Scott Sitner-Jerusalem-December 2018
It’s shabbat here, and has been since last night at sundown for people who didn’t know that, if anyone. For Jerusalem that means the City essentially shuts down, restaurants close, shops are closed, it is fascinating to see how things just die off. And to see how many observant people there still are. The city is apparently one half orthodox as far as the jewish community, and one half of course secular. But given that so many things close, orthodox wins out. There are still people out but it drops by 90 plus percent. Hotels have special shabbat elevators that stop at every floor so no one presses a button and the hotel has a second set of toilet paper so observers don’t have to tear, which is prohibited. Crazy. On Saturday morning, most of group met for a shabbat service at a local temple at the University. The room was amazing, looking out over the western wall, the wall of Jericho and the City. It was even more special as 25 kids read from the torah, some soon to be bar mitzvah kids and some from the past. You could tell from the parents and most of the kids that reading from the Torah here, overlooking the City was the highlight of the trip, nothing could really top that.Regretfully cloudy so I can’t show a better picture but you get the idea, it was stunning.So what does one do on Shabbat? We go to the other side, Christians of course. A short walk takes us right into the Christian corridor and market where of course they are happy to take our Schekels and show us around. We had lunch at an Armenian restaurant which was well, chicken and beef and vegetables and pita, starting to see a bit of a trend?
We then set off to explore the area which includes the “Tower of David”, which dates back 800 plus years but ha evidence of ruins for over 2000 years ago. It sits on a site that overlooks the city, used for military strategy because of the height. It has been built and rebuilt going back those 2000 years. It now is a museum and gives an amazing view of the City.The Church of the Holy Sepulchreis of course where it is believed to be the site of the crucifixion and his ultimate burial and the last supper close by.
The church has changed hands so to speak for generations and is now controlled largely by the greek orthodox church. Once inside you can see and feel the solemness of where you are even as a Jewish person. This is clearly the holy grail for christians, to pray at the site of where Christ was buried and of course crucified. The line was very long, so we explored otherwise. The artwork and artifacts inside are amazing, the Church having been rebuilt about 1100 years ago, so it feels old but you can see where it has been fixed up. Artwork depicting events of this times are throughout but when you see the area where his tomb is you can feel its importance As a non christian I don’t feel comfortable commenting more than this, but I assume it is like when we are at the wall or similar place.We then took to exploring a bit, accidentally spending 25 dollars on a latte and tea and just walking the area. Last thing at night, we saw Santaheading a concert on the Ben Yehuda Street, singing all the classics, was I think the perfect way to top off the night. That and a really mediocre bagel, I guess you expect more from being here. Disappointing.
As for the title, it’s an old Warren Zevon song, the lyrics don’t mean a lot but after going to temple services and then seeing the Christian side, and I am not religious, but you wonder if at the end of the day there is a heaven and it what all religions say it is, shouldn’t everyone fit in and be welcome? Shouldn’t whoever guards the gate simple be indifferent to the differences between everyone? Or not I guess