Israel’s Capital of Jerusalem: Bursting At The Seams With Vitality

UPDATE: Huge fire currently burning just off Highway 6 near the Iron Junction. Suspected arson.

Below: a map of the Old City of Jerusalem.

In describing the March for Jerusalem he took on Tuesday, your humble servant left you in yesterday’s blog on the steps yesterday leading up from the Kidron Valley toward the southeast corner of the Old City Walls in the direction of the Dung Gate. In my final installment today concerning this trip, I just want to take you along the south wall of the Old City–where in the space of a few hundred meters you can catch a small glimpse of brightly multi-faceted Israel.

As we neared the top of the steps, and turned the corner to the right, the following view greeted us:

The southeast corner of the wall of the Old City with the Al-Aqsa Mosque up on the Jewish Temple Mount.

The situation up on the Mount is incredibly complex. I will not recount the sordid history from some 1400 years ago of how Muslim rulers deliberately built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on top of the destroyed Jewish Temple. Suffice it to say that after Israel retook the Jewish Temple Mount in the 1967 War, Israel (in a remarkable yet ultimately absurd gesture of religious tolerance) left the Islamic Wakf in charge of the rules governing what could happen at Judaism’s holiest site.

The result is today that non-Muslims cannot even go up to the Mount except for extremely restricted hours (often no longer than for several hours a day). Christians cannot carry a Bible with them up on the Mount, and Jews cannot have a Torah. No Jew can pray at Judaism’s holiest site. As was reported on the israelstreet breaking news ticker on Wednesday, a Jewish man praying a special prayer for Sukkot was actually arrested by Israeli police for waving his lulav in the air. Such is the nature of the Temple Mount.

Excavations continue at the ever-expanding site of the City of David located just outside the southern wall of the Old City. The large complex extends for 150 meters to the left of this photo.

At the top of the stairs, to the left is the “City of David” archaeological site, a site so interesting that it cannot be described within the confines of this blog (I encourage you to click on the following link (City of David). As is obvious from its name, this is the site of David’s original city built more than 3000 years ago, and the Jewish artifacts that have been found there are astonishing.

One of the most amazing features of the site is Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a remarkable hydraulic achievement of the ancient world–that is still functioning today. The 533 meter tunnel which was carved in rock deep underground supplies water to the Old City from Gihon Spring outside the Old City. If you are not claustrophobic, you can actually spend 45 minutes wading the length of the narrow tunnel (you’ll need a flashlight because it is pitch-black inside).

On Tuesday, we didn’t have time to enter the “City” but the continuing and ever expanding excavations at the site (see above picture) were visible as we continued climbing up to the Dung Gate.

Outside the always crowded Dung Gate--the closest gate to the Western Wailing Wall.

The Dung Gate (called Shaar Ha’Ashpot in Hebrew–see Nehemiah 3: 13-14) was literally the garbage gate. Because it is the lowest of all the gates of the Old City, refuse was taken out of the Gate and dumped and burned in the Kidron Valley. Today, it is probably the cleanest of all the Gates because of its proximity to the Western Wall–which is less than 100 meters away inside.  The main bus stop for the Western Wall is just outside the Dung Gate which brings me to my next picture.

Even buses are controversial in Jerusalem. An orthodox Jew with a megaphone was beside this bus directing women to sit in the back part of the bus and men in the front.

The struggle between orthodox and secular Israelis plays itself out everyday in Jerusalem. Just this morning, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat fired Councilwoman Rachel Azaria from his coalition for petitioning the Israel Supreme Court to remove the partitions that separate men from women in Jerusalem’s orthodox neighborhood Mea Shearim.

On Tuesday, your humble servant’s wife was not so humble as she passed the man with megaphone who was directing women to the back of the bus and men to the front. Speaking for secular Israelis she politely asked: “Where is your respect for women? Aren’t they the ones who brought all of us into the world?” To which he smiled and politely replied: “Yes, you are right, we should thank women for producing our children. Women to the back; men to the front.” Such is life in Jerusalem.

As we continued past the bus stop, we encountered a large group of about 50 Nigerian Christian pilgrims coming down toward Dung Gate.  Seeing the Israeli flags we were all carrying, they erupted in “Praise be to God for Israel, Praise be to God for Israel.”

But we were quickly jerked back to Israel reality one minute later further up Maalot Shalom Street where Israeli Arab mothers were dropping their kids off for school.

Just up the street from the Dung Gate: a Palestinian school festooned with banners for an Israel-Arab terrorist who was released for Shalit.

The school was in a celebratory mood–festooned with banners and pictures–which streamed above the facility. And what were they celebrating? The release of an Israeli-Arab terrorist from Jerusalem (see picture above). It was a graphic illustration of the cultural gap that separates different groups of Israelis.

Finally, we reached the top of the hill (which is actually Mt. Zion) near Zion Gate. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the bullet holes that pock the stone all around the Gate itself–bullet holes left over from the Palmach’s assault in 1948 that led the way into the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Across the street is the tomb of King David.

Zion Gate. Note the bullet holes all around the Gate.

Our walk continued on for another 3 miles, past the Prime Minister’s home and the President’s house–out into west Jerusalem. All in all, it was an exhilarating experience that you should all experience next year in Jerusalem.

Vocabulary Reminder:

1. Use ‘Judea and Samaria’ instead of ’the West Bank.

2. Use ‘Jewish community’ instead of settlement.

3.  Use ‘construction of Jewish homes, schools, and hospitals’ instead of settlement activity.

4. Use ‘new Jewish communities’ instead of outposts‘.

5. Use ‘Jewish community member’ instead of settler.

6. Use ‘conservative politicians’ instead of right-wing politicians‘. 

7. Use ‘PLO’ or  ‘Palestine Liberation Organization’ instead of Palestinian Authority.

8. Use ‘Palestinian Islamic Terrorist Organization–HAMAS’ instead of merely Hamas.

9. Use ‘Israeli men, women, and children’ instead of  Israeli citizens.

10. Use ‘Palestinian cities’ instead of  Palestinian refugee camps.

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