Free Day in Jerusalem

I headed to the center of modern Jerusalem and found the YMCA tower that rises high above the city. This towering building was built by the same architect who designed our New York Empire State building. It was a charitable gift to the Christians living and traveling in Jerusalem. It now offers rooms, meals and views of the city. And on the lobby walls are exquisite mosaics.


Across the street in the elegant Art Nouveau King David Hotel I found Mirella and Hadi enjoying a cup of coffee. They were off to visit a cousin who lived in the city.


Within a ten minute walk, I came to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. While the Jewish sections were closed, the Moslem areas were open. Drude, Suzy, and Caroline Adkins joined me in a walk on the ramparts of the stone wall. We climbed the steep stone steps built in the 16th century. Our path atop the wall led up and down steps while to one side we could see modern Jerusalem. To the other side we viewed the lower rooftops of the Arab residents living within their quarter. Their lives are clearly challenging. Rusted TV antennas and broken children’s play equipment littered those rooftops. The fact that many of the residents had stung barbed wires between their homes and those of their neighbors was particularly distressing.


I exited the Ramparts and wandered the narrow, winding paths of the souk, or marketplace, of the Old City. Goods of all types were available - from inexpensive sandals and shirts for the local residents to priceless antique clay jugs and coins dating back over two thousand years. From a spice merchant, I bought packets of cinnamon, curry and saffron for a few dollars. Cashmere scarves were another bargain. Olive wood carving of the nativity were popular.  Cashmere scarves with exotic designs hung from racks outside most of the booths.


The famous Via Delarosa, the path that Jesus took through Jerusalem as he carried his cross was thronged with tourists from around the world. Some groups sang religious songs. Others prayed.


On this Shabat, while many of the Jewish community worshiped in their synagogues, our group discovered a vibrant Jerusalem.