Thursday, September 11, 2008

Various Sights around Jerusalem

This entry is a "catch all" of various scenes from our wanderings around Jerusalem. Fear not, I do plan to devote individual entries to more of the major Jerusalem sites (such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Agony and the Garden of Gethsemane, the Stations of the Cross, the Tower of David, The Tomb of David, the Upper Room, and so forth). Still, I thought it important to present some images and remembrances that don't necessarily fit neatly in with any of the recognized places.

As we quickly became aware, Israel is a country that is ever vigilant, prepared to defend itself against its surrounding enemies at all times. Once they turn 18, all Israeli Jewish men and women (with some exceptions for religious reasons) are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Force for two or three years, with reserve service continuing until the age of about 45. Members of the IDF almost always keep their weapons and equipment at hand, and it is not unusual to see armed soldiers taking the bus back to base from weekend leave. In Jerusalem, there is a mingling of the IDF, the Israeli Police, and the Preventive Security Service of the Palestinian National Authority.

Security was particularly strong at the "Wailing" or Western Wall; visitors had to pass through metal detectors, and all bags and packages were subject to inspection.
The following photos depict Saturday morning (Shabbat) "traffic" just inside the Jaffa Gate in the walled (old) city of Jerusalem:

Despite orthodox Jewish observances of the sabbath, Jerusalem is a place of such varied beliefs and practices that the markets in the old city were nevertheless open for business. Here are some views of various market stalls and shops from throughout the city:

Rusty and I were particularly impressed with the displays of spices for sale.

These merchants were taking a break from their sales day.

Yes, the Hard Rock Cafe and Coca-Cola are everywhere!
The newer portions of Jerusalem are quite fascinating as well. Our hotel, the Dan Panorama, was very close to the YMCA.

The YMCA, below, is really striking, and beautifully lighted at night.

Here is a view of the King David Hotel, which is just across the street from the YMCA. This hotel is top of the line; many heads of state, dignitaries, and celebrities have stayed here. During our visit, U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama was a guest of this hotel.

This is a view of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament; it is located just across the street from the Shrine of the Book museum.
There are many, many antique and antiquities stores located throughout Jerusalem, both the old and the new portions of the city. Here is one storefront, with an amazing Sterling silver scroll "case" (for the scrolls of the Torah) on view:

Outside the Jaffa Gate is a brand-new, ultra-modern, upscale outdoor shopping mall:

The most amazing thing about this shopping mall is that it is reconstructed, each stone having been labeled before the old buildings were taken apart so that the stones could be reassembled to recreate the street once internal reinforcements had been erected.

This is an artist's drawing of the work in progress (and it was ongoing while we were there):

Finally, a couple of scenes from the streets of old Jerusalem; it is a city of many, many tourists, particularly during the summer months:

We were amazed to encounter this outdoor fountain in the old city, since water is so precious here. But it is a beautiful work of art--a "kinetic sculpture," if you will--and testifies to the people's ability to overcome difficulties while continuing to hope for a better future.