Imagine a range of hills tucked away from just about everywhere. In those hills was a small town. It had to bring in it's water supply, was not on a known trade route and had no valid reason on earth to exist, let alone survive. Little is known about the earliest times of it's habitation. Nowadays it is named Jerusalem and on a cold, wet, winter's day it was my destination.
I'd booked 3 nights in a budget hotel named the Kaplan. I had a nice room to myself, without the hassles of a hostel. A man named Natan was there to receive me and during my stay, we got along fine. A number of times he went out of his way to help on a few matters. As long as you don't mind smoking is allowed, I would recommend the Kaplan Hotel. There is a kitchen as well, so you can cook your food if you want.
For me there was a personal agenda to visit Israel. As a travel destination, Jerusalem is hideously expensive and (especially the old town) very touristy, not the kind of place I normally head for.
When I arrive somewhere, I stop for a bit to get the 'feel' of the place. I sort of sense it (takes a few minutes). Usually the result is along the lines of: confused, sleepy, hmmm, watch out, lost, so nice it almost hurts, depressed etc-etc. Here was very different! My almost immediate result was: Hands Off! A bit scary, to say the least.
Jerusalem is ancient, very ancient (4500+ years old, I don't think anyone really knows for sure, despite what they claim). Historically it was destined for one people. the Children of Israel (for over 4000 years). All the others are "Johnny come latelys" - Period. This is evident in the way the city is split up by those who came up with the idea that it belonged them because of millennia later religions. But I'm not exactly religious and wasn't there for that.
Initially the thought of just taking photographs of all the gates of Jerusalem was my agenda, because they represented the physical city as a whole. However, my right leg began hurting. As I limped around and spent time chatting with various people, I noticed the pain subsided a little. When I started out toward a gate, I could barely walk! I've sprained ankles and carried on for miles, even ran out of adrenalin, but having the back side of my right knee scream in pain was new. I paused just above the Western Wall for a bit, the pain stopped! Then it "dawned" on me, with the pain gone and a different agenda, I strode normally.
What is Jerusalem really about? Of course, like most places, there are the religious aspects and buildings scattered around (tons of them). It has become a center for a number of faiths. But Jerusalem is not really about faith. It's not about physical structures - there are many. It is not, if we stand back and look honestly, about various heritages.
Jerusalem is about people and life
I could say that about anywhere, but here it is in some way unique. The usual tourists were about, in their tourist clothing, taking touristy snapshots and babbling out their typical jargon. I don't think they even considered the people who live and work here.
It was still Sabbath (Shabbat) as I wandered the streets of old Jerusalem. No food had entered my stomach for over 16 hours and I was not there to fast. A stall in the Arab Quarter had a big basket full of Cashew nuts, so I half filled a plastic bag with some, paid a few Shekels and proceeded to have a "meal" as I continued my stroll about, stopping regularly for chit-chats with a number of stall holders and shopkeepers. I was immediately accepted as, "you're not a tourist, are you." I thought it interesting that these people picked that up.
Obadah and his girls
He looked bored, so I stopped and had a bit of a chin-wag with him. The little stall had the usual sort of things in. We talked about our families. He has no sons, just 4 daughters and 5 grand children. I remarked that he was well ahead of me then as I only have 2 grandkids. We laughed and chatted some more, then I bade him farewell, continued through the Arab Quarter and proceeded toward the Jewish Quarter.
David an artist
On the way, sort of between the two quarters, I spent well over an hour with David. He is a jewelry artist - I keep meeting these guys. Pamplona, Firenze and now Jerusalem. David is Bedouin. He was born in the desert in a tent. A couple of decades ago his camel reared and he landed on the base of his spine, resulting in the same kind of damage I have on mine. During that time we drank some Sage tea (note: don't drink the tea and talk at the same time, they consider this impolite) and he told me about the Bedouin hospitality. If I ever get to Beer-Sheva and go to the area where they live, I must stay 3 1/2 days and be spoilt rotten. You have to stay that period of time otherwise it is an insult to them. Glad he told me that.
Having arrived on Shabbat, everything Jewish was closed. Even the trams did not run. The streets around where I stayed were virtually empty. Add to that the pouring rain on Friday (I was only there for the weekend) and I got soaked, everything Jewish had to wait until Saturday evening about 7pm. Then it all came alive and I stuffed myself silly with chicken schnitzel and fries at a place across from Zion Square.
Sunday, I just strolled quietly around. At one point I noticed this very unusual tiny shop.
Yehuda and his wheels
We're used to market stalls and those tiny little, crammed full of stuff, shops - aren't we? You know the kind I mean. So while pottering around in area about kilometer away from where I was staying and out away from the Old City, I saw the wheels. This is a first. I have never seen anything like it before. Yehuda is a retired policeman and does this as a hobby (he collects the little wheels). We spoke for some time together and I returned to the Kaplan.
Norman, a calligraphic artistI didn't have my camera with me when I met Norman. He came from Canada some years back, now lives in Jerusalem with his family and is a calligrapher of decorative art. Norman uses Olive wood to create some nice pieces of art and also will make personalized ones on the spot (when he is selling his work on the streets), using special markers.
One of his specialties are Jewish marriage contracts, known as the Ketuba. This decorated type of document all but vanished over the centuries and is undergoing a revival.
All things considered, I enjoyed my short time in Jerusalem. I was able to meet some fantastic people. It was my very first visit to Israel and opened my eyes to a few things.
Oh, by the way, my knee never bothered me again and is quite normal now.
Wrapping it up?
Words like synopsis, finally and even wrapping it up, just do not fit. You cannot "wrap up Jerusalem", it doesn't work. Sure all cities, towns and villages have people in, otherwise they wouldn't be there. Jerusalem is different than any other city on Earth.
There is something "bigger" about it and somehow I reckon it is not up to you, I, religious leaders or diplomats as to how things will work out. Like it, want it, believe or not (our ideas are irrelevant), this place belongs to a higher authority. I think I now understand the "Hands Off", at the beginning.
I finished writing this article on the 12th of December 2016. 11 days later the UN made a bad decision about Israel.
"On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves." - Zechariah
This is getting, just-a-little-bit awesome...
Jan 01, 2017