2014 April 09
My apartment is very close to the old city. This evening when I finally got done with filing forms for my lost luggage, renting a cellphone, getting a shared taxi to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv (always an experience!) and then meeting up with my airbnb.com host and getting acquainted with my new apartment… it was just about sunset. I felt completely comfortable going out in the failing light to wander the lightly filled streets of the old city.
The hawkers on the main tourist drag of David Street and beyond are all as I remembered them… jumping out into the street (and the term “street” is used lightly) to accost you as you pass.
“Hey Lady! Let me ask you a question.”
“All my things are waiting for you to see!”
“What are you looking for?”
“Yes? What do you want today, Sister?”
And, as I had found the last time… smiling, greeting them in Arabic with the words for “Peace by with you!” still works. A Muslim (and most of these shopkeepers are Muslim) MUST answer you with the Arabic for “And also with you.” I have found that if I smile, greet, and keep walking… by the time they have gotten out their required “and also with you”, I am LONG gone… and they have figured out that I am not the average in-Jerusalem-for-three-days tourist.
I headed for the Holy Sepulchre and arrived about 7pm. I wandered around, trying to get a feel for the architecture, with all its twists and turns over the past 16 or 17 centuries. The place is very quiet in the evening… all the tourist groups have gone home, the place is dimly lit, except for a few places… and the workers are out trying to put a polish on the place. Literally! There were two nuns and 3 or 4 lay men with brass polish rubbing things to a shine. Not to mention the quirkiness of seeing priests of different sects each go into THEIR little locked cupboard and come out with a white rag and a bottle of Windex. Must keep the glass smudge-free!
Also… many of the small offices for each sect (there are six that share the Holy Sepulchre) were open to peer into. While, of course, I didn’t step INTO any office or store room without an invite… the open doors allowed a glimpse into the tucked away architecture that is rarely seen by the public. These doors are mostly shut TIGHT during the heavy tourist hours!
There was an open door to the left of the church entrance… in an area I know is “owned” by the Greek Orthodox church. Since four men (including three young men in robes) were chatting inside, I did not overtly pop my head in for a peek, but I was intrigued by some icons on the walls of what was apparently just a “break room” for the priests. I stopped to look at them from about 3 feet from the door.
“Come IN!” the un robed man beckoned. “Would you like some Greek nuts?” he asked as he scooped some pistachio nuts into my hand! We all had a nice long chat about America… was I an “Obama” person or a “what-do-you-call-it? Republican?” We talked about being a democrat surrounded by Republicans in the south… and about all they knew about southern United States was “Texas!”. We talked about Greece (one of the young priests was born in Athens and expects to die there). They gave me a brief history of the Holy Sepulchre building… the various building, conquest, destruction, re-building, conquest, destruction, re-building, FIRE, destruction, re-building! They proudly told me that the Sepulchre itself was “All Greek, every bit!”. And oddly… when asked about the purpose of the room we were all in, they talked about it being a break room… and” where they kept the guns and swords!” Because they were all warriors there… each and every Greek in the church was a warrior to defend their religion. I like to THINK they were being metaphoric, but I’m not ENTIRELY sure they were! lol! They gave me a rather brief history of their religious conflicts with other nations…. mentioning Turkey specifically.
And THAT kind of interaction is why I LOVE traveling!
Life’s a TRIP!