Church is every day at 12:30.
Just before, at noon, Mr. Vanunu climbs the steps to the Cathedral’s bell tower. He rings the bells, obviously with great pleasure and joy. Several consulates and government ministries are within a few blocks, thus within hearing distance of the noon bells at St. George’s.
Immediately next to the cathedral there is St. George’s school, and the sounds of children playing at recess in the yard made for lovely music most of the days. Directly across the street is the British consulate, with more lovely flowering vines flowing over the walls.
Between the school’s play yard and the sidewalk is a rectangular stretch of land with nothing except rubble and garbage, much like you could see in any neglected blighted neighborhood in American cities. It seemed odd that no one bothered to clean this up, and perhaps plant a few flowers. It was locked from the street side and therefore could stay clean if one just gave it an effort every now and then.
There was a garbage problem in general in the Old City area. Just outside the Damascus gate is a low spot, and it is just filled with garbage. The planters are overflowing with it.
Mr Vanunu says that the city managers won’t allow trash bins on the street, as one would normally expect to find in a crowded city; the reason being that ‘someone could hide bombs in them.’
Well, it seemed to me that the depth of garbage which resulted instead, would be just as good a place to hide a bomb.
My third day there I was finally up and alert by early morning. It was much chillier, with a light drizzle. Not really a tourist-y kind of day. So, encouraged by the inspiring example of Kathleen and Dale Hein in Prairie du Chien, I took several garbage bags out with me. First I cleaned up the block leading to the Cathedral entrance. Then I went to the block down the street, where the buses stop, where the police station is, where you turn into the Garden of the Tomb. I cleaned out four of the five tree planters. It took perhaps a little more than an hour. It was very satisfying work, and it looked much better when I was done.
Of course it won’t last long; they will fill again; but people I’m sure must have noticed. Perhaps that will encourage them to find ways to help keep it cleaner and prettier. It’s so beautiful otherwise; it deserves this much love in return. Many people did turn around to look at me as they passed; did I seem crazy to them? A little girl and an old man pitched in; wordlessly they brought me some bits of trash to put in the bags. Smiles all around.