Sunday, December 21, 2014

back to it.........

I've been a bit quiet. I've had the most awful cold and spent a lot of the past week asleep. However, I am beginning to feel a little more human now and feel I can continue my journey.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, I had just come home from our wonderful art adventure and was getting ready for my next trip to Jerusalem, Moshe was babysitting me again. Not such an early start, and today we were going to be visiting other areas of the city. It was a really beautiful day, and the sun shone brightly so no need for a raincoat.

We arrived at the central bus station and this time, Moshe said we would walk. We headed across the street and then took a short walk down a backstreet to a building that Moshe wanted to show me.

We walked into the stairwell and Moshe explained that a well known Rabbi had lived here, Yehuda Leib Maimon. Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple in 70CE, (why can't we use AD like we used to?), and during the wedding ceremony, the groom will break a glass, to remember Jerusalem. There are other things that can be done as well to remember Jerusalem, such as leaving a small part of a wall unfinished without plaster.

In this case, the Rabbi had a lovely tile placed above the doorway to his apartment, as a hint to the psalms, "On the waters of Babylon". I have to thank Moshe for the reminder as my notes were not very full on this point. 

We left here and then started out on our main walk which was going to be to the Israel Museum. But first, we went to a small square where there is a memorial to the surrender of Jerusalem, I think it was during the first world war that this happened, and the city was surrendered not once but four times!! The reason for this was that the first time, there was a member of one delegation who wasn't there, so they had to redo the surrender, then a similar event so it was surrendered for the third time, in the end it was just surrendered but just took four goes to do it.

The memorial is very interesting, and its not until you look very closely that you see the carvings on it closely resemble Crusaders holding their swords......... (I'm sure I probably have this story all wrong, and if I have, I will correct it.) We carried on when Moshe pushed open a doorway and beckoned me in, there, in the middle of the city was the loveliest little courtyard, a little oasis in the hustle and bustle.

We carried on back to the main street, and then continued down the hill, an easy walk which was going to take us to the Israel Museum. We took a small street and come upon a graveyard. It was very busy - which is a bit of a dichotomy, but what I mean is that there were lots of (live) people there. Moshe told me that another rabbi had been buried there, and a young woman came to his tomb and prayed, asking for help with a problem and the story goes that the rabbi performed a miracle, so the place has now become a shrine of sorts. 

We took a small pathway right beside this, the entrance to which had a head high tarp to stop people staring in at the goings on in the graveyard, and then came to the most surprising spot in the middle of the city, the Jerusalem Bird Observatory.

This was a real surprise and I hadn't expected to see anything like this, but it was a lovely spot. This little bird was the only one who was visiting  at this point, but still a catch! ( My new camera takes awesome photos.) We sat in the hide for a little while watching, and there was a class of schoolchildren who were visiting too.

But it was time to move on as we had a lot to do today, so we carried on our way. A little further down the road and we came to the Knesset, the Parliament of Israel. It was almost bizarre as the bird sanctuary really isn't very far from here. It was a beautiful spot though, and we stopped at the entrance to the Knesset to view the huge Menorah which had been donated by British Jews. It was extremely decorative.

I was standing at the gates to the Knesset, quite an experience to see it. There were some beautiful sculptures along the fence too.

We carried on as just below the Knesset lies the Israel Museum. This is a huge sprawling place, but absolutely wonderfully full of the most interesting artifacts. It is extremely modern, and has some wonderful sculptures, but our first port of call was the building that looked rather odd, until I found out that this was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were, and the building resembled the lid on one of the jars in which they were found. An amazing building and it was amazing to see fragments of the scrolls on display. 

Then, it was on to see something that I thought was very interesting, and it was here that I had my light bulb moment as everything I had seen on my first trip to Jerusalem, fell into place and made perfect sense! Up to this point, I was still struggling to make sense of a lot of things.

Here I was, looking at a model of Jerusalem during 2nd Temple time. As I say, things started falling into place, this view shows the view towards the temple from the city of David. Remember I said how impressive this must have been to a pilgrim? The Kidron valley would be at the base just outside the city wall.

I was standing at the base of the steps  on Monday, and here they are leading up to the entrance, (I would be standing at the other side of the wall to where I was the other day), it shows the temple in the centre and the orange roofed building is where Jesus would have thrown out the moneylenders and prostitutes. Remember, the  temple was the holy of holies and only the priests would have been allowed in there, the buildings running around the edge were almost like a mall. You would have climbed the steps up to the entrance and then entered into this courtyard.

The model of the temple

Now, this is where everything fell into place. I have now moved to the other side of the model, and you can see the wall that surrounds the City of David and the temple. The other wall is the next stage in the growth of the city. 

I've cropped the image so you can see it better, but THIS is where Golgotha would have been, this rather lumpy piece of ground by the inner wall. This is where it all made perfect sense as we had stood on the same wall on Monday, Golgotha was outside the city walls as we have always been told.

By the time we reached here, we had been in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then walked towards the Kotel, first crossing this piece of wall. Now Jerusalem was beginning to make sense!

Having had my lightbulb moment, and stood and studied it a little more, we then left and headed into the main body of the museum. What can I tell you about it except that it is a truly beautiful space and has a Cardo and a Decamanus. We went into the antiquities gallery and saw some amazing objects, in fact, Moshe was very selective about what he showed me as there was so much, I saw sarcophagi, pots, scrolls, and many other things which related to all I had seen so far.

It is quite something to think that this country is 2000 plus years old, and contains the most amazing amount of history as there are so many layers to it. It reminds us how young our own continents are, and in many cases, how they were not as advanced as a civilisation.

We visited the gallery of Jewish Life, with artifacts from birth to death which was interesting, and also four synagogues which had been brought in and rebuilt, one from Surinam, one from Germany which had been in a beautiful painted barn, beautiful Torah covers, and other items such as Menorahs and other things connected with different festivals, as Moshe said its actually quite difficult to put things together for an exhibit, as its not terribly showy.

After we finished here, and I managed to buy a book on the museum, we then caught a cab back up to the top of the hill and went to Ima's for lunch.

When we finished, we carried on walking , but this time we were heading towards the Mahane Yehuda, the main market, but we dived off a street or two behind the main street to visit some neighbourhoods. Moshe told me that a neighbourhood could consist of five or six houses, but they would all live together, and help each other. 

This particular alley may look nothing, but in fact had five, yes five synagogues. We were lucky enough to walk down here and find one of them open. No bigger than a 12x12 ft living room. They kindly allowed me to enter so I could see the inside. There was a gallery which is where the women would sit at the top, and the Bima  looks huge, and is where the Torah is read from, there were chairs ranged around the edge of the room which is where the congregants would sit. I wish I could have photographed it for you, but I do feel that they deserve privacy, and it's not a tourist attraction.
Where ever we walked, we saw a synagogue, as you can see, they were small and not grand churches, and I did sneak a photo through windows.

The Bima can be seen quite clearly through the window in this shot

In this neighbourhood, this synagogue had originally been Sephardic but was now Ashkenazi. Sephardic Jews came from Spain, and the Ashkenazis come from Eastern Europe.

Moshe then took me to an amazing spot. Again we were still heading for the market, but in a street just off the main highway, we cam across a red brick building. Remember I said that all buildings by law, had to be built of Jerusalem Stone? Well, there was this red brick. When I looked closely I could see there was more to it than met the eye. Moshe told me that I might see two ornate walls, but behind them, there was nothing but scrub and trees, and yes, I could see trees growing. He told me that this was a copy of the facade of a synagogue in Poland, but there was something even more fascinating. "Come here", he said, and we walked silently up the pathway to the entrance to a synagogue, and there in the wall on the left, was a door. He quietly opened it, silently nodded to the man inside, and told me to have a look. It was an extraordinary sight as there were two tombs covered in stones, and a man praying. I knew that putting a stone on a tomb is a mark of respect, and these two tombs were piled high with them. They belonged to two rabbi's, a father and son, both of whom were well loved, and there will be someone there 24 hours a day praying.

There really is so much to learn. You might be wondering why there are so many synagogues and what the need is. A lot will be to do with tiny nuances in the singing or the services, so people will follow a different synagogue. 

It was time to head to the market, it was Thursday evening, and people were getting ready for the Sabbath and the market was full. We were waiting to cross the road when I saw this shop behind me with prayer shawls and other items. And then we entered the market. Again, the sights, sounds, and smells, lots of Hassidic Jews shopping for the Sabbath which made it interesting and I was taking surreptitious photos as I have enough material for the next few years for quilts.

I will finish this post with this shot of this lovely young man, partly because he is good looking, but also I was taking a photo of a Hassidic gentleman and trying not to be too obvious, when, out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone waving at me. When I had taken my photo, I turned to see his lovely smiling face, how could I not take his picture and add it to my collection?

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