Humans of Israel
“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” Elliot Erwitt
On my way back to Israel. I hope i run into them again.
The Temple Mount, Jerusalem
“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” John Lennon
Jerusalem is a symbol of three great religions but is also a city filled with hatred. The conflicts are mostly between the Muslims and the Jews but also with the Ultra Orthodox.
The Temple Mount is in the South East corner of Jerusalem’s Old City surrounded by date palms and cypress trees. It is the most holy place in the city, with major significance to all three religions.
It is thought to be Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Isaac to God.
For Jews, the Temple Mount was the location of the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BC to house the Ark of the Covenant (which held the Ten Commandments) It’s the most sacred site in Judaism.
For Christians, the Temple Mount is significant because the Jewish temple located here was where Jesus prayed daily and later preached with his disciples.
For Muslims, it is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The rock under the dome is where the Prophet Muhammad left Earth to visit heaven on a winged horse in the 7th Century.
The Temple Mount is a controversial and culturally significant place.
Israel took control of the Old City in 1967, but Muslims continue to manage the site.
However armed Israeli soldiers patrol inside. It’s a regular flash point for protests and violence between Jews and Arabs.
The entrance for non-Muslims is at the Mughrabi Bridge (an enclosed wooden ramp) near the Western Wall. Tourists can usually visit the Temple Mount, but there are restrictions.
It’s a religious site, so modest dress is required. (blue cover ups if you are not dressed correctly)
You must pass a security checkpoint with metal detectors, and certain religious artifacts are not allowed in (Bibles, crosses, Star of David, etc.)
There are only certain times that non-Muslims are allowed to visit.
It is quite different from the staircase in the wall that we used to go back and forth many years ago.
Tourists can walk around the plaza taking photos, but are currently not allowed inside the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque after a fire was set inside the mosque by a Christian extremist many years ago. You are able to peek inside Al-Aqsa from a window on the side of the building.
Jews can visit the Temple Mount, but they can’t pray openly. Only Arabs are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
Some Orthodox Jews feel the site is too holy to even walk on while others believe they should be allowed to pray there. The chief rabbis have posted a sign forbidding Jews to pray there.
There is definitely tension in the air, but it didn’t feel dangerous.
The world is a big place and three religions are fighting over a plaza of stone. We are supposed to respect each other’s rights and freedoms. None of this feels God like to me.
Jerusalem Old City
“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’” Benjamin Netanyahu
My first trip to Jerusalem was in the seventies. My parents always paid for an Israel extension to my self financed Europe trips. I think they were hoping for an Israeli son-in-law. Our days started at the Jaffa Gate near our hostel. We would meander through the Old City in the heat of summer and end up at the Damascus Gate or the New Gate. You could wander back and forth through a stairway in the Western Wall. We walked in and out of the mosques, often just to cool off and enjoy the peaceful feeling inside.
When we got to the meat part which was deep in the market, I was always ready to turn back. It was the first time that I saw raw, dead animals hanging outside like that.There were a lot of flies. It was hot and smelled bad. We were allowed everywhere. One day, a young Arab boy decided to be our tour guide for free. He took us walking on the walls above the city. I remember that he said that they were the only red-headed Arab family in the market.
The Arab souq was our favorite huge shopping labyrinth to get lost in. They sold beautiful handmade backgammon sets, religious artifacts and boxes made from olive wood, interesting jewelry, worry beads, scarves, clothes and evil eyes. The bargaining was half the fun (even though we just got it down to the real price in the stores) “We dont hate the Jews,”said the people in the market. “It’s the Zionists we don’t like.”
On my first trip, I did not blame them. The Israeli boys we met were aggressive and the girls were mean to us. Cheap college day tours took us all over Israel from Jerusalem. We met a lot of Americans doing the same thing. The second summer I met nice Israelis. We truly believed that there would be a lasting peace.
I resisted coming back to Jerusalem for many years because I did not want to see what was happening. The Arabs and Israelis did not learn how to coexist. Now Israel the hero of my childhood, is seen by many as the oppressor. For some reason, they have more UN human rights violations than the most corrupt, brutal, sadistic, child army, third world nations. Israel wasn’t the attacker in the 48, 67 and 73 wars. They defended themselves and won. Isn’t that what happens in a war? Governments get land and young people die or get injured. The Palestinians like the American Indians had unfortunately lost the claim to their land from the British before Israel became a state. Israel built their country from nothing just like America did. It seems to be a hopeless situation now.
They call it apartheid by choice. There are Arab speaking schools and Hebrew speaking schools. The Arab schools are divided into Muslim and Christian schools.
The Hebrew Schools are divided into Orthodox and Secular Schools. There are divisions between the divisions. There are a few mixed schools.
I think those who call it South African apartheid have forgotten or never knew what South African apartheid really was. Yes there is prejudice on both sides and many problems but it is not that.
The holiest city on earth is even more divided on my return many years later. It is still living as one but with a lot of new rules, security and boundaries.
This time, I am staying at the beautiful King David Hotel. As we enter the city from the nearby New Gate, Dvir, our tour guide, tells me that there is still only one red-headed Arab family in the market.
Sunday Is Monday – Shopping In Israel
“When practiced, Sabbath-keeping is an active protest against a culture that is always on, always available and always looking for something else to do.” Stephen W. Smith
Tel Aviv appears to be a cosmopolitan, secular city. My time in Israel included two Sabbaths (Friday afternoon through Saturday evening). I awoke the first Saturday morning and anticipated the beautiful breakfast I had eaten the morning before at the hotel. To my surprise, there was no cappuccino and no one was making eggs. There was dry cereal, pastries, hardboiled eggs,smoked fish, salads and instant coffee – not the Saturday morning brunch at a hotel that I was used to.
After a walk along the beautiful beachfront to Jaffa and back, I was preparing to do some shopping.
I was told that everything was closed and there was no public transportation. Coming from a consumer driven society, I didn’t really believe that. This was a tourist area, some stores must be open. I don’t often have culture shock visiting a country. I expect things to be different. I know all toilets are not created equal. I try to remember to take my shoes off in Asian countries when visiting someone’s home or a temple. Preparing to be a Sabbath violator, I went out in search of shopping. There were some restaurants and cafes open and a mini market and that was it.
In the afternoon we went to the old beautiful city of Jaffa. Jaffa is a mix of Arabs and Jews so I was hopeful.
We looked at the beautiful old architecture and walked the maze of alleys to the port.
We had a beautiful sunset lunch/dinner but no shopping there either. “Sunday is Monday” said my friend.
I was thinking about it. Does a day of rest strengthen a country and a family? There were a lot of families in the park. The beach was packed with people. Families were strolling around the city. For us Saturday is a day of housework, soccer tournaments, ballet classes, sporting events, matinees, movies and shopping sprees.
In America Sundays used to be a day of rest. We didn’t have a national religion but all stores and businesses were closed on Sundays so we did have a national day of rest. Some people went to church, visited their grandparents, had a big family meal, went to the beach or the park or for a drive. One day a week we did something different. Our day wasn’t defined by consumption or production. We had fewer choices of what we could do. It was a day to be lazy and read. It was a peaceful ordinary Sunday, a common day of rest which for us ended in Chinese or Italian food. As we now search for inner peace through mindfulness and meditation, it is interesting to see what disappeared when America lost that.