One of my traveling companions (Steven, and that is his phrase, and a very civilized one at that) pointed out that it’s hard to live in a museum. That is what the
After the destruction of the
Now, in fairness, when I have actually asked questions, I have been given a polite response (for example, the Hassid who explained why some mezuzahs are straight—they are Sephardic and there’s no symbolism; they just are prettier that way, fit the doorpost better—was perfectly polite to me). On the other hand, there is random rudeness—the black hats that just casually brush me off the street while studiously looking aside (I learned to walk with my elbows ready to use when they tried that); the elderly fellow who passed me on the street and lectured: “beged tsnu’a” (modest clothing—I was wearing jeans and short sleeves, not too immodest for Ben Yehuda Street!)—next time I see him, I ask: “Mi meit v’mashakh oto l’hiyot Elohim?” (who died and made you God?).
But that’s not all. There are the varieties of Christians eagerly pouring through the streets still looking for the symbolic piece of the true cross. There are Arabs—Christian and Muslim—blocking your path as you navigate from one street to another.
And every time I try to get anywhere I get lost—and when another of my traveling companions leads, they get lost too. So a lot of time is spent wandering down blind alleys that may be the rats’ revenge for experimental psychology.
However, after all these complaints, there were some pretty interesting things. There was the section of wall that has been uncovered that goes back to before
The Kohl archeological museum was a winner—the excavation of several destroyed houses from the Roman period.
Several Sephardic synagogues that have been rebuilt in the past fifty years.
And we wandered, while looking for the Jaffa Gate, into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. That was quite the impressive place, the variety of churches that shared the space, the variety of Christian visitors, and the variety of decoration, mostly clashing.
While we were looking for the Jaffa Gate, it turned out that there was an “incident”: an Arab snatched the gun from a Yeshiva guard (apparently a particularly obnoxious Yeshiva, not that that makes a difference), shot him in the shoulder, then ran. He was pursued by others with guns and a regular Wild West shoot up took place. The Arab was killed and around eight others (probably tourists) injured. Yeah, and we missed it all (thankfully) because we were lost in the shuk.
Here is Yehuda Amichai on tourists in
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall.
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on the top of Ammunition Hill. They weep over our sweet boys
And lust over our tough girls And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms. Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David's Tower, I placed
my two heavy baskets at my side.
A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself :redemption will come only if their guide tells them, "You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family.