Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Wanderlust : Jerusalem

With travel in the "real world" still difficult, I decided to do some "mind travel" and go through my archives. I realized I had never ever posted my journeys to one of my all-time-favourite cities: Jerusalem! Jerusalem : a beautiful, handful of a city in fine colours that can be explored on foot, walking across centuries and between religions in a few steps taking in visitors from all parts of the world, from skimpily clad young Americans to Eastern European elderly ladies in traditional ornamental costume. 

A journey back in time, not only for the city of millenia but also personally: My first trips to Jerusalem were in 1979 and 1981 when my father visited Israel on two study trips with other reverends from German parishes exploring Jerusalem and other biblical sites in two trips to the northern and southern parts of Israel. My mother did not like to travel so I jumped at this grand opportunity to take her place. That way I could take part in all the guided tours, visits and  theological discussions with Shalom Ben-Chorin and other scholars of Judaism - in the end I tried to convince my father to apply for the position as Probst in the German Protestant Church of the Saviour in Jerusalem which was becoming vacant - but I think, it was too political for his taste and my mother would never have come, so it remained a dream. When I talked to him recently - he is nearly ninety years old - he remembered this situation very well. 
Later I returned often, the photos are therefore from various decades, some reproduced from old Kodachrome slides. 

Before I came for the first time, I only knew Jerusalem from church songs and biblical stories of Jesus and his teachings that I grew up with as a child. One of my favourite songs still is the exuberant "Tochter Zion, freue dich!" .  

My father in 1979 on the rooftop of the Guest House of the Lutheran Church where we used to stay.

The cloister of the German Protestant Church of the Saviour in the Old Town

The guesthouse of the German protestant church was perfectly situated in the Old Town - from the Jaffa Gate across the square one had to walk a few steps down David Street through the main busy souk, full of locals and tourists alike, take a right turn up a steep staircase that was difficult to find, through a vendor of carpets and textiles to come out on top of the old town in a very quiet peaceful mostly deserted street built of the white local stone in the Armenian Quarter -.... Wow! To imagine I could have enjoyed this as a child every day ... 

the view down from the rooftops into David Street

The Tempelberg is straight on from there on Mount Moriah, the dry little mountain that is the contested center of all three monotheistic religions. In the 1980 we were still allowed inside the Felsendom, the Dome of the Rock. Nowadays the area is supervised by heavily armed guards and access strictly controlled and restricted to certain times which makes a visit on the Tempelberg, the birth place of the Jewish and Christian religions, where the first Temple of David around 1000 BC, Solomon's Temple and later the Herodian Temple were situated, where Jesus turned up as a 12-year old teaching. Today it is a somewhat lesser spiritual and more frightening experience. 

Nevertheless it is one of the most beautiful buildings that I know of (apart from the Taj Mahal, another masterpiece of Islamic architecture) . 

Below on the western wall lies the "Klagemauer". 

The "Dome of the Chain" on the Temple Mount where someone has constructed a most beautiful home for his young ones.

More pictures from the Old Town: 

Grabeskirche or "Church of the Holy Sepulchre"

The church is shared by six confessions, Roman-Catholic, Greek-Orthodox, Armenian, Kopts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian, but no protestants, and is governed by complicated rules. The wooden ladder that you can see above the main entrance has apparently been standing there since the 19th century and no one is deemed responsible or has been allowed to remove it.

View from the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley  

"Sustinete hic et vigilate mecum" - the Garden of Gethsemane

they might be 2000 years old... 

A Visit to the Jewish orthodox quarter  Mea Shearim in 1979: 

Roadblocks and burning tires then as now

Visiting Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum and Memorial: 

Even though the Holocaust and German recent history had been a permanent topic in my home and at school, and Anne Frank's diary on everybody's mind, and so my first visit in 1979 to Yad Vashem was well prepared, it impressed me deeply and I remember it very well: the collection of shoes in crates and hundreds and hundreds of broken out gold teeth in boxes on open shelves. Six million individual stories, brutally interrupted histories and extinguished families.  
Meanwhile the museum has been extended and modernized. Its displays are protected, everything is behind glass and the atmosphere is more documentary. Still I think, every human being has to visit once. The scale and dimension of the genocide and the suffering of the Jewish people over centuries can hardly be understood only theoretically. 

We also travelled through the country, to Jericho in the Westbank, Bethlehem, Nablus and up to the north and the Syrian border.

Quneitra in the Golan heights 

 abandoned Palestine villages

the Greek-Orthodox Monastery in Wadi Quelt

at the Dead Sea 

up Masada by cable-car

At the Red Sea on the Sinai peninsula, now part of Egypt

Delonix regia, the flamboyant tree - one of my favourites - then as now. Finally, after forty years, I have found a place to plant it. I will put one in our garden in our new Andalusian domicile!

Poppies growing in the old walls of St Annes Church and the roman ruins behind

I had a print of this picture from my first journey to Jerusalem on a wall of my student lodgings for years:  Papyrus against the setting sun .