June 26, 2008

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem has the energy of a plug being stuck into an outlet with water inside; the co-worhip-tation of three powerful religions living side by side in such a small radius is electric. I arrived on a weekend, which can pose quite a challenge for the time crunched sightseer – Muslims take holiday on Friday, Jews take holiday on Saturday and Christians take holiday on Sunday – and working the schedule of religious sights and museums can make one feel as though they have been let loose on the page of a crossword puzzle.
Staying in Old City, with it’s cobblestone markets and small alley streets, can throw you back in time and passing easily through the Muslim, Jewish and Christian quarters can get linguistically confusing; I am sure I said hello to many Jewish vendors in Arabic and, for sure, I directed a few Shalom’s to some Arabs – oops. And with all the traditional religious garb going on I couldn’t decide which outfit I wanted to wear out on Friday night – the Hassidic Russian with a fabulous round mink looking hat and embroidered silk smoking jacket or the Greek Orthodox priest with the cone like hat and draping black robe accessorized with a heavy gold cross necklace or the Franciscan monk with the brown hooded tunic dress and groovy rope belt? So many options, so little time.
There is so much incredible history in Jerusalem that it takes a minute to process. I started juggling the schedule and managed a trip to the Museum of Israel, which not only houses the Dead Sea Scrolls in a super-impressive architectural display, but also had a fantastic exhibit of current Israeli artists whose work was rich with political and historical references. I ventured on to the Holy Church of the Holy Sepulcher where you can mark off three items on the checklist in one building (fabulous); this is where Jesus was supposedly whipped, crucified and buried. Then it was off to the Wailing Wall where, yes, I wrote down my Christmas wish-list and stuck it in the cracks (wait, is that right?) while watching the uber-faithful gyrate in front of a lot of old stone. I barely made it to the Dome of the Rock, the place where Mohammed allegedly ascended, in the allotted time slot, and I am happy I did because it was truly a magnificent building from the outside.
On the last day, exhausted from all the history and education, I decided to make my own religious pilgrimage to the mall to update some of the I-have-been-wearing-this-every-other-day-for-the-last-three-months wardrobe. Having to sift through the racks of clothes and do Sheckel to US dollar mathematical equations in my head had me on the verge of signing up to become a monk where wearing the same thing everyday is not only fashionable but required, leaving plenty of time for other things – and to that I say Hellelujah!

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