The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Sunday, January 14, 2007

And the ramparts we . . . eich omrim?

A day on the Ramparts of Jerusalem: Notes and Impressions (gee, ain’t that creative?)

The ramparts walk in the Old City is not the most popular of attractions. There are no
souvenir stands along the way, no set events. Nary a falafel stand or Pomegranate Juice cart to be seen; just a rambling promenade where the old and new cities of Jerusalem meet. From Jaffa Gate, you can take a short spur towards the Zion Gate, or a long chain of steps and platforms all the way to the Lions’s gate. For a tourist, the ramparts are invaluable. The winding intricacies of the old city can make getting from gate to gate difficult in the extreme. The frustration can be avoided if you think of the Ramparts as your own private toll-road. The 16 shekels are worth it. And here are a few more reasons why….

A clear view of East Jerusalem- not a spot of Hebrew to be found aside from the busses and the post office. Bank names, cars, posters, all in Arabic. The post office, of course, has everything in Hebrew.

The ramparts let you peer into school lots, monasteries, backyards. Nestled between the ancient sanctities are laundry lines, porches and patios, and many satellite dishes. There are schools in the Old city besides Yeshivas.

The stairs were broad interpretations of the concept; uneven, steep, far from uniform, and lots of fun.

You can walk right over the gates- see shops and throngs hubbubing obliviously beneath you.

Unusual views of usual sites- new perspectives on the domes and streets of the city.

Anonymity.

Be an accidental voyeur as you look over the walls into the massive arab cemetery on the outskirts of the north-eastern wall, and find a funeral full of wailing mourners going on at your feet.

Military moments: These medieval walls provide more than enough cover for snipers and abandoned defense positions dot the walkway.

The mixed emotions of being on an incredibly crowded old city street and realizing on one hand that tourism is strong, and yet on the other hand if someone stole your wallet you would never be able to chase them since you can’t move more than a few inches at a time.

Pilgrims thronging on the Via Delarosa- and merchants trying to rip them off.

Arab children playing with toy guns- and shooting the Jewish cops in the back after they pass by.

Having reached the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we decided to duck inside and explore its dark solemnity. On the way out, the most moving moment was when three people knelt down to kiss the stone of the anointing. Rarely do we get to see others in their moments of religious apotheosis. Jews in Israel are more than accustomed to our own rituals; and as for those that have epiphanies of great emotion at the Kotel, we know exactly what to do- we ignore them. Here, it can catch you off guard. A whole bunch of things on the Ramparts walk – and the old city- will do that to you.

Date in photos is incorrect- date should read about two weeks ago. Top photo from ramparts wtih freind Z looking south, bottom photo of Via Delarosa.

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