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Archive for December, 2011

We continue through the market looking for markers, all right I confess I stop at every stall; I want to buy something for the kids and well, I don’t want a “I <heart> Jerusalem” tee-shirt.

Fifth station located. Now it’s time to know what’s it all about. Apparently someone called Simon carried or helped Jesus to drag his cross – the inevitable chapel is nearby and the inevitable Jew does not enter.

My Latin is not that bad; I haven’t studied it for years but I can still read it – a little bit. I doubt I could translate Cicero now.

Another stop now to drink more mint tea and buy some more water bottles. We need to drink a lot, it’s really too hot.


I don’t know what happened here (possibly some crusaders fought  some other crusaders) but there is a church nearby. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, I’m utterly lost. Bet the others are as lost as I am, though I am becoming an expert in Latin and decipher that someone called Veronica wiped Jesus’ face, er, “here”.

We need now to find the seventh, and we are getting hungry. I want to get some falafel from any of the street stalls, but my colleagues prefer a restaurant because they think it’s more hygienic or so. Anyway, while we discuss it we find the next station:

There is an old cross with a  hole under it; if there is a church nearby, I can’t see it (I’m too busy eating my falafel).

And, while I very unhygienically lick my fingers and drink the last of my water, we find the ninth.  Or quite – we need to go inside yet another church.  And then the rest of my mates decide to have lunch on a terrace.

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We decided next to follow Jesus Christ’s walk  carrying his cross. It was my mates’ decision, as I cannot imagine how any dissident rabbi condemned to be crucified by the Romans could walk, crossed or not, through streets that were built during the Middle Ages.

Apparently each spot is marked:

so it should be easy to follow this alleged path. Well, it isn’t. Most of the marks are scattered through the market, and the market is more than full: it’s overbooked. So, armed with the National Geographic guide, we started our walk.  The Via Dolorosa, or the Path of Grief.

I’m not sure where they want to begin; according to someone we should begin the pilgrimage in the Garden of Gethsemane. But that would mean retracing our steps and gosh, it’s hot.  So, in the end, we go our own way. Flagellation Priory first. I don’t want to go in; all those images of a dying, tortured man sicken me. So I stay away of every church, priory, chapel or whatever that commemorates the stations.

We have to cross the Ecce Homo Arch (but this couldn’t be here two thousand years ago, not as it is now, OK, I’ll shut up).

And then we reach our next station:

(I am already lost with all the discussion about beginnings and ends but I trail along dutifully).

Apparently Maximilian of Bavaria reconstructed the site – Heaven only knows what it was in the beginning; now it’s another chapel – where I refuse to go in. After all, I already know what I’m going to find.

We are beginning to get lost at this point – the rest of the crew as well as myself.  Finally we find the next station:

:

Ha, it’s the third. There’s no mistake because it’s written down. Jesus falls. We weren’t as lost as we thought. Well, just a little bit.

I’m still wondering how can anyone believe a man could have dragged one heavy wooden cross all this way – and the original ground is dozens of metres below; but it’s traditional.

 

I’m not quite sure what this one is meant to represent. We’re now into the market. Jesus and Mary, or Jesus and the Magdalene.

 

We decide to stop now and take some mint tea. I prefer grenade juice with ice, I’m not worried about if it’s OK or not to drink something that it’s not bottled or sealed: I love grenade juice.

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We continue our tour to see the Tomb of David. It’s almost empty now, illuminated by candles here and there. I explore every recess; I don’t want to cross the road and visit the Shoah Museum at the other side of the street. That’s where my mates are now.

I was dragged once into that Museum, and I don’t want to come in again; I have no need of reminders, and that last time I was there I cried till I had no tears left.

There’s a yeshiva just on top of David’s Tomb, with a sign that indicates it’s also a music school. Wonderful. I wait outside,   sitting on a steep, daydreaming,  expecting to hear some ethereal, heavenly music. Orthodox boys were pouring into the yeshiva, carrying with them their musical instruments.

I jumped from my comfortable step when I heard the first chords of Smoke on the water booming against the walls.

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I climbed the stairs that lead from the Wall to the City of David, way up the hill. On the second landing there’s now a sentry box where a very young, and apparently very bored, Israeli soldier, stood guard. I sat on the wall next to the sentry box, under the shadow of a tree, to roll a cigarette. I had taken off my shawl and my long-sleeved blouse, so I was wearing cutoffs and a tee-shirt.The stairs are a good vantage point: all the people coming and going down on the square can be seen from there; at that moment was filled up with of American tourists.

