffee and cake. vicky is the sister of my late grandmother charlotte. she and nokkie moved to jerusalem in the early 80s from a country town outside Cape Town (where i used to visit them a lot on weekends as a kid). most of their kids, grandkids and greatgrandkids live in israel, many in jerusalem. vicky said that when they moved to jerusalem a quarter century ago she would refer to it as a a "mosaic" where she would walk around the old city and see orthodox jews, arabs, franciscan monks ...
vicky and nokkie, ramot

in a mosaic, of course, the different stones don't always really fit very perfectly together. and mosaics are also extremely low-resolution images because the stones (or tiles) are pretty large. the thing is though, in imagery, the finer the dots the greater the resolution. but here, the smaller you break down the dots the the image just seems to degrade.. you get lower resolution. so it's tough to get a clear image of this place

because this is not just a mosaic of jews and muslims and christians... every group is broken down into many, many subgroups. and every group is constantly changing and alliances shift.

for example, according to our guide who took us around the old city of jerusalem, it's not a good idea to try to go to the bathroom in the church of the holy sepulchre because it hasn't been fixed in 100 years because the eastern orthodox, armenian apostolic, roman catholic, coptic orthodox, ethiopian orthodox and the syriac orthodox can't quite agree who should deal with it.

welcome to jerusalem.

vicky and nokkie are very observant jews... but as you can see from their clothes they are not ultra-orthodox (nokkie wears a kippah/yarmulke.. but you can't see it in this picture). behind them is a table by the front door of their apartment.. on it is a t'zedakeh box (a charity box) and guests can drop money into it to support a religious school (a guy comes by every month or so to take the money and give them a receipt) ... when this same guy first brought the box by the door and asked them to keep it vicky wanted reassurance that it was a school that sent it's students to the military. while this might make her sound truly extreme in another country, here it is a actually means something else. many people here resent the fact that many students in the ultra-orthodox schools are exempt from military service and can live their lives here without giving what is considered the most basic amount back to the state---serving in the army.

are you starting to get a sense of the intricate layers of meaning in this place?

there's more

the area where vicky and nokkie live, ramot, is, according to many, a "settlement". many others call it a "neighorhood" or "suburb" of jerusalem. people need to be careful about their language here.. including news organizations that are often subject to intense letter-writing campaigns if they piss people off

get into a debate with somebody.. or even start searching for "facts" online... and you end up in a warren of he-said, she-said that goes back forever and ever. this is what makes it really tough to get a clear picture of jerusalem (and indeed all of israel) because everybody wants you to see THEIR picture...

museams are powerful vehicles for telling stories of a place... and our next stop was the israel musuem near the israeli parliment building. most of the museum is actually closed now for renovations but there was enough open to make a stop seem like a decent idea. I have to take a breather though from the analysis and just look at some sculpture.
israel museum

the sculpture garden was pleasant to walk around in. here's a piece by fernando botero, the same guy who made the giant cat in rambla raval in barcelona that arel and dorian are climbing on in the masthead of this blog
botero, sculpture garden, israel museum

here's a sculpture moving in the wind

and some shapes in the trees
sculpture garden, israel musuem

ok. breathed enough? here's a bench from the sculpture garden
a bench

we then drove into the pretty trendy baka neighborhood where we were going to stay with my mom's second cousin dubby and his wife lies. my parents are very close with them... and have traveled many places with them, including the galapagos islands. they were very nice... offered to let us stay for a couple of nights... and we had some great conversations and wine with them

and scrabble too

early the next morning i went for a run up on the haas (as in levis, as in san francisco) promenade. down below you can see the old city.. the walls, the dome of the rock.. from this vantage point it seems like the mosaic maybe is working... or could work...

but i wasn't feeling very optimistic.. it was really freezing and i was ill prepared for the cold.. i had run up to the "hill of evil counsel" ( i do love the names of things in jerusalem) where the united nations is based
early morning run, jerusalem

at 8:30 a guide i'd arranged picked us up.
he drove us a short distance to the old city. we parked and we walked in thru the jaffa gate.
we walked a bit.. talked a bit... bought a bagel with zatar we went down to the western wall (or wailing wall).
western wall

it was thursday … one of the days people celebrate bar mitzvah's at the wall... it can be be pretty colorful and musical

we then walked out of the dung gate (nice name... it was the gate the ancient residents used to cart out their garbage) and to the "city of david". kristin wrote about the tunnel we went in. here are some pictures. i'm glad we did it.. it was fun..

but this particular site is more controversial than most. the city of david is silwan.. an arab neighborhood. and the group that funds the project is focused on settling jews in arab parts of the city.


in the tunnel

in the tunnel

outside the tunnel
after the tunnel

from the van heading up thru silwan

back thru the dung gate and to the western wall
western wall with dome of rock in backround

bar mitzvahs were in full swing. dorian got some candy
candy thrown from a bar mitzva

it is a tradition to leave a note in the cracks in the western wall (some people believe they are leaving a note for god or the messiah). here arel and dorian write notes.
writing notes to put in the wall

and put them in cracks in the wall

putting a note in a wall

despite many famous, plaintive photos over the years of everyone from soldiers to pope john paul ii hugging the wall (they tend to be close up shots, very emotive, and they leave out the tumult/balagan behind the subject) the place does not have a very spiritual feel to me.. in general it's too carnivally and crowded for my taste

the wall is essentially a retaining wall for what was the second of two great jewish temples that were destroyed in history and jews call the area above it the temple mount. some really radical extreme jews would like to build a third temple up there... (read michael chabon's the yiddish policeman's union for a fictional and interesting look at this idea) ... what's up there are the dome of the rock ( a beautiful, at least from afar, golden domed building) and the al aqsa mosque.

there was a long wait to go up... dorian was getting antsy.. and you can't go inside al aqsa mosque now ... and some people had advised us against going up during these times of elevated tensions so we went to lunch

we ate at a place called "friends" a pretty large restaurant on one of the old city's many narrow streets. the streets have steps (the city s pretty hilly) and the steps have mini ramps on all of them for the carts that are always around. no cars in these windy, narrow streets

we had a tasty lunch of humus, t'hina, schwarma, other salads


fanta comes in either arabic
Friends restaurant

or hebrew
fanta in three languages

the cauliflower only comes in hot pink
brite pink pickled cauliflower

maybe the cauliflower and kristin's shoes can form a group together. that would be very jerusalem. oh wait, one's a vegetable. one's a shoe. ain't gonna happen.

the shops and restaurants (mostly arab-run) had been closed for a few days in a commercial strike to protest israel's actions in gaza (no commercial strike to protest rocket fire into israel.. but whatever). i was struck by some of the irony walking by. here is a shop that had been closed.. then it opens and sells IDF (israel defense forces) schwag. bizarre.
yesterday these shops were closed in a commercial strike to protest israeli military activity in gaza, today they are open and selling israeli army sweatshirts

security was much tighter than this.. especially as we made our way through the narrow streets of the old city. i wasn't about to stick my phone camera in the face of the soliders and riot cops... so i don't have the pictures .. but there were a lot as we walked thru the old city

we then went back to the jaffa gate and up on the walls.. the ramparts... we paid a small fee and up we went.. and walked a decent way around the city to the damascus gate
clothes can be clues in jerusalem.. .. but it can be subtle. is this woman an orthodox jew, a religous muslim, or my wife keeping out the cold with her hoodie? hmmm
kmw on the walls

flowers and oranges
flowers and oranges

a reminder
a reminder

on the ramparts of the old city


as we approached damascas gate the view of the dome of the rock
dome of the rock from near damascas gate

this is the looking at the market on the inside of damascus gate. we go down in a sec
market.. from the wall near damascas gate

in the market in the muslim quarter... sweets

more sweets

more sweets and a poster
sweets and a poster

a cat on al wad street

soldiers and riot cops... al wad street was one of the most intense for me the entire day.... the street is squarely in the muslim quarter of the old city.. yet there are a number of orthodox jewish schools up and down the street, each with four or so cops outside.. also on this street is the home of israels old leader ariel sharon ... my friend calls itthe "bring it on" house.

as we turned onto via dolorosa street (the street down which jesus carried the cross to his crucifixion, many believe) we bought a small cup of sahleb. i thought it was yummy (and warm) and i was glad when nobody else really liked it. more for me!
Sahlab vendor..  good on a cold day

we ended at the church of the holy sepulchre dorian was really tired at this point. it was all too much religion for kristin (as she's said) but i like it in there.
dd is tired.. coming to the end of a loooong day

this heads up to where people believe jesus was crucified
inside church of holy sepulchre... up to where jesus is said to have been crucified

this is the actual spot.. i really wish i'd turned my camera on about 15 seconds earlier so you could hear more of this guy.. he has a really beautiful voice. the people are kneeling down to kiss the spot of the crucifixion

one of the domes
church of the holy sepulchre

here is a mosaic (an actual one) of jesus being washed after being removed from the cross
mosaic above the stone depicting jesus on the stone

this is where, apparently, he actually was washed. pilgrims come here and bring things from their town to be blessed on the stone.. then they take the things back home again.

this might look like someone who works there... but it's just a guy in a nike hoody. he's standing at the cave where, according to what many believe, jesus was buried and came back to life
cave within church where jesus is said to have been buried and resurected

we soon left the old city.. had a coffee..

here is a final picture of us and our guide..


next morning on derech beit lechem ... headin' outta dodge (after a nice breakfast with danny, julie and gang)