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A Study in Contrasts

>> Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Walking around the Old City of Jerusalem is a study in contrasts in so many ways.  The omnipresent washed-out tan stone from which everything is built seems to disappear next to the shockingly bright colors in the markets.  The brutal hot sun beating down on 95+ degree days, seems like an other universe from the cool dark serenity of caves or churches. The Hijab and Abaya (often black despite the hot sun) worn by Muslim women, contrasts dramatically with the tank tops and short skirts worn by their young daughters, and by many of the tourists.  

More conservative dress is recommended for visitors to the Old City, by the way - skirts below the knees for women, no shorts, no bare shoulders, and a scarf available for a head covering as needed.  If you show up at any of the holy sites, they'll turn you away if you have bare knees or shoulders, or else tour group leaders will provide cheap and cheezy scarves to wrap around you, or you can buy a scarf from an adjacent vendor who sets his prices with desperate shorts-clad American tourists in mind.   

And always, everywhere in the Old City, there is a shock of contrast between ancient and new, which these photos show some of. 

This shot is on the ramparts looking out.

Cars are not seen much inside the walls of the Old City, presumably largely because they simply don't fit, but they are spotted in a few places and seem wildly out of context.

 I'm guessing these walls did not have safety railings when they were originally used for defense.

 What looks like construction supplies piled on top of ancient caves:

Or even homes built on ancient tombs (this is Silwan, just across the Kidron Valley from the Old City):

The living room of the apartment we stayed in is allegedly from the 1500s... but doesn't feel like it is, aside from the massive thickness of the walls.

I love seeing laundry hanging over ancient ruins.  This is at St. Anne's Church grounds, and the ruins are known as the Pools of Bethesda.  The Bethesda Pool is believed to be the site where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5:1-15). There are ruins of a Roman temple to the god of medicine, and remains of a Byzantine church built over the temple.  It looked to me like the houses you see at the top of the picture may have walls from the Byzantine church or some other long-ago era as their back walls.

View from the roof of the Austrian Hostel.  The green dome is the Ecce Homo Convent.  And in the foreground?  A lovely rusty dish antenna.

 In fact, if you look closely, there are dish antennae on darn near every roof.

The Israeli flag was only adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the establishment of the State of Israel.  That makes it very new compared with some of these buildings.

And of course the Israeli flag seems incredibly new against the background of the Western Wall, as well, which would have been constructed roughly around 19 BCE.

This is the Southern Wall. I can't even begin to explain all that you can see here. Excavations of ancient versions of the City, and construction from many eras thereafter. You can see the top of the al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount.  The lead plating on the roof of the Mosque dates only to 1983, though the Mosque itself is much older, having been built and destroyed repeatedly, like so much of Jerusalem.

Any time I left the walls of the Old City, I went into culture shock.  This is the Mamilla Mall, just outside the Jaffa Gate.  It's filled with ultra fashionable shops and restaurants, and people dressed in clothing that they could easily be wearing in the US - a sharp contrast with the more conservative dress of everyone except tourists within the Old City.

In this shot, I have the walls of the Old City at my back, as I wander through an archaeological garden containing various ruins and even old tombs.  The sound of the traffic seemed so out of place.  And yet most of Jerusalem is a fairly modern city.

A glimpse of the newer city through the Old City wall.


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