The soldier looked at me, laid carefully his rifle (maybe it was a rifle, I know nothing about firearms; it was long and black) and begged me for a cigarette. I rolled one for him, and we both sat on the wall, this time watching the stairs – because, after a frantic search through pockets  (in his case),  and handbag (in mine) we found out none of us had a lighter.

A varied crowd of people climbed up and down the stairs. The soldier and I kept on asking for a lighter, but the anti-tobacco league is widespread.

One of them, a very round, very jolly mullah, in a long black robe and white turban, approached us with a lighter and, after I rolled another cigarette for him, lighted them.

So there we were, a Muslim, a scantily dressed Jewish woman, and an Israeli soldier, talking about how really expensive tobacco is nowadays and smoking our cigarettes.

There was just one religion missing there, and it was coming up the stairs. The young man wore a pair of canvas trousers but was bare-chested; he didn’t, anyway, need a shirt: his chest was virtually covered with crosses, crucifixes and icons of Saint Mary hanging from gold chains.

When he saw us, he stopped right on his tracks, wide eyed.

– “Sinners!”, he shouted, “you will all burn in hell”.

The mullah, the soldier and me looked at each other. It was the mullah the one to answer first.

– “In what way are we sinning, son?”

– “I can see your black souls, sharing marijuana with the Whore of Babylon! God is my witness!”

– “Yeah, I’ve hidden the marijuana inside my gun”, said the soldier, “you can check it if you want”.

– “The soldier is lying”,  said the mullah, “I’m the one who has the hashish hidden inside my turban “.

– “Convert to the true religion and forget your false prophets! All your false prophets are burning in Hell, and so you will!”

The Israeli soldier exhaled a puff of smoke and calmly said:

– “What about Moses? Isn’t he a prophet of yours, as well? Is he burning in hell?”

– “And Jesus Christ is a prophet of ours”, said the mullah. “Is he burning in Hell too?

– “The only true salvation is in Christianity! Convert, you sinners! Convert and denounce the evil ways of false prophets! Accept Jesus Christ in your hearts, and spread the Word! Denounce the Whore of Babylon!”

He meant me, of course; the Israeli soldier hardly looked the part, and no sane mind could have imagined the round mullah as a voluptuous belly dancer.

By that time there was a crowd of Muslims, American tourists, passers-by and schoolchildren from a nearby yeshiva watching the scene.

The soldier crushed his cigarette but, shook hands with the mullah, smiled at me, retrieved his gun and told everyone to leave. The mullah crushed carefully his cigarette butt, put it inside his pocket, winked at me, and left.  I crushed my cigarette butt, looked around to see where my mates were, and joined them.

– “What was going on?, they asked.

– “We were just having fun”, I answered.

The young man with the crucifixes, after some hesitation, decided to follow the Whore of Babylon, namely me, still shouting.

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I woke up the next day thinking hard about what I should wear to get out safely from the East Side. I took a look out of the window, and though I can see the Garden of Gethsemane quite near, all the women who are walking the streets wear the full niqaab.

And my carry on trolley holds cutoff pants, Nike’s All-Stars, tee-shirts and one white shawl sewn with little bells. I decided to wear cutoff pants, roll my shawl around the waist, put on my blouse and don the hijab. And head for the Western Wall. I want to pray and leave my little paperbit with my prayers amongst the thousands that are already cementing the Western Wall.

There’s no buffet at the hotel, but the cook shows the usual kindness and hospitality any Arab shows to a guest, even a terrified Jewish guest. The food is halal, so I can eat whatever he prepares. The people in the streets look at me with what I feel like suspicion – but maybe it’s the sound of my bells as I walk which attracts their gaze.

It’s quite difficult to reach the Wall; Orthodox Jews tend to think they own it, and will stand for hours touching the wall and swaying to and fro. I have to wait quite a long time, then I get tired and just push my way. I’m a Jew and this is the Western Wall. I want to pray at the Temple, even if this wall is the only thing that remains.

I caress the old stones, I close my eyes, I pray. I pray because there shouldn’t be armed wardens around the perimeter, I pray because peace should reign between Muslims and Jews and not distrust, I pray because there is a God who hears my prayers, I pray because tears are running down my cheeks and I don’t want to stop crying. I stick my prayers in a crevice and I leave; there are many more people who need to pray as much as I do.

Leaving the Western Wall.

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