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Jerusalem, Yerushalayim

>> Wednesday, August 20, 2014

These are just some other photos I like from inside and immediately surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem.

I'm not entirely certain how many of the lights hanging everywhere were strung for Ramadan, and how many are always up.  Regardless, I loved their little spots and flashes of color.

I believe this is part of the Austrian Hostel.

And this is just some random entryway, to what I don't know.  But it's lovely.

This is the door to the Church of the Flagellation or the Church of the Condemnation - part of the same complex.  I cannot remember to which it belongs.

The next whole set of photos is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  I found it strange, discombobulated, clashing with itself, overwhelming, a total mishmash of styles and adornments.  I guess that comes from such a convoluted history, with everyone visiting, taking control of it, or believing they have a claim on it wanting to leave their own distinctive mark, to try to show to the World that it is Theirs.  To my artist's eyes, it was just overwhelming, and way too darn much.  Despite how important and sacred I know it is to millions of Christians, I responded to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with cynicism, which isn't a pretty response, but there it is.

I think perhaps the extent of my visceral response to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stood out more markedly than it otherwise would have because I found the Western Wall to be a very moving place of peace that made me want to pray.  Considering I call myself an agnostic on a good day, that urge was pretty remarkable.  I found myself repeatedly returning to the Western Wall plaza just to be there, not just because of aesthetic beauty, but because its sacred atmosphere appealed to me so much. In contrast, when I entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I had to fight an urge to flee from the assault on my eyeballs.  That disparity in my responses to two different holy sites fascinates me.

Any way, this is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Chapel of the Franks, dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.

The next shots are of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre's Rotunda. Light shines down on the Edicule, the top of which is seen here, which contains the Chapel of the Angel, and the Tomb of Jesus.  The Rotunda was the only room I really liked.  It's elegant, and gracefully proportioned, though I admit the whole light shining down on the tomb thing, to this overwhelmed and cynical non-Christian, seemed rather melodramatic.  At least it was aesthetically pleasing.

Chapel of Adam, which is Greek Orthodox.

I liked this room too, though it also gave me the creeps.  It's the Syrian Orthodox Chapel, just off the Rotunda. It leads to some ancient tombs carved into the surrounding stone on which the Church is built, which were fascinating.  This Chapel was allegedly damaged by fire long ago and hasn't been repaired.  I know that's supposed to be an altar, but it struck me as resembling an eerie fairy-tale throne.

Oh man, the gilt.  This is the Greek Chapel at Calvary. Under the altar (which is below the backdrop shown here), one can touch the bedrock of Calvary at a spot that is traditionally believed to be near the place where the base of the cross was placed.  I took this one not-so-great shot, and fled to a dark corner to look at the candles in the next photo.  The hammered shiny goldness of every surface in this dark Chapel nearly did me in.

Mosaic floor in the 12th Century Armenian Chapel of Saint Helena, who was the mother of the Emperor Constantine.

End of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  My camera disk tells me this is the next photo I took, but I have no recollection of where it is.  I wondered if they were peace doves?

Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, looking down from the Mount of Olives.

There were capers (yes, those capers) growing out of every crack in the stones.  The flowers are remarkable.

A relatively new church, the Church of All Nations, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means "oil press."  Modern scholars think that Gethsemane, the place where Jesus and his disciples went after the last supper and where he was arrested, probably wasn't actually a garden, but was more likely a cave where there was an oil press. Translations of translations present all sorts of problems.

A lizardy friend in what now IS the Garden of Gethsemane.  Maybe it's some kind of Agama?  I don't know my Israeli lizards.

At the entrance to the City of David.  In a desert, I can only imagine what it costs to maintain the kinds of lush flowers they have there.

Silwan, next to the Kidron Valley.  It is largely a Muslim community.

A random fountain, and since I read not a single word of Arabic, I have no idea what the writing says.

Sometimes, with so much amazing stuff all around, one forgets to look up.  But I did remember to in one archway I walked through, and spotted this.

From the roof of the Austrian Hostel.

Probably the most tourist-photographed cat in Jerusalem.

The citadel of Jerusalem, known as "Tower of David," seen from outside the walls near the Jaffa Gate.

I love this sign.

 Again, I looked up, and this one archway had a set of chandeliers lighting it.  No, I have no explanation.

The walls.

Photos from various markets.

The street names, by the way, never seemed to match much of anything - not Google maps, not Apple maps, not maps of the Old City sold for tourists.  I was perpetually lost.

I think this is the door to a Synagogue.  My Hebrew is practically non-existent, and I can't read what this says.  My attempt at translating the few words I thought I knew resulted in gibberish, so I won't even try.

This next batch are all from St. Anne's Church and its gardens and grounds.  For what it's worth, I did not dislike all the Christian churches, just the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  St. Anne's is lovely and very appealing, as are its gardens and grounds.

This is the view from the crypt.

I loved the picturesque doves here.  Well, okay, pigeons probably.  But pretty ones.

It's impossible to capture sounds in photos, but the days were all punctuated with the sounds of the muezzins calling Muslims to prayer from these towers.

There were stray cats everywhere, which I may have noticed more than I otherwise would have since my 9-year-old niece would exclaim "Look! there's a cat!" every time we encountered one. This scrappy fellow and I startled each other equally at the Western Wall plaza.

As I wandered the Old City, I often found myself thinking of the words from Psalm 137.  Honestly, I'm not even sure why I remember that Psalm, since there are remarkably few I can recite, but somehow enough scraps of this one were stored in the deep dark recesses of my brain that I could manage to Google the rest. Non-religious I may be, but I certainly appreciated the sentiment as I fell in love with the Old City.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not;
if I set not Jerusalem above my highest joy.


Bill and dogs August 21, 2014 at 4:03 AM  

Spectacular photographs of a wonderful place. I'll never get to visit there, so thank you for for the photo tour.

Ellen Rathbone October 11, 2014 at 4:39 PM  

I challenge any National Geographic to have better pics than yours!

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