Today I’m feeling nostalgic, and therefore will write, but not in my standard way (as you can tell by my title). (and yes, I will get back to my favorite moments at some point…)
I just had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be back in Israel. I can envision in my mind’s eye that I’m walking along the road headed to the Jaffa Gate. So I think today, I shall tell of the walk through the old city.
Please join me, As we go down the elevator and walk into the lobby of the Tower Hotel in Jerusalem. Walking strait, I go through the side door, because for some reason the revolving door always freaks me out just a smidge. As I walk out of my hotel, there is a large section of brick sidewalk, and then the road. To the right are shops, mainly selling clothes or coffee or some cheap accessories. And when I look to the left there’s a plethora of restaurants From Italian, Chinese, Japanese or American. Anything you want to eat is just a jaunt down the road.
Turn left to head to the old city. Walking past people, vendors and that graffiti that states “set the police in fire” on the side of the building. Such an odd thing to see posted on the side of a building. As we walk we go downhill, continuing for less than a mile, now we pass apartments and parked cars. We come to an intersection, where there are two roads curving at odd angles, which makes the sidewalk come to a sharp point where the roads meet. Time to cross, and don’t worry about waiting for the signal, as long as there aren’t any cars, you can cross. Sharp right! Cross two roads now, it’s a split road. Now just go down the stairs and you’ll see this:
This is the passageway that leads to the Jaffa gate. You’ll notice that the wall ont the left has markings on it. That’s because they took it down and marked each piece and then rebuilt it, kink of like a giant puzzle. Something that my not be quite as clear from this picture is the art that line the walkway. Local artists (i belive) have sculpture lining this walkway it makes for a very chic and artsy look as you walk down. You almost feel like you’re in a giant art exhibit. The shops that line the walkway are a high price for the most part. Fancy spas or restaurants, but mainly clothes with super cute dresses in the windows.
We are now arriving at the end of the passageway, go up the stairs (amphitheater like, half circle stairs, just so you get a picture in your head). As you walk up you see the walls cascading up, there my friend is the Old City wall. From the stairs there’s a courtyard of sorts with people buzzing all around and vendors trying to sell you fresh bread and sweets. And apparently, just because they want to let you know that they’re hip, there’s a huge pice of modern art in the center of the courtyard. Looks kind of like a 40 foot tall mobile. Interesting really.
Moving forward we go through the gate, which is a huge (about 20? feet) pointed door. Then turn to the left and you’re now inside those mammoth walls that are the Old City of Jerusalem. This is what it looks like from the inside:
Now I don’t know if I’ve told you this or not, but did you know that all the buildings in Jerusalem (and I believe in Israel) have to be built with Israeli stone? Meaning all buildings are made with stones quarried from Israel itself. Interesting? Yes. Causing issues with a lack of building material? Yes.
If you keep going straight, following the sidewalk, you will enter the bazaar. It’s crazy and colorful and full of people and things yelling and walking and moving about. I didn’t get a picture of this. I’m sorry I failed you. walk through two slices of the bazaar then turn left then make a right, then walk down those stairs you are now entering a courtyard. to your left there is a beautiful synagogue which is being re-built, it’s one of the oldest in the city. Looking forward there are outdoor tables and chairs with umbrellas where people can sit and eat their lunch. The first time we walked down this way most of my classmates went into a small archeological museum, while me and a few others wandered around outside waiting for them. If you walk down one of the little roads it leads to a residential area, and that’s exactly where I went, you can see some of the pictures below:
This was actually one of my favorite times in the city. It was day 1 in Jerusalem and we only had about 15 or so minutes to take a break while the others went through the museum. But it was here that I saw the daily lives of the good Jewish Israelis. The women had their heads covered, and were wearing long skirts and 3/4 length shirts. They were taking out their trash, watching their kids and having conversations with their neighbors. It was here that I realized that they aren’t really any different from you or me. Despite the fact that they live in the Holy Land, they are still people looking to make a life for themselves. Taking care of their daily needs, and they were also people who had hurts and pains and were just as lost as anyone in the world. They were beautiful, and as I sat on a ledge under a tree, I began feeling God’s heart for his people and his land.
Israel really is a Holy Land, you can feel it when you stand there. But the funny thing is, you have to look for it. It doesn’t hit you in the face when you land in the airplane. It doesn’t hit you when you’re on the temple mount, and it doesn’t hit you when you’re standing in the countryside with a pick in your hand. It hits you when you sit and pray. When you ask God to show you. Then it hits you hard. Israel is a land full of religion…but God isn’t active there, not unless you search him out. And if you do seek him…well…hold on, it will be a crazy ride.
I got off on a tangent there…sorry.
Anyway! Going through that courtyard at an angle, you will head down a road lined with food vendors, (I got a bagel, seemed appropriate in the Jewish Quarter). Going under a large archway we keep going and make a slight shift to the right, and then you were there. At the top of the stairs looking down at the Western (Wailing) Wall. Descending the flight of stairs you go through the security system at the Wall (not unlike airport security). Then you walk out and you’re in the courtyard of the Western Wall, Isn’t it pretty?
This picture wasn’t taken in the courtyard obviously, it’s taken from above, but I thought it would give you a better understanding of the layout.
From here you do your best to be respectful of the people at the Wall. If you so chose you can approach it. When I did the first time it was in the middle of the day, broad daylight. I walked up, found a small place between to women, and touched the wall. I placed my written prayers in the cracks…then I prayed. And then I cried. I cried for the people of Israel, I cried for my family, I cried for my schoolmates that were with me, and I cried for my (now) fiance. And then I cried for me.
I walked that road every day I was in Israel. From the hotel to the Jaffa gate, then normally to the Wall or somewhere around it. So I thought I’d share with you some of my walk. I hope you enjoyed the company.