Our tour of Israel continued in the Old City of Jerusalem with a walk around the four quarters and visits to some of the holy Christian sites.
Through the Jaffa gate, we walked along a main route through the Armenian section. Each section has one parking lot for everyone to house their vehicles. The Armenian one included an unexcavated Tel—one of many in the land. We arrived shortly at the Zion gate. This gate was riddled with bullet holes from when the British left and the Jordanians came to claim the city in 1948.
Dormition Abby, David’s Tomb, the Last Supper
Beyond the gate, we toured the Dormition Abbey, a church dedicated to where Jesus’ mother Mary “fell asleep”. And then on to David’s tomb and also the site of the upper room of the house where the last supper occurred. It was somewhat difficult to really feel the presence of either of those places in its time. Nothing was there that looked like it would have back then. We were reminded once again that most of these sites are probably not where the actual events occurred or where David was buried—but rather a place someone—whether they be ancient leaders or more modern scholars—decided to put a marker on it as the official site. There was no dining room table or anything obvious like that—just a little church structure.
The Four Quarters
We continued through the Jewish quarter and climbed up onto a roof top area where we got a 360 degree view of the tops of the buildings of the city. This was considered the four corners—where the four quarters met. It was an interesting place—you could traverse across the roofs or go under and walk along the market alleyways.
There are no barriers between the four quarters (Christian, Jewish, Armenian, and Muslim) and everyone can walk freely through the city. The Armenians do have locked gates in some places because of previous violence but otherwise this city is a melting pot of cultures that most of the time live in peace.
Main Street and Shopping
The Cardo was Jerusalem’s main street about 1,500 years ago. We walked along this ancient thoroughfare, taking in the wonderful smells of spices and mid-eastern foods, browsed the touristy gifts and the linens and jewelry made by the shopkeepers and Bedouin traders, and felt some of the original stones that lined the ground. The Cardo was pretty wide, unlike the other narrow streets where the shops were just like they were thousands of years ago—pretty much cubby holes with men tending the store—some asleep in the heat, some chatting with friends, and others engaging tourists.
Negotiating is key in this culture. These guys were not afraid to start very high and I had to bring them way down and keep the shekel/dollar conversion in mind. I was delighted by one young man who made some earrings for me on the spot with pieces he had in bowls in his shop. Dad and I bought some gifts and trinkets and strolled through the markets on the Shabbat. We took a break at a nice little outdoor cafe and ate some more shawarma and falafel for dinner while watching the local kids biking and running in the streets. No playgrounds were in site but they found ways to entertain themselves and laugh just like the country kids. There were also a lot of cats who were fed by various locals and tourists—keeping out the rodents is a nice benefit of the strays in the streets.
Next time, we’ll explore the last of the Christian sites we visited in the Old City.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”