Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mental pic. of life in Jerusalem

October 1,
wake up...walk towards class through the Rova in the Jewish quarter (thats actually an eighth, but we'll leave politics out of this) of the old city. The "Old City" is really a giant castle with collossal walls that is split into "quarters", but we'll call them sections. My Yeshiva, where I'm learning is located right over the Western Wall.

4 oclock in the morning, the city is crawling with people. No beers, no loud music, no late night drunken stumbling...tour groups from all over the world come at all hours of the night just to touch the wall, say a word to the infinite, place a handwritten blessing or prayer in the crevices of the 2-3000 year old wall... As we traverse the city with a bottle of wine and a book of Walt Whitman poetry we find hundreds of Sephardic Jews (those who have been in the Middle East for centuries) blowing Shofars (the horn of a ram) in unison. They chant from large Hebrew scrolls and their voices ascend toward Hashem, their God. Desire for holiness reberberates from their voices, and repententence begs from their souls. The high holidays are approaching, and they must make up for all sins before Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur.... On the other side of town, in the Muslim quarter (which is actually a quarter) the Arabs run the Shook (market), where they sell Arabic breads, hookahs, Bedouin clothing. The local Arabs ride donkeys and camels to and fro, making money off of the tourists. Shopkeepers dress in full Arabic garb, headdresses, long cloaks, the women are fully covered and walk home from the Shook with their purchases balanced on their must keep walking, don't stop..."come in to my shop, look, I make a deal with you, please, you like!". The minute you stop, your hooked in. You can't leave until you buy something and if you pay half of what they originally tell you, you paid too much....Finally we get to the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock stands, police officers block the way. "Only Muslims allowed!", we argue for a bit, but it's not going anywhere positive. We abandon mission A, and instead walk over to where the Arabs claim Jesus of Nazereth fell from the top of the building, nailed to the cross. Stop and get some Turkish coffee at a shop and talk optimistically with the owner and locals about times of peace. It seems the popular opinion and vibration echoes the improbability of mending relations between the parties. Emotion is on a constant high here, and everyone has their own opinion on the current events that govern daily activity... Last month a Jewish student was stabbed to death by two Arabs, no more than 4o yards from the front door of my hostel. One week before, on of my friends was held up by a wire around his throat and a knife against his head...
The other night someone shot a gun in the middle of Zion Square (pictured below with me holding a gun) right as we were walking by. But, for the most part, there isn't too much violence around here, at the moment. Ramadam just began, so we'll see how life unfolds...


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