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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daniel Tours Jerusalem

(To be read with austere British accent in the vein of Tolkien and Lord of the Rings...) 

As the morning sun crested over the horizon, we forged ahead, up the treacherously steep hill to the summit of ... Mordor, the mountain where one’s strength is sapped and all tension and evil converge! 

Ok, accent notwithstanding, Mordor is how my mother refers to the Old City of Jerusalem. You had to have read or seen Lord of the Rings to understand the comparison. But today, I, Daniel of the Shire, made a hobbit’s journey into the Old City where the destiny of the universe was, and is, and is to come right on this very real estate. This makes it an overwhelming place to be if not also historic, spiritual, touristic and just downright rough some times. I am not a tourist, however, today, in mommy’s “bring-your-child-to-work” effort, I did visit certain places for the first time, for example the Western Wall. 

The Western Wall (kotel in Hebrew) is the - and I’m being redundant - Western wall of the second temple, built by King Herod. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Now, on the other side of the walls sits Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Jews pray on one side, Muslims on the other. I was content to eat lunch there and pray a little as well. 

Me deep in prayer at the Kotel

My day in Mordor began with Grandma. Whenever she gets the chance, Grandma proudly strolls with me around the alleys of the Jewish and Armenian quarters, showing me off to anyone she meets. I am, after all, her favorite grandson. Well, the only one, but still. She took me for a whirl today while mommy was off stalking the rescued Chilean miners, 25 of whom are here in Israel on a tour sponsored by the Israeli government. Mommy spent the morning with them - and the entire Israeli and foreign press corp - at the Holy Sepulchre and then the Western Wall (that’s where I came in). Then mommy found them at the Garden Tomb later in the afternoon where she was the only reporter and actually had a chance to interview some of the men. Far from the media circus of the morning, the miners enjoyed a respite in East Jerusalem’s oasis of peace - the Garden Tomb. There, they took communion and spent time in quiet reflection.

Chilean Miners at the Holy Sepulchre

Chilean Miners at the Garden Tomb

To get there, my mother walked through the other half of Mordor, out Damascus Gate and onto the busy Nablus Road. To expedite her walk amid the bustling pedestrian alleys, she cut through the meat market. Remind me to be a vegetarian. She recounted to me the array of body parts she never knew existed of sundry unidentifiable animals hanging from hooks and swinging into the corridor. The FDA would have a cow, no pun intended. Mommy breathed through her mouth the entire time and picked up the pace, sidestepping the bloody pools on the cobblestone. Once she cleared the meat aisle she was well into the main artery that leads to Damascus Road.

A veritable spice mountain!
Throngs of people squeezed through the street past spice shops, video stores, an aromatic coffee shop and pastry stores. This road is navigation not for the faint of heart. Mommy, however, didn’t need to be fluent in Arabic to understand the bargain of the day: ashara and kilo were all she needed to know to buy 2.2 pounds of strawberries for about $2.75!

A strawberry mountain!

All of this explains why she didn’t take me to the Garden Tomb. The walk would be challenging for a new mother bringing along a baby. I’ll make it there someday.

In the meantime, I am convalescing at home this evening with an eye infection. And, as I am getting a bit fidgety and whiny at the moment, it can only mean one thing: bed time! So good night for now.

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