Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Brawer family in front of the KotelPosted by Hello

A man blowing a shofar and another man with a Torah scroll at the Kotel. It was a crazy scene down there. Of course there are many people praying, but also two days per week they hold Bar Mitzvahs at the Wall. So all the boys are reading their prayers and carrying the scrolls around while their families help them and celebrate and make a general commotion. Posted by Hello

Me praying at the KotelPosted by Hello 

Leaving the Temple Mount we came here to the Western Wall, known as the Kotel in Israel. I was in awe. This is a site that is very misunderstood by the general public. Many people think that it is the remaining western wall of Solomon's Temple. The truth is that it is the remaining part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount. It is considered the holiest site in Judaism because it is the closest place Jews can get to the holy of holies. Posted by Hello

Read more on the Western Wall.

Heading north out of the Temple Mount and towards the Arab quarter of the Old City. Posted by Hello

From the north side of the Temple Mount. Where we are standing is actually where the holy of holies used to be in Herod's temple, during the Second Temple period. Posted by Hello

My understanding is that this little structure is technically a mosque. To have a mosque, all you need is a shrine covered by a dome, and it can be declared a mosque. There are many of these little structures on the Temple Mount. Let's just say it behooves the Muslims to have a lot of mosques on the Mount. Posted by Hello

Close up of the side of the Dome of the Rock. Very beautiful. Posted by Hello

Here it is - the Dome of the Rock. It was quite surreal standing here looking at this building. Not just because of it's historical significance or it's iconic status as a symbol of modern Jerusalem. But because inside this building is what was for Jews and Christians the holiest site in all the universe - the holy of holies, where the Spirit of G-d resided. Posted by Hello

View facing south of the al-Aqsa mosque, represented by the large gray dome in the background. The Temple Mount contains the Dome of the Rock, which is a shrine, and the al-Aqsa mosque - people get those confused sometimes. Posted by Hello

The Temple Mount

On our first day touring in Jerusalem, we visited the Temple Mount (see the link below for more info). Here is the Dome of the Rock hiding behind some trees. It's remarkable that we were even able to visit the Temple Mount - it's been closed to non-Muslims for the last 3 years during the intifada, but has recently been re-opened. Steve the TG claimed this was the best site in the whole tour. It is a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, and, like many things in Israel, the source of much debate, contention, and conflict. I wish I had the space and time here to relate everything that I've learned about the history and importance of the Temple Mount, but you will have to try to investigate that on your own. Posted by Hello

Read more on the Temple Mount.

This is a partial view of Jerusalem from our hotel room, where we stayed for the last 4 days of the trip. Posted by Hello

We arrived in Jerusalem in the afternoon and this is the first stop we made. This is on the Mount of Olives looking westward on the the Temple Mount and the Old City. Towards the bottom you can see a cemetary which is the largest Jewish cemetary in the world - many famous Jewish and Israeli people are buried there (also Oskar Schindler, I believe.) You can imagine what kind of state we were in taking in this view for the first time. A mixture of awe, disbelief, and reverence. It's very surreal.  Posted by Hello

Funny story: When we got off the tour bus here there was a man with a camel - he was selling rides on the camel. Kind of random to have a camel in the middle of a city, but whatever. Anyway, the camel is laying on the ground and I ask the guy if I can take a picture. He reluctantly agreed - he would have preferred that I pay for a ride, but he said okay.  So I go to take the picture and some man sitting there in a taxi says in a rather unpleasant tone, "Hey!  You want to take a picture?  Five dollars."  So I said well this other guy told me it was okay, and he says "No!  It's my camel, if you want a picture, it's five dollars!"  Then the first guy says something to him and they both start screaming at each other in Arabic.  I just walked away thinking, great, five minutes in Jerusalem and I'm already starting a riot.

Back by popular demand

I've gotten a really good response from people who are finally catching on to my blog.  I guess a picture is worth 1,000 words.  Thanks everyone for checking in out.

Anyway, I've still got the last 1/4 of the trip to photoblog - I will try to finish it up soon.  So, here goes...