Saturday, 29 November 2008

jerusalem (1) - the old city

Arrived in Jerusalem yesterday at about 4:30pm local time after a smooth flight thanks to El Al and a reasonable journey from Tel Aviv. It was dusk when I made it to St. George’s College so I had little time to look round but that wasn’t a problem as the college was hosting an art exhibition by Dr ‘Ali Qleibo which included wine and various Spanish hors d’oeurves. The paintings covered two themes: ‘Jerusalem stays in the Heart’ is a series of paintings in Qleibo’s more familiar style featuring the domes and alley ways of the old city. The other paintings represent a new departure with abstracts entitled ‘Another Autumn’. Dr Qleibo is something a polymath and it was interesting to hear him speak about his painting. The rest of the evening was taken up with a meal at the Christmas Hotel with some of the other people staying at the college.

This morning I took a walk into the old city. After a brief saunter through the bazaar starting from the Damascus Gate (above) I headed for the ramparts which gave me some great views of the area. I was caught out when I descended from the walls at the Lion’s Gate so that I could go and have a look at the Dome of the Rock.
Unfortunately, when I tried to follow some people into the area I was greeted by a couple of policemen who informed me that the site was closed to non Moslems because it was Saturday. I wandered across the old city only to discover, thanks to several salesmen trying to sell me various religious artefacts, that I was actually on the Via Dolorosa (right) . Just a few moments later and I found myself being searched by a couple of soldiers as I approached what turned out to be the area of the Western/Wailing Wall. I guess by now I should have realised that a map might have been useful! As it was the Sabbath I wasn’t allowed to take any photos near the wall but I managed a couple of pictures from further away (below). Back up onto the ramparts for the last part of the walk finishing back at the Jaffa Gate and then I headed for the Jerusalem Hotel for some spag bol and a very refreshing glass of freshly squeezed lemons.

Now the thing that struck me as I tried to avoid spilling bolognaise sauce down my shirt was just how many famous sites I’d visited (or at least been close to) in such a brief period of time and I had also seen others, like the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane, from a distance. I’d heard about these places since I was very young and seen them plenty of times in film, on t.v. and in books but seeing them all in such close proximity was actually quite startling. Anyway, I look forward to visiting some of these places again and spending more time at them as part of my course ‘The Palestine of Jesus’ which begins on Monday evening.

One final bit of good news, I’ve discovered a bar called Mike’s Place quite nearby which will be showing Man Utd v Man City tomorrow afternoon. Oh and the bishop is also preaching in the cathedral tomorrow morning. Shalom.


Tim Goodbody said...

Ahh, the memories. I recall a rather refreshing beer called Maccabee. It's definitely worth getting up early for the dawn eucharists at the Holy Sepulchre, as there are no tourists then.
Enjoy, but stay off the roof!

Jonathan Evens said...

Good to know you're there and settling in. Dr Qleibo and his exhibition sound interesting. I'll will enjoy seeing your photos as I've not been to Jerusalem. The course looks like it should be good too.

Tim Goodbody said...

Hi Phil,
to give you something else to think about, you've been tagged

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,
Have never left a comment on a blog before!
Great to hear you are there and combining all your interests so soon...All best, Greg

Charile Kosla said...

How did the police know you weren't a Muslim? You could have been a bone-fide Essex Muslim. If it happens again, just simply say
"as-Salamu alaikum" and walk past.

Have a good time, and "peace be with you."