Day 2

Family Tree

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13

Jerusalem, The Old City, Kotel, etc. etc. etc!

Day Two - Tuesday July 4th 2006 – - Yom Shlee-she

Amazing, absolutely amazing day! We took on Jerusalem the Old City today among so many other great sites, and not once did I even think about the fourth of July being independence day back in the United States. I did however, make the realization, that July 4th, a day of independence in the states, will forever be the day that I first saw the Wailing Wall, the day that I walked the streets of Jerusalem, and so many other events.

First we went up to Mt. Scopus, and over to the Mount of Olives to view the old city from the eastern side. Overlooking the valley of Kidron, and over to the old city, the view was absolutely breathtaking! I cannot describe it in words, one must see this view for themselves. However I will try. In front of us was the most historically significant city religiously, politically, and emotionally for scores of millions over thousands of years, in the world.

As far as you can see, were houses and structures, some old, some more modern. You can stare in one direction for a long while and not even be able to take in the depth and the detail of all that is in front of you. The  vastness that is Jerusalem, is quite overwhelming. There are so many homes, temples, mosques, tombs etc.

The valley separates the living (Jerusalem) from the dead, which are represented by the mass of tombs on the other side of the valley on the Mount of Olives. The people that are buried there are the closest to Jerusalem and arguably the first ones to be “resurrected” according to Talmudic tradition when Moshiach comes.

The stone that Jerusalem is made from is called “Jerusalem stone” and is limestone that is excavated locally from various quarries. It is very similar to the stone that is used at Virginia Tech which is made of sandstone.

We took a tour of the City of David which was the very first settlement of Jerusalem on the south eastern side of the city. This city was very well fortressed, and protected by a large hill on the eastern side. The focus of our tour was to discover the underground water supplies that fed the city. Archeological digs, mostly by British archeologists, the main one by Charles Warren, had discovered several tunnels through which an underground water supply was tapped and used to sustain life. Hezakiah’s tunnel was used to dam the water supply and provide for the then “City of David.” Amy Beth and I walked through these narrow tunnels and loved every minute of it. She looked back at me the moment that she had to squeeze through a very narrow opening and was laughing and said, “this is the best part!”

We noticed an Arab boy who threw out an empty bottle of water only a few feet from a trash receptacle. 

Thought:  Why would he care about keeping this land clean? Because, it’s not his. This seems to be one of my reoccurring thoughts that the Arabs almost seem to be punishing the Jews by not developing the land, and taking what they are given and making it worse. There is a significant difference between the Arab areas and the Jewish areas.

We entered the Old City through the Zion gate. We noticed the bullet holes around the gate that were caused by the Jews in 1948 as they fought the Jordanians for control of the Jewish Quarter – we will study that more in detail tomorrow.  We ate lunch in the Old City. I had a "shwerma" (it was OK, not as good as I expected) and Amy Beth had falafel.

After lunch, we went to visit the tomb of David. The architecture had many arches, a result of the crusade period. We also visited the symbolic area (not the real area) where apparently the last supper was eaten.

The group then was going to go back to the hotel. Amy Beth and I decided to stay in the Old City and meet up with the group after dinner. Great decision!!!

We walked through the shuk. At first we walked through the Jewish section.  The crafts were exquisite but expensive.  The paintings were mostly originals and beautifully framed.  Since this was our first shopping experience, and considering the prices, we moved on.

We then passed an archway, and the Jewish section turned into the Arab section.  There was a complete difference.  There was less light, the shopkeepers were almost exclusively male.  The shops were less ornate and the merchandise was less artistic and more for tourists and those shopping for textile goods.

We bargained with some Arabs for goods. There was one in particular where we bought a couple of items, named Iyal. We bargained him down from $50 (about 225 shekels) to 70 shekels (about $16) for a nice skirt. I paid him 15 shekels for a scarf, the nicest fabric he had according to him. He tried to get us, but we held our ground!

The shopkeepers all have an angle to try to get you to buy from them.  They attempt to initiate a conversation with you as you walk by.   "That's a beautiful color you are wearing my lady!  Come, let me give you my card."  We quickly learned how to not fall for their schtick when were weren't interested.

When we came out of the shuk, we just happened to be right next to the Jaffa gate. We were planning on going to Jaffa gate, but it was coincidental that we came upon it after our walk through the shuk.  

We took some pictures and then headed towards the Kotel. As we were on our way, I heard a voice say “Richard!” I looked back and there was Marcy Jason Peck Mostoffsky. Now that was a coincidence! We sat down for over a half of an hour and just caught up with Marci and her husband, of a year and a half, Michael Mostoffsky.

We then went directly to the Kotel. As we approached the Kotel, there were several beggars who successfully obtained some tzedakah from us. We went through security to get to the Kotel and there it was... 

The wall...

The incredible “wailing wall” was before me for the first time.  It was about what I imagined as far as size.  There is a plaza where people can gather and ample area in front of the wall for davening - at least for the men.  The women had about ½ to 1/3 of the space.  There is a mechitzah, a separation, between the men's side and the women's side.  

I walked in and was preparing for an unbelievable experience. An orthodox man, his name was Ya’akov, approached me and led me to the wall and asked me to repeat a prayer after him. He then recited the priestly blessing on me, right there at the wall. This was a marvelous experience and I was just trying to soak it all in, when he whispered in my ear, "tzedakah" - charity. He was now asking for money. I didn’t really have a problem with this, I was prepared to give some tzedakah. I had already given my own tzedakah on the way to the Kotel, but I had $10 from Lo that I traveled from Richmond to give.

I gave him the money, a $10 bill, and he looked a bit disappointed, and then said, "but I have children..." I couldn't believe the guy wasn't happy with $10.  This is where I started to feel uncomfortable and that this cheapened the event for me. A friend of his then started to also hassle me about money and I just wanted them to leave me alone. I paid his friend 20 shekels, partly to get him to go away. They continued to hassle me and another guy came up to me to beg, and I said, “leave me alone!"

I then went to the wall, by myself, and recited the Shema and placed a prayer for health, happiness and prosperity for all of my family with mine and Amy Beth’s entire immediate families mentioned by name. When I turned to leave, I decided that I should get a picture with Ya’akov. His friends tried to get more money, but I just turned them down.

All in all, the event was meaningful, but it had some disappointing overtones.

We then went for dinner in a café that only served fish dinners. Even though I really don’t like fish, the food was OK. We then met up with the group back at the Kotel. This time, I decided that I would avoid the beggars completely. I went in and observed the wall, the people, the prayers, the davening, then I went to the wall and said the whole shema and reiterated the prayer that I had written down. This was a much better experience.

The group went on the excavation of the western wall of the temple. The deeper you dig, the more you uncover older civilizations. They just cover over the ruins of older civilizations and build on top. It’s amazing how deep the wall goes. The Arabs have done just about all that they can to conceal the original wall. The only part of the wall that you can see is about 200 feet across but the wall actually stretches over 1500 feet!

There was a part of the wall where some ladies were praying (underneath during the excavation tour) where it was pointed out that on the other side was the “holy of holies.” That is as close as anyone can come to that spot, currently. Amy Beth and I took a snapshot at this spot.

There was no exit for this excavation tour.  Gadi (our guide) explained to us that negotiations for an exit with some stairs were being made between an Arab shop owner and the authorities, but Arafat stepped in and denied the permission to the shop owner. There was another (easily accessible) exit, again Arafat wouldn’t allow it. We, as everyone else, had to walk back through the entire exhibit, some 1000 feet or so, through narrow pathways etc. bumping into people going forward to get out. The exit would put people in the Arab area of town anyway, but to hell with Arafat for being such an Ogre! Gadi, asked me why I was so surprised over this, considering he turned down the best land/peace deal ever offered. Still I thought this demonstrated his complete unwillingness to compromise, I mean, come on, it’s an exit door!!!

We then went to the Fuchsburg Center (the center for Conservative Judaism located in Jerusalem) and saw Menachem Creditor who was performing guitar and singing with another rabbi for some USY students. They were very entertaining, especially when singing their original song "Shabbos Elevator." 

We went to a Supersol (a grocery store), bought a few things and came home. It’s better to come early, stay late and take it all in. This was just the first full day, I mean, who needs to sleep in Jerusalem!!!

Back ] Up ] Next ]

© Copyright 1998-2008.  All rights reserved.