Deviating from my usual posting style, this post is mostly about the pictures – of various places within and around the Old City (Ir atika) of Jerusalem. Until about the mid 1800s this was Jerusalem with very little permanent settlement outside the walls. Today, the new city eclipses the old in size many, many times over but for the center of spiritual Jerusalem you have to head to the Old City.
First, here’s a night panorama of the Western Wall / Kotel plaza. The kotel is directly in front – this was a ‘regular’ weekday night. There’s no special holiday or event but one can still find thousands of people coming and going, mostly to pray at the Kotel. View the panaroma in it’s full 360 degree glory here: https://goo.gl/photos/vZVmp57mLU89PCsm6
Here’s today’s Mamilla mall, just outside the Old City (Jaffa Gate / Shar Yafo). In the 1800s it became a place for tradespeople and then declined after 1948, being on the border with Jordan and Jordanian snipers. Today, it’s very high priced real estate and has been taken over by western clothing brands and the like and placed mostly under a road and next to a parking lot.
Here’s a typical Old City street at night. People tend to be out and about at all hours, though the side streets (which don’t connect gates of the Old City to central locations, etc.) are usually fairly quiet and empty. This street passes between Shar Yafo (Jaffa Gate) and the Jewish quarter so it tends to be filled with people.
Not far from the Old City is an entirely different area – the Ben Yehuda Triangle where mostly tourists fill the restaurants, shops, and bars especially on Thursday and Saturday nights (but not on Shabbos when everything is closed for the holiday). Here, there’s some live entertainment from a local. Here’s the link to the big picture: https://photos.app.goo.gl/tNg4coVIyT1jdnj33
Back in the Old City, here’s the inside of Bircas HaTorah, a yeshiva where they’re quite serious about attendance. An electronic key card check-in and checkout system is next to the door and every seat is full. They bought the adjacent building and are looking to expand.
Beneath the building adjacent to Bircas HaTorah a hidden room has been discovered during the excavation. It’s not too clear (at the time of this writing) what was here, but it might have been a bakery with ovens. The Old City is built on top of … older old cities. The further you dig, the more back in history you go. It’s hard not to find history wherever you dig in Yerushalayim.
Here’s the southwest corner of the temple mount platform, looking out. The temple mount platform, the large structure built in a mountain by shaving off the top and placing rows of arches over each other in the size of about 28 football fields still stands today. The Western Wall is on the right, though the place where Jews gather to pray today is further down the wall closer to the Kedosh HaKedoshim (holy of holies) where Abraham almost took a knife to Yitzchok [Isaac] and the offerings were brought among other things. The stones are said to have been knocked down by the Romans on what was a street full of commerce right here. One would buy their sheep, goat, or the like here before ascending to the temple mount.
Again looking from the southwest corner outwards one can see the ancient “upper city” where the rich people lived. There used to be a valley in between with large bridges to get from one place to the other, but over the past 2000 years it’s more or less been filled in though the upper city is still high enough above that there’s quite a lot of stairs.
Here’s the Western Wall from underneath in the “tunnels”. Actually, we’re still above ground by quite a lot, it’s just that the marmalks (Muslim conquerors) raised the level of the city about 1000 years ago to the height of the platform but had the foresight to leave a nice space between the wall and the buildings so tours could pass through nicely. You have to plan ahead for these things… That stone – it’s huuugggeee. See it huuuggeee here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cf3RujNX27aH7OG53 – The tour guide had one of my daughters walk to one end and the other to the other end. Then they screamed to each other from each end. How did this stone and many like it get quarried and brought here with technology from 2500 or so years ago? No one knows.
Inside Shar Yafo (Jaffa Gate) a woman plays the harm in a white robe. Why? I don’t know. She wasn’t even collecting money. Maybe she’s paid by the city.
Back to the Kotel tunnels – those are paper yarmulkes that fell to the bottom. Tourists sometimes wear these out of respect but nevertheless … amateurs.
Here’s the mixed quarter of the Old City. Before 1948 it was mixed with Jews and Muslims. In about the 1930s with Muslim riots, the British segregated the Jews to the Jewish quarter kicking many Jews out of their homes, some of whom had family there for centuries. After the 1967 war when the State of Israel took control, some land was returned to the Jewish owners outright (e.g. what is now Yeshivas Cohanim), some was purchased (with the sellers often taken by armored bus for their safety and resettled in Paterson, NJ where they can live comfortably on millions of dollars just received), and some has been taken back through legal battles. The home at the end of the street with the big Israeli flag and menorah was owned by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Apparently it’s about as inhabited by him as it was when he was alive – the main residents are mostly soldiers guarding the place.
Still in the mixed quarter, here’s a little hole in the wall perfume shop. Note that the writing is in English and Arabic … no Hebrew here. There are actually many places where Arabs do use Hebrew … I saw much of it on the route from Jerusalem to Hebron, but alas, after two Arab uprisings very few Jews shop among the non-Israeli Arabs anymore. Arabs in Jerusalem can get full citizenship in Israel should they choose it, but most don’t while instead shooting themselves in the foot through uprisings and terror rather than noting reality – we all have to live together.
The light in the tunnel is Shar Yafo (Jaffa Gate) with the Old City wall lit up for the once a year Jerusalem Light Festival. With really, really bright projectors an entire show is put on and one can walk around and through much of the Old City for various light-based entertainment from seesaws to video projection to artwork.
Here’s the men’s section of the Kotel . . . the outdoors part. The women’s section is on the right. Occasionally, you even spot Arab women in hijabs who come here to look around or maybe pray. Should a Jew go up top where the Jordanians were given de facto control, they actually have paid hecklers to scream at Jews and a security force is needed. After my last trip to Israel, I stopped believing in giving Arabs any more control of Israel. They have autonomous rule of their own cities with large signs saying Israelis can’t even enter. That’s the real apartheid in Israel, but meanwhile, there are Arabs everywhere in the country and some major Israeli universities are actually a majority Arab. Meanwhile, when given control, the terrorists and authoritarians take over – criticize the Palestinian Authority and you’ll find yourself arrested and probably tortured in a totalitarian government which will probably never hold another election. … and I haven’t even mentioned Hamas, where they put their money into terror tunnels and missiles launched indiscriminately on cities while their population has 60%+ unemployment and 2-4 hours of electricity a day. If I was an Arab, I’m pretty sure I’d rather be ruled by Jews.
This is the tunnel under Robinson’s arch (one of the former bridges to the upper city from the Temple Mount). Today, it’s part of the men’s section. Again, just an average night and filled with people praying and learning Torah.