Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shalom, Salaam, Peace - and Free Wi Fi!!

Jerusalem. What is there to say about it? It's the capital of Israel, a modern city and also the country's largest. Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is here, as is its supreme court and prime minister headquarters. There are highrