Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo en Jerusalem!

Before I recount our day's adventures, let it be known that I am using a Hebrew keyboard and have to assume I'm hitting the correct keys for English. Please excuse typos and etc...
Okay, that out of the way, onto the day's activities.

After breakfast we set out to the Old City, starting off at the New Gate and making our way around the Christian quarter. We began there because I was antsy to get to the Church of the Sepulcher. After meandering around a gazillion wonderful little alleyways, looking at a bazillion trinkets, we arrived at the courtyard in front of the church. Despite being inundated with tourists (and mind you, some wearing matching caps following a leader waving flags... ugh), stepping into this place was breath taking. Somehow or another the air felt electrified and all we could do was gaze - up, down, around. Sparrows flew around the courtyard, dive bombing into the crowds, then swooping up in to the many archways and balconies.

We entered the church, and immediately saw a large stone slab where about half a dozen huge glass lanterns hung above it. People swarmed over the stone, laying crucifixes, rosaries and icons on it and then kissing the stone. It is believed that this is remaining paving stone of the location where Jesus was crucified on Golgotha. Regardless of its historical accuracy, seeing this dark cavernous place where the multitudes of faithful threw themselves onto the stone in hopes of a blessing... well, it was emotional. What can I say?

We then moved on the interior of the church , which actually is about 8 small chapels under one roof. And deep within is the most sacred of them - the site of Jesus' tomb. Everywhere we looked, people were kissing walls, stones, lighting candles, venerating ancient paintings and wall drawings. Nearby, a local priest waited for anyone interested in entering the confessional. Didn't see any takers while we were there.

We continued onto the Jewish quarter and found the Wailing Wall. We were walking hand in hand to it when a soldier said "women on the other side". Alrighty then. Alex joined the men, where the wall is much longer and actually goes inside a cave type shelter (he told me all this afterwards - I did not infiltrate) and in there he says was a sort of synagogue with men chanting, wailing and praying out loud. On the women's side, the wall is shorter and there is no covered area. I made my way to the wall, and although I was just going to take a close up look, found myself touching this wall, the last remaining structure from the Temple before the Romans destroyed it. Yes, I prayed. I even wrote a prayer down and folded it tightly to stuff into a crack. And following the tradition of the women around me, walked backwards out of the area, never turning my back on the wall. "Turn your back on the wall, turn your back on Yahweh."

Exhausted and slightly sunburnt, we took a rest before heading to our special dinner at Arcadia. The restaurant is located in a wonderful neighborhood in West Jerusalem; lots of pedestrian activity, beautiful little residential alleys and courtyards to explore. Once again, we were struck by the vast difference between East and West Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the similarity we drew with our experience of Tijuana and San Diego.
Huge thanks to the Bolger Family for their touching and wonderful gift of dinner at Arcadia. The restaurant is an ancient structure in an alleyway, small and prepares very delicious fare using only local organic sustainable products. The staff was incredibly friendly and gracious. Our waiter, Dan, now considers Mark Bolger a personal friend. :)

Been a long day. Gonna go to bed and settle in with a bed. Good night all, thanks for reading and until tomorrow.... Shalom!