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)