Nely Trip to Israel Day 3, 5/2010
Today we started ( by popular request) with a tour to Mount Olive. Our incredible tour guide Mike Rogoff, who is beyond educated and cultured, brought so much meaningful color commentary every step along the way. At Mount Olive we were reminded of the message of the olive branch and the meaning of olive trees in ancient Israel.
I finally realized where the universal message of the olive branch came from. We never really speak of ancient things in the US, because there is no “ancient” anything in a country just over 200 years old. Here, the ancient seems so present everywhere you go and in everything that is spoken.
We then spent the morning walking through the old City of Jerusalem , divided by four religious and cultural sections; the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim/Arab Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter.
As you go through each quarter filled with market places and restaurants, they feel distinctly different although at first glance they might seem the same.
In the Christian Quarter, Mike took us to the Holy Sepulchre, were Jesus was believed to be Crucified and where he is buried. There we so many people from all over the world, mostly Russians and Greek orthodox followers on our particular day. Our group, which is mostly Catholic, were very touched with this part of the trip.
We then shopped in the Christian
Shops, which were full of iconic jewelry and chachkis. It made me realize how well the Christians, especially the Catholics have marketed their religion through their merchandised iconography.
I can say that, since I was raised Catholic and I know first hand.
This quarter was very art and collectible oriented, with the highest prices and the most order.
The Muslim/ Arab Quarter was frantic, inexpensive and rapid fire in negotiating prices.
The Jewish Quarter was quieter, more together but the merchandise was less flashy, more cultural and low key. Prices negotiable to a point.
I didn’t get to spend time in the Armenian Quarter shopping area.
You are on your own.
In the midst of this unique and holy place where so many religions are in such close proximity , it is so easy to observe the passion and zeal of their followers. When you observe the importance of each culture; its traditions and rituals, you realize how dominant is the factor of religion and each one’s respective ideology in this country.
It is something that we do not experience in Los Angeles. It is difficult to even explain how it feels to be in the midst of the power of religion and its supreme importance, when you are here.
Its an inexplicable force dominating both church and state.
Later at the hotel, we were graced with a talk by Dr. David Mendelsson from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
He brilliantly explained the history of Israel, how it became a state and the challenges it has faced, since its inception.
You really feel ignorant coming here. At home, you think you are smart, well read, but once here , you realize you know nothing. Here you are exposed to the complexity of the issues, cultures , religions and most importantly the geography of enemies who live in such close proximity-all while trying to work think out, so far unsuccessfully. It is quite a difficult rubik’s cube. There is no easy solution to any of it.
On a culinary note, we have been well fed by the Federation. Each day enjoying local Israeli cuisine.
On this night we found an Argentine restaurant called, The Gaucho Grill, that I highly recommend. Afterwards, we walked all over the city and felt very safe walking at night by ourselves. However, we had to laugh at the directions we got from everyone,” go left, then right and then its that way!” Good luck finding anything with those directions! Everyone was lovely but we continually lost our way and luckily found magical neighborhoods along the detours, that enchanted us. We love Jerusalem.