Saturday, August 4, 2012

City Tour Continued

This is the continuation of the previous post. These pictures were taken on the same day as the last post.

Here we have exited from the New gate. We are heading towards Dormition Abbey.

Look for the windmill near the center of the picture this is the location of the first neighborhood to be built outside the Old city walls.

A close up of the first neighborhood outside the walls.

A look at the Old city walls from outside the city.

Dormition Abbey up close. You have seen this church before from my night tour of the city pictures.

I am now on the roof of the building where one of the traditional sites of the Last Supper is. There next few pictures are me turning in every direction and taking a picture.

I don't really know what I'm looking at here.

Looking at the Mount of Olives.

Looking straight down at an old Muslim cemetery.

The history of this area of the city is complicated. This building used to be a synagogue then a mosque and a church in its history. The location of the Last Supper is here and nearby is the location of the Tomb of David. I can't show you the Tomb of David because its in a location only open to men.

In the room of the Last Supper. It was cold that day and this little guy was sitting on one of the floor lights for warmth.

The room itself. As you can see from the architecture of this building it was not around during the time of Jesus. But this is one of two suggested sites of the Last Supper.

This is a qiblah of a mosque. It marks the direction of Mecca so muslims know which direction to pray to.

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write up this post but as always school has to come first. I am taking Summer classes while finishing up papers from this past year's courses. There will eventually be a part three to this tour to show my visit to the Garden Tomb. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Archaeological Dig and City Tour

Okay this is the post I said I was going to write forever ago. Back in February I participated in an archaeological dig for credit. For three weeks I went to the dig site Sunday through Thursday 7am-3pm. The site I was at is across the street from the City of David. It is called the Givati excavation. Givati is the name of the parking lot they are digging up. They have been digging at this site for several years now and every year the parking lot gets smaller and smaller.

Every morning I took the train down the the Damascus gate of the Old city. I walked straight through the Old city and exited at the Dung Gate on the other side. Because the dig started at 7am I was usually walking through the Old city around 6:30am. Not much is open that early in the morning unless the shop sells pastries, coffee or newspapers they won't open until later in the morning when the tourists arrive. Not many people get to experience the Old city that early in the morning so one day I took my camera with me. It was raining that morning and they cancelled the dig that day. It's no fun trying to dig in mud. So for the rest of that morning Annie and I walked around the city and took pictures.

First I will take you on my route from Damascus gate to the other side of the Old city. To the left is Damascus gate.

This is just inside the gate. I know this picture isn't very exciting. I plan to go back to the city in the afternoon when everything is open and walk the same route to show how busy the Old city gets.

Here I've just turned the corner. The paving stones are very slippery when wet. So walking through the Old city on a rainy day is a slip n' slide adventure. Wear shoes with good traction and even then be careful.

I've walked several feet forward here. The green door on the left side of this picture is the location of my favorite falafel stand in the city.

There are paths on either side of the falafel stand above. Here I took the path to the left. The metal doors are openings to shops.

Further down the path. Notice the sign above the arch is in Arabic. This is the Arab quarter of the Old city.

I'm early enough in the morning that children are still heading out to catch the bus to school.

Here I wanted you to see the different sizes of paving stones. The larger stones in the middle are the oldest ones.

As narrow as some of these areas are people still drive cars around in the Old City. In some places when a car is coming you have to press your back up against the wall and turn your feet sideways to let the car pass.

I had a few pictures that didn't turn out too good because of the rain. This is the next good one.

Notice the street sign in the upper left corner. This is how you know where you are in the Old city. However I'm directionally challenged and I still get lost pretty easily inside the old city walls.

This gives you an idea of how close the shops are to each other.

Notice the bags of bread hanging on the door to the right of the picture. The owner of this shop has an arrangement with one of the bakeries to sell some of their bread. They just hang the morning delivery on the door and no one bothers it.

The Western wall. This is as empty as you will ever see it.

Here I have exited through the Dung Gate. Straight ahead of me is the Mount of Olives. Notice the curved tents to the right of the picture this is the dig site.

A closer look at the dig site. You can see where the level of the parking lot used to be and how far down they are now.

This picture shows you the areas they have already excavated. There are two videos on youtube of my professor giving a lecture to tourists about their findings. These videos are from a few years ago but they are still interesting. Here is part 1 and part 2

This is the Dung Gate going back into the city after they told us we were not digging that day.

This is the picture that everyone who has ever been here has taken. This picture is in all the guidebooks.

I have no idea what this is but it looks cool.

The next few pictures are random streets in the Old City.

I knelt down to get this picture.

The stairs. There are several places in the Old city that look like this. The ramps are the width of the wheeled carts they bring down to restock the stores.

I think this was around 8:30am. Some of the stores were starting to open up. I've decided to split the city tour into two posts since I took 139 pictures that morning. I'm having a hard time narrowing down which ones to show.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Hello everyone. I know it's been forever since I posted. The fall semester is finished and the Spring semester starts this coming Sunday. The last three weeks were my winter break. Instead of going home this year I decided to stay here in Jerusalem. I spent these three weeks volunteering at an archaeological dig here in the city. I will be posting about that experience soon.

Today's post is a little more breaking news. Today it's snowing in Jerusalem. Here is an article in the Jerusalem post. The snow is a big deal here since it hasn't snowed the last several years. And since I'm from Texas I don't see snow too often either.

I woke up this morning around 8am and this is what I saw outside the kitchen window. It doesn't look too terribly impressive but I was excited to see it. When I went to the grocery store around 9am it had started to snow harder. The grocery store was busier than it would normally be this early on a Friday morning. After putting away my groceries I got my camera and went for a walk.

This is a view from the opposite side of my building. Normally you can see the Dome of the Rock from here but the snow is obscuring the view.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the snowflakes.

There were a lot of smiling people out this morning. Here some students made a snowman. I was only intending to circle around the student village and then go back inside. But I decided to stop by the mail room and I had a package slip. So I decided to see if the post office was open. Plus it was an opportunity for more pictures.

Here I've gone up past the grocery store and turned right and then left.

A look back and the dorms I just came from.

Snow covered houses. When I arrived at the post office a guy standing outside told me it was close. As I started to walk away he asked me what I needed from the post office. I told him I wanted to pick up a package. He said he could get it for me so I gave him my package slip and received my package. On my walk back home the sun came out and the sky cleared up a bit. Several snow plows passed by I think I saw six total on the entire walk.

Back in the student village standing almost in the same place as the earlier picture you can now see the Dome of the Rock. The sky has since clouded over again but now it is just raining. Oh well the snow was fun while it lasted.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Years isn't really celebrated over here like it is in the United States. If you recalled the Jewish  New Year was back on September 22nd this year.

In the Southern Part of the United States we have a tradition of eating black eyed peas for good luck in the New Year. I discovered that we may get this tradition from Jewish tradition.  According to the Talmud 

“Now that you have alleged that omens make a difference, at the New Year, someone should form the habit of eating pumpkin, fenugreek, leeks, beets, and dates.” 

The tradition of eating black eyed peas comes from the mistranslation of the Aramaic word rubiya. It actually translates as fenugreek. Which I had to look up because I've never heard of it. By the time the mistranslation was discovered the tradition of black eyed peas was already in place.  This tradition reached the United States in the 1730's when a group of Sephardic Jews immigrated to Georgia. The practiced was adopted by non-Jews around the time of the Civil War. And like all good Southern vegetable dishes we added some form of pork to it, either as flavoring in the beans or as the main dish served with them. 

Another tradition says we eat the black eyed peas because of the Union General Sherman know for his march to the sea. As he marched through Georgia burning everything the theory is that the Union soldiers would not have burned or carried away the beans. In the North the beans were seen as food for animals and the soldiers wouldn't have touched them. General Sherman captured the city of Savannah on December 21, 1864 and offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. So it is possible that the beans were eaten on New Years because there was nothing else left to eat. 

Either theory for how the tradition started sounds plausible to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas time in the city

Yesterday I went to Bethlehem with Claire and two other friends from school. It was a wonderful trip to get into the Christmas spirit. Because there is Christmas in Bethlehem because of the Arab Christians and the tourist industry.

Claire made small talk with our cab driver that was taking us to the center of the city. She asked him if he knew a good place to buy olive wood souvenirs that were of a reasonable price. Of course he said yes he had some friends with a shop. So instead he drove us to his friends shop.

He took us to see the factory where the olive wood pieces are carved. The man was only actually carving one piece and the machine mimicked his movements on the other pieces. Our taxi driver is the man in the orangish red shirt. After seeing the factory he took us to the shop up above. The hospitality of the shop was wonderful we were each given Turkish coffee to drink while we shopped. We also got a discount since their friend brought us to the shop.

One of the things I knew I wanted was an olive wood nativity scene. The more detailed the piece the more expensive it was. I managed to find a small one that was in my price range.

I also found a nice angel as well as a small cross.

Next we visited the square where it really felt like Christmas. Well sort of...note the mosque in the background with the picture of Yasser Arafat.

They were setting up a stage for live performances that will take place today. Notice how December is spelled on the banner. :)

On the other side of the square from the mosque is the Basilica of the Nativity. This is the oldest continuously used church in the world. It was originally built by Queen Helena, Emperor Constantine's mother in the 300's. It's been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then.

This is the Door of Humility you have to duck down in order to get through the door.

It opens up into a large area with vaulted ceilings.

Notice the open spot in the floor in the picture above. This is left open to show you pieces of the original floor from the church Saint Helena built.

This is the Orthodox part of the church. Like the Holy Sepulchre the Basilica of the Nativity is divided up between several denominations.

Wall decorations that are from an earlier version of the church. 

This is standing in line to visit the Grotto of the Nativity. It was rather claustrophobic standing in the line. There were several tour groups in line and their guides were explaining the history of the church. The group behind us was an English group so I listened in for free. There was also a Russian tour group in line.

A rare picture of Mary smiling. 

The narrow opening down into the Grotto.

The priests were hurrying people through since the line was so long. This is the best picture I could get of the place where Jesus was born.

This is a Nativity scene in a courtyard area. Those are stuffed sheep.

We then walked about two hundred meters to another church that I had never heard of before. The Milk Grotto church. The legend has it that this church is built over a cave that the Holy family hid while fleeing from Herod into Egypt. While Mary was breast feeding Jesus Mary's milk fell and whitewashed the rocks which is why the rocks inside the church are white.

It was lunch time so we went to get coffee. It looks vaguely familiar. ;) We then went back to the square and had falafel at Afteem a famous falafel place in Bethlehem.

After lunch we went shopping again. I bought myself a scarf.