Wake up, find the breakfast, wait around, talk and talk, head to lunch, negotiate leaving the Ecce Homo for lunch, eat the $4 hummus, come back, explore the space below, throw 5 shekels through a window, back to the computer. Sabbath is good.

But I feel isolated now - somehow separated by my Westernness into this other category of tourist. I and my countrymen are newcomers to Jerusalem, historically and presently - I will leave this place treasuring my memories, but knowing that this place cannot even be my home. I am a stranger here.


This is my personal blog. I am also using it as a journal for the trip, but I'm trying to keep personal content and group content separate.

On another note, we should be putting some stuff up as a group shortly.

Two Neighborhoods

We went out to East Jerusalem with Ali and to West Jerusalem with Ohfir, and walked through a very Orthodox Area (with signs asking all visitors for modesty). But I was most struck by a museum on the Seam that used to divide Israel and Jordan before 1967 - its work reminded me that in this time of no communication gaps, anywhere, our physical and electronic presences will continue to divide, with the latter growing in a limited room of importance. Not that this makes sense, but I think I'm understanding more about the motivations and ideologies in this place, and why what happens here has such huge ripple effects.
Our days have settled into something of a rhythm:
  • Wake at 6:00-8:00 (later each day)
  • Breakfast from 7 until 8:30
  • 8:30 - into the field until lunch at some falafel place
  • an afternoon session
  • dinner at Ecce Homo at 7, then an evening activity.
Though there are seders and other events that interrupt the flow, we are mostly going for 12 hours a day, with an hour or two break for napping or journal-writing. (My journal is here.) Yesterday, for example, after being promised we would never repeat the Ecce Homo-Western Wall-Temple Mount-Lion's Gate-Mount of Olives-Dung Gate-Church of the Holy Sepulcher-Jewsih Quarter-Ecce Homo-45 minute walk to the Seder and back, we went only to the Mount with Ali, the Muslim Quarter, Home, then the Christian Quarter with Hanna.

The silliest part, though, was that after dinner, we went to the Western Wall, and then took a tour of the Western Wall tunnels, which actually butt up against Ecce Homo. However, because the exit from them on the north side of the city isn't used at night, we then had to walk all the way back to the Ecce Homo underground.

For me, the Western Wall tunnels were an amazing experience, showing how deep this city actually is.

so much

  • temple mount - ali
  • church - hanna
  • western wall - deep

more later

The Seder - Day 2, Part 2

We went to a Seder at the home of a Williams alum last night. Wearing purple cow yamakas (sp?), we wined and dined with various alums and spouses - quite nice, but my internal clock still has me waking every day at 6 AM, so I started to crash at 11 PM. Whhheeeeee jet lag!

Jerusalem: Day 2, Part 1

  • The difference between Muslim and Non-Muslim access to the Temple Mount is stark: Muslims have a large number of available entrances, including some near the Ecce Homo where we're staying, but to access the Hadif, we'll have to walk to the far South of the Old City, beyond the Western Wall, where a two-lane checkpoint is open at some times for non-Muslim guests. Security at the other openings is much simpler - I saw a bag being checked, but no metal detectors.
  • I was struck also by the sexism of the Western Wall. Men at the Wall had a lot of space this morning to stand a pray; sections of the wall were open. Women, on the other hand, were tightly crowded into a much smaller space that gave them much less access. 
  • The tourist approach to the Mount is a part of the Iron Rule in Jerusalem that there's nothing more permanent than a temporary solution. It's a causeway atop scaffolding that stands where a the hillside used to be, before it was cut away by diggings on both sides and erosion. When the hillside eroded beyond safety, a permanent bridge was planned, but the required concrete had to be dug down. The diggings had to be sensitive to the history of the site, and inspired controversy.  Thus the scaffold remains.
  • The Western Wall security was very bored with me: I didn't have to remove my backpack and had only to put my phone and iPod next to the detector. Any non-metal objects could have gotten in, no problem. My fellow student with a headscarf got a search. I'm also told that any Muslims who don't "look" like Muslims (is not Arabs) have a harder time getting onto the Mount and the Muslim-only buildings atop it.
  • The Western Wall is a mixed metaphor - its plaza was formed through forced evictions of Jerusalem residents, and when the plaza overwhelmed the wall, Jewish authorities merely dug down to make the Wall appear larger.
  • We ran into someone featured on a video we watched on he Bereaved Families Forum in Williamstown - small world.
  • The Temple Mount is both very peaceful and very gun-filled. The last time the guns were fired, our guide thinks, was in 2000 when Sharon came up to the Mount. Some kids were playing soccer up there - its a very big space, even with the two sacred buildings.
  • A small kid came up to me with an outstretched hand when we were about to leave the city - Slumdog Millionaire made me much more comfortable saying no, though I still felt dirty for having done so.
  • I was very frustrated by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Instead of being a model for all Christians, it is as much a show of divisiveness as the Temple Mount/Western Wall. The splits seem political, not spiritual, and I find myself very discouraged by the church's interior.

The Ecce Homo Roof

Jerusalem: First Impressions.

The Old City is tiny. The physical realities of the place force proximity that would otherwise be uncomfortable: the Muslim Quarter right up against the Christian Quarter, against the Jewish Quarter. (The Armenian Quarter hasn't really been visible to us yet). One is struck by the huge range of diversity in the people and religions - little children in the street in the basic garb of Jews or Muslims mark themselves as they run among us, dodging the heaping carts of too many boxes that functions as the cargo transport system in the tightly wound alleys and streets.

This is a place where every square meter matters: where a Jewish House in a Muslim area is marked by many bright Israel flags, where guards of both public and private allegiance stand guard while seeming civilians also walk around with their machine guns. But there is no fear, or if there is fear, it is invisible. Possibly this is because Jerusalem's residents are used to terror or fear, but I think the security state of checkpoints and a layered defence also functions. At the airport, I went by 5 places of armed guards before leaving, compared to one place in Atlanta with unarmed guards. It's the price of doing business and seems to be acceptable.

Jerusalem is also a dirty city (or at least the old part is), where you get the feeling that things are decided by the locals who live in and around the place, and less by the international powers that focus so much of their attention on this tiny, walled city.\

PS: Other posts will be here.