Today is “Jerusalem Day” in town. That is comparable to our Independence Day and it celebrates their capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. We decided to go over into West Jerusalem to see what was going on over there. We have been living, eating and seeing the sights in East Jerusalem (the Palestine sector) for so many days we thought it best that we see the more modern side of (Jewish) Jerusalem. We heard of a free walking tour of West Jerusalem in English at 11:00 AM and showed up in time for it only to be told they had changed it to 1:00 PM. So we did the tour on our own. There is quite a difference between the two areas—East Jerusalem is crowded, dirty, and the buildings and housing are old and often run down. West Jerusalem is clean, modern, and very upscale. That doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, but it is the first thing visitors see when they visit both sides. So West Jerusalem is very Jewish and East Jerusalem is very Palestinian (Christian and Muslim).
Since it was Jerusalem Day we found spontaneous celebrations breaking out in West Jerusalem. People wrapped themselves in the flag of Israel or waved it on a banner, marched, sang, and danced down the streets. Our tour of West Jerusalem took us to the turn-around point at the Market area. It reminded me of the market area in Tiberias only much larger and well equipped. You can find almost anything you want here—household items, tools, clothing, but mostly food—vegetables, sweets, spices, fruits, nuts, etc. If your thing is vegetables they have everything you can think of and some things you probably have never seen before. You could say that about many things there. I am an olive lover—especially Mediterranean olives--and I couldn’t believe my eyes at the olive tables. I never knew there were that many different kinds of olives. Well, you get the idea about the market. It is a delight to the eye and the senses and you want to stop and buy so many things they have on display. We found a nice café for lunch. We have been eating Palestinian food for lunch every day so we hung around West Jerusalem long enough to taste another variety of food. Their (Jewish) salads were wonderful—as tasty as what we have been eating in East Jerusalem, only different.
We went back into the old city long enough for Eric to find a place that sold the kinds of things he was looking for as gifts to bring back home. He has really learned the art of bargaining. He is better at it than either Kathy or myself. Bargaining is the way shopkeepers live here. You never pay the original price. They may say that X is what they will take for an item but it can always be bought cheaper if you know how to bargain. He finally found what he wanted and thought he had made a good deal, only to find it on sale for less in another place. Oh well, that is the risk you always take when shopping in the markets and bazaars.
One of the celebrations we decided to attend on Jerusalem Day was a free concert by a local orchestra held in the Tower of David, which is really a large citadel (fortress) built mostly by the Crusaders over Byzantine and Roman ruins. The concert was well attended and was held on the inside grounds of the fortress. They have nightly sound and light shows that tell the history of Jerusalem that are held here. The mayor of Jerusalem was in attendance at this event and the lines of people waiting to get in went by the mayor so he could shake the hands of the people attending. So the lines were backed up. Leave it to Eric—he found another way to avoid the backup and it took us up to another level of the fortress where no one had yet gone and it was a perfect place to see the concert because it served as a balcony. Once he made the move to find another quicker way to find seating many others followed him and we all had good “balcony” front row seats. The concert was composed of old Israeli “folk tunes” and, of course, all in Hebrew. Once the concert was over we explored the whole fortress, since we were already inside for the concert. The rampart walls served as a great place to get pictures looking out over the city. After the concert we went over to the Jaffa Gate to watch a parade that started at the Damascus Gate and ended at the Jaffa Gate. That ended at about 7:30 PM and since it was another day in the 90’s and hot, we decided to go back to our hotel and call it a day. Tomorrow we plan to walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel which goes under the old City of David and deposits its water into the Pool of Siloam. I mentioned that yesterday, and I will tell you more about it tomorrow.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.