Friday, February 18, 2011

First Impressions

I spent the first part of the day looking down at Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and the second half wandering through the crowded streets of the Old City.  From up high you can see the four quarters of the old City; Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian.   What first catches your eye is the golden Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine to the place of the binding of Isaac and Mohamed’s ascent to heaven.  This was built on the site of the Jewish Temple, destroyed centuries before.    The second landmark is the dome of the church of the Resurrection, the site of the empty tomb.  The synagogues of the Jewish Quarter and churches of the Armenian Quarter are a little harder to pick out, but they are there along with minarets and church towers.

We went up Mount Scopus to see the view in the other direction, the Judean desert, the hills of Gilead off to the left and behind them the Jordan valley and the haze of the Dead Sea.  These are the places of the Qumran Community and John the Baptist, where Christ was tempted in the wilderness and the desert fathers and mothers sought out their own path to holiness.  With olive groves and white limestone everywhere, it feels very different than the Sonoran desert, though I spotted a few prickly pear on the hill sides.  From Mount Scopus you can also see the wall separating Israel from the West Bank, and also Jewish Settlement built on the other side of the wall.  I will write more on this later as I am still figuring out how it all works.

The Old City is sensory overload of smells and colors:  falafel frying, fruit, candies and spices elaborately arranged, Shopkeepers trying to tempt you with their wares.  At times the streets are just tunnels through centuries of buildings and narrow alleys that climb up and down Mount Zion.   When I have heard this in the psalms I have always pictured a pastoral mountain, but this earthy Zion is a place bustling with life.  We came home for evening prayer as the call to prayer echoed from the minaret.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an incredible feeling this must be for you. The pictures are just fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing. Peace be with you. Tom