May 20, 2013
This email should be called ‘Letter from Israel’, of course. But as it focuses solely on our visit today in this fantastic city, with no political comments planned, I thought I’d make the heading a little more attractive.
First, a reminder that my wife, Aviva, is a product a true ‘Yerushalmi’ family. 4 of the 5 kids were born on Mount Scopus in Hadassah Hospital, still the largest in the Middle East. The 5th child, the oldest, was born ‘on the way’ to hospital. Didn’t get the whole story.
They used to live in the Yemin Moshe quarter, which was the first Jewish settlement outside the Old City, built/financed by the Moshe Montefiore family. Hence the the name. In 1948, not having the right paperwork, they were evicted, moving to a fascinating old house, also just outside the walls, near Jaffa Gate.
This is a view from next to the Old City Wall, near Jaffa Gate. We took this picture to see, at the end of the street, between the 2nd and 3rd lamp-posts, the now darkened window from which the kids would stare back at the Old City walls.
This is the entrance to their home. Above the door is the date, 1908. In Israel, you have 2 meanings of the word ‘ old’ as far as buildings are concerned. You have those that are 100’s or 1,000’s of years old. And then you have those over 20. Over 100 in this category is very old! Thick, crooked walls, uneven stairs, rickety balconies and so on.
These pictures are of their now-overgrown garden. Their father, Avraham, just fenced off some of the park at the back (see 3rd pic), and then started creating his crazy world of art, building a wall, centre of pic., and moulding stuff into and onto it. Tourists would gape; he’d invited them in for coffee (Margalit never scolded him on front of the guests) and be their friends for life.
Nearby, the Tower of David – and the very famous YMCA, located literally opposite the King David Hotel, and itself a centre of some wonderful stories intertwined with Israel’s history.
(When I discovered family of my mother in Israel, it was not surprising that the lady went most days to swim at YMCA’s still very beautiful indoor pool, and was a close friend of Aviva’s mother, who also was a regular).
Our first port of call, before entering Jerusalem, was the very beautiful 9/11 memorial, said to be the first to be erected in honour of those who perished. It is located outside the city, in the Arazim valley, still quite a lonely area (although it is now being disturbed by the nearby construction of the new Tel Aviv – Jerusalem railway, cutting through the nearby hills).
Then, on the opposite hill of Giva’at Shaul, we visited the graves of Aviva’s parents. We all know that cemeteries can be very special places, and this one certainly is…
The view across from the cemetery – to Arazim Valley and the 9/11 Monument
Aloni, Aviva’s older brother, is a real ‘Yerushalmi’. He knows every corner. This monument is rarely visited by tourists. It shows the spot where, in 1917, 4 simple British soldiers were suddenly confronted with an official delegation of Turkish military and dignitaries, who promptly ‘surrendered the keys of the city’ to them.
General Allenby was furious to have been upstaged like this, and promptly arranged for an official ceremony to be held elsewhere. But the story was out, and became history.
Aloni and Rachel then started chatting to a learned religious boy who chatted to them about Jerusalem, history etc., and was excited to meet direct descendants of the famous Rabbi David Ben Zimra (Aviva’s ancestor), who led his family from Zamora in Spain in 1492 (The Inquisition), spent some years in Egypt as the Chief Rabbi, and then moved on to the Land of Israel, where he established Keren Ben Zimra in the Galilee, a community of religious study, still existing today.
We drove through Mea Shearim (‘100 Gates’), a throwback to the religious communities of Poland and Russia in the 19th C. Little has changed…with a few signs of modernity.
This is a terrific new development, right next to Old City’s Jaffa Gate. A big success. Plenty of parking, the usual cacaphony of shops, boutiques, coffee houses and fun. And along the walls, on every corner, sculptures for sale….
Then, across the road, through Jaffa Gate, into the labyrinth that is the Old City of Jerusalem.
Proud of this pic. – To understand it, you need perhaps to zoom in…this is the roof along one of the Old City’s many wonderful alleyways. Then there’s ceramics, jewellery etc.
The first view of the Temple Mount area
…….comprising nowadays, the Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock on the left and the Al Aqsa mosque on the right.
The Dome of the Rock. No, not the Al Aqsa Mosque.
That’s the one with the grey dome.
This is taken along the dividing line between the area on the left for the males, and the area on the right for the females…
We males then entered the catacomb of prayer area, highlighted by Wilson’s Arch, an ancient structure discovered in 1864 by Charles Wilson, found to be part of a road through the Old City. In Hebrew, they call it ‘Wilson’s Rainbow’, after the many-coloured stonework structure.
Finally, we stopped at the Abu Ghosh restaurant, in the Arab town of that name, neighbouring Jerusalem. This is a photo of the Hummus dish they made, which was in the Guinness Book of Records….
A reminder to all you sceptics out there. When real Israelis (and Aviva’s family are the real thing) want to enjoy a day out, it includes a meal in Abu Ghosh…
Apartheid, my foot.