Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Marias birthplace, more excavations and a funeral

Yesterday C and I thought it would be fun to go to the old city for shabbat. So after a long morning involving coffee, newspapers, more coffee and herring, we headed to the bus station to catch a sherut to the Old CIty. When we got to west Jerusalem we found it - to no surprise - devoid of life. we walked the mile or so to the old city which as usual was bustling with tourists and that huge infrastructure designed to make money off of them. First thing we did was to walk along the ramparts of the wall. It was amazing: the ramparts stretch from the Jaffa gate to the wailing wall, encircling the armenian quarter. When we got to the Kotel (western wall) I was anxious to see what the muhgrabi gate excavations looked like. They were - to no surprise - not major. I photographed them and will publish the images tommorow. After getting told off by a haredi for using my camera on shabbat, C and I headed throught the old city via the via dolorosa to "The church of mary's nativity" which contrary to what both of us thought, was not a church dedicated to The Nativity but instead was built on the spot where Maria was born. It was an amazing 10th century church, that had been turned into a Koran school by the Arabs, and then donated by the Ottomans to the french for their help in the Crimean war. The french turned it back into a (catholic) church and yesterday it was being used by an american evangelical congregation. They were exploiting the amazing acoustics to talk in tongues and scream "Hallellujah" every 20 seconds. It was pretty intense to witness the religiosity with which these born agains testified. After they left, C and I probed the mythical echo and then walked around the church grounds which included remains of a 1 century BCE cistern, and a monastary. As we left we walked through the muslim quarter and stumbled upon a funeral which scared the life out of me. A large group of angry muslim men holding a body draped in green in a coffin on their shoulders can't possible good! But as prejudice bowed to reality they walked by, somber and sad and unaggressive (to my relief). I guess it meant that the deceased had not been killed by israeli fire: no anti-israeli slogans were being chanted, nor effigies burnt. Nevertheless the whole event was kinda shocking. Finally, we ate some kebab and kubeh on the roof of an armenian restuarant with views of the domed roofs of old city before leaving and heading back to modernity.


Blogger Rob said...

"Yesterday C and I thought it would be fun to go to the old city for shabbat." What a great opening sentence for a blog post. In complete contrast to the day K and I had - driving home from Lancashire. Less Maria, more M6.

Keep up the posting Noam, this is fascinating.

2:10 PM


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