Saturday, June 26, 2010

Old City of Jerusalem - June 24, 2010, part 1

My record of a trip I took Thursday to the Old City, complete with photos.

I began the day by eating breakfast with an old friend whom I had not really talked to for about ten years. (I still have friends in Jerusalem that I met when I lived here in the late 1980s). From her house, I went to the Old City, via Jaffa Road. I took the #18 bus along Emek Refaim, up King David St., and then and got off at the stop in front of the Iriya (the Jerusalem Municipality or town hall). Downtown Jerusalem is a mess because there is lots of construction for a light rail system that is being built very slowly. The main streets are all torn up and laying the tracks is going torturously slowly.

On Jaffa Rd., I stopped at the Bible Society and bought 20 copies of the National Geographic Jerusalem map from 1996 that I had tried to get from NG itself last year, without success, for my Jerusalem class. I don’t understand why the Bible Society here managed to get so many copies while NG itself possesses none. I Had a pleasant conversation with two women working there, one from Denmark, one from Finland. [The Bible Society is worldwide – they translate the Bible into as many languages as possible for purposes of proselytization. The Bible Society store in Jerusalem has lots of good scholarly books] on the Bible.

 Google Map of Kikar Zahal (Army square)

I then set out for the Old City – I crossed the street at Kikar Zahal [Zahal Square], and walked down the way to Jaffa Gate. They are actually renovating the park at Zahal Square – it’s been a mess for quite a while, but today workers were not only mowing the grass, but even edging it to make it look neater! 

 Archaeological garden at Kikar Zahal.

The walkway has been improved by the addition of several large trees to give additional shade. It’s actually quite handsome now.

As I got closer to Jaffa Gate itself I saw that the gate itself has been renovated – it’s been cleaned up and looks much nicer. Then I realized that I had to walk through the gate itself – the road into Umar ibn Al-Khattab Square has been blocked off because they’re doing construction in the square, so it’s a hideous mess. 

Jaffa Gate

I skirted around the construction, saying no to several shopkeepers who wanted me to come into their shops and buy something. One of them poked me on the shoulder to get my attention, which really pissed me off. I guess my patience level has been pretty low recently.

I walked along Armenian Patriarchate Road, past some Armenian shops, and turned into the area of the Armenian quarter occupied by an Armenian seminary. I walked around some, but it wasn’t very interesting. The Armenian museum was closed. There has been an Armenian community in Jerusalem for a very long time, but the community increased in size in the early twentieth century with refugees who came to Jerusalem after escaping from the genocide inflicted by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Garden next to the Armenian Seminary.

I continued down this road and arrived at Zion Gate, where I exited and went into Mt. Zion. I went into a church that I don’t think I’ve been into before, the Church of the Dormition. It’s modern but has some nice mosaics. (“Dormition” means “Sleep” and refers to the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus).

Church of the Dormition - notice the mosaic on the ceiling of the apse of Mary and Jesus.

I then went into the room of the Last Supper (or the supposed room – I don’t see how it could actually have been the room, since from the architectural details it’s from the Crusader period; then during the Ottoman period it was turned into a mosque – the niche pointing to the qibla [direction to Mecca] is still there).

It was too full of tourists, so I left, and found some stairs going up to the roof. I cannot resist going up stairs to roofs in the Old City because the views tend to be so interesting. This one was too, giving a great view of the valley between the Old City and the Tayelet [the Promenade].

It also gives quite a view of part of the Separation Wall, cutting through the Arab suburb of Abu Dis.

View from the roof of the room of the Last Supper. We are looking across the valley to the Tayelet.

Roof of the room of the Last Supper

The Separation Wall at Abu Dis, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem.

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