THE OLD CITY
As soon as you enter the Old City, as I did from the Damascus Gate, it seems like another planet. It was like a party and a market with lanes filled with shops, with smells like in the co-op, and lovely intriguing new smells, fresh vegetables, trinkets, burlap bags brimming with olives or dates or pistachios. The narrow lanes were bustling with all kinds of people, talking all kinds of different languages and wearing different kinds of clothing. In Jerusalem one’s choice of dress much more publicly indicates one’s religion, viewpoint, ethnic background.
The lanes were often at a steep incline. There would be steps on one side of the lane, and a ramp-like incline on the other side. Carts could thus be pushed up or down the streets, bearing large loads. So many people and things and colors all crammed tight next to each other!
The Via Dolorosa, with more elegant shops with more expensive souvenirs, is much more deserted. The lack of tourism in the last four years has hurt all the shopkeepers there tremendously. The traffic has been reduced by as much as 90%. But that is finally beginning to turn around, they say. Certainly I saw tour groups of Asians, and Jews, and French and Spanish Christians, and nuns. There were shopkeepers whose father and grandfather before them had tended the same shop.
It was fun to go shopping with Mr. Vanunu in the Old City, because many people recognize him and break out into a huge warm smile and greeting, often involving a hand-shake and a ‘Thank you.’ How heartwarming! There was a Japanese delegation of tourists; a woman recognized him! ‘Mr. Vanunu!’ she said. ‘Where are you from?’ he asked. ‘Nagasaki,’ she answered.
My first afternoon there, there was a magnficent rainbow, toward the southeast. I saw it from the garden of the Tomb. This is one of the two possible places – at least the ones officially commemorated in the town – where Jesus’ body was lain after he was taken down from the cross.
The spot where he slept for two evenings, then rose again! Where history cracked and the whole earth was reborn into a new thing!!!
The tomb there did look just exactly as you would imagine, from hearing the story over and over since childhood, and letting the story take shape in your mind.
This site, as well as so many of the other holy spots along the Via Dolorosa – simply and utterly moved me so that the tears streamed down my cheeks.
In the garden of the Tomb there were large palms and succulents growing all around, even out of the stone walls. Enormous fairy-tale-looking plants. There was a little bird, finch-sized; it was quite tame as it hopped from branch to branch not far away from me, singing its cheerful notes. It was mostly brown, with iridescent turquoise blue on the back of its wings. All so beautiful!
There were also crows I was not familiar with: hooded crows. Two-tone, black and dark grey. Nicely marked. Their song sounded very nearly to an American crow’s voice, but not quite. Just as you would imagine. Their strut was exactly the same.