We stopped in front of tall city gates, which were slightly opened just enough for one person to pass through. My first steps in the Holy City of God were made through those gates, behind which lay, yet to be discovered, history of thousands of years. My first impression of the city was a slight shock at how such a small territory, surrounded by Turkish walls, could have so many different features. The Old City of Jerusalem, although small, is broken up into four quarters which give the city its own variety and distinguishes it from a typical city in the Middle East.
I followed the crowd and found myself walking through David Street lined with small shops on each side of the street. Although there was not much light coming into the street because the buildings were so close together, the long alleys filled with goods were quite welcoming and friendly. Everywhere I looked I could see tourists, some just passing by, and others just like me looking with interest at every item that caught their eye. Soon, when the cloud of bright colors and different patterns slowly disappeared, I could make out single items that were sold on the streets, many of which were crosses and little trinkets designed to appeal to the Christian. I realized that I was in the Christian Quarter. The Arab shop keepers quickly realized that my group of friends and I were in Jerusalem for the first time, and seizing the moment, they called out loudly to us, welcoming us into their shops.
The noise of bazaar faded, and the rough, black pavement changed into smooth, white stones. The dark alleys melted away and the bright sun hit my eyes. The Jewish Quarter is a very peaceful part of the city, with nice clean streets and wide open areas. Sitting down to catch a breath, I noticed a different pace of life which ruled in this part of the city. A few women sat close by, dressed in long skirts and long sleeved shirts, sharing the latest news. Behind them, little boys, wearing small kipahs on their heads, with tzit-tzit hanging down from under their clothes, ran around playing some game of their own creation. In the far corner of a wide open area stood a group of young soldiers, both men and women, laughing and time to time moving the strap of their guns hung across their chest. It seemed like time stood still, with no sense of hurry expressed by anyone in the quarter. Moving along, another group of people caught my eye, men dressed in all black with long beards extending down their chest. Perhaps just having left their students in Yesheva, they were discussing some difficult portion of the Talmud.
Turning into the next wide alley and passing by neatly compacted apartment buildigs, I walked toward another part of the city, so radically different from anything I have yet observed. Fresh air gave way to heavy warm air, filled with smell of different vegetables and meat hanging down from the ceiling of small shops. This was the Muslim Quarter, located at the far northeast corner of the Old City. I had to walk careful, trying not to step on tomatoes and other vegetables that had fallen off the huge carts that somehow managed to move through the crowd, pushed by short Arab merchants. Noise, like nowhere in the city, was louder than I could handle. Arab men screamed out prices of their products. In the distance, people were bargaining to get a better deal, and women, were rustling their large bags, with food for their next meal. The crowd seemed to get larger, and soon there was no space between me and the people walking alongside of me. As quickly as I could move, I made my way toward approaching city gate.
Walking out of Damascus Gate was a pleasant moment: no more people, no more noise, only fascination regarding how all that I experienced was hidden behind these city walls. Each quarter was so different, and so unique, I could not a first believe that the Jerusalem I saw was the special chosen city. I realize now that the history is what makes this city so interesting and significant. This ancient royal city of Jerusalem, with its dark alleys, keeps attracting people, making them fall in love with every street and corner. The End.
This morning I woke up thinking about an essay I wrote about Jerusalem for my English Comp class. I wanted to read it, relive it and perhaps share it with the world. Searching through my college files I found it hidden between folders. August 31, 2005, Assignment 1. That’s a long time ago I thought to myself. Since then I went back to Israel and lived there for seven months. I’ve traveled more than I could ask for during my stay there. Studied two more languages. Held a couple Israel related jobs. Started my own photography business. Did my perception of Jerusalem change? Not really, but Jerusalem did become all the more dearer. The alleys where the soles of my shoes were erased, became a second home. A bench on Jerusalem roof top became a frequently visited spot, and the Arab merchants on David Street my close friends. I hope you enjoyed my memory of a walk through Jerusalem, and maybe I incited one of you to go see it for yourself.
And because posts are always better with a photo, here is a corner of Jerusalem that is very dear to me. Below the lantern on the right is a door that led to my rooftop reading spot. I do miss it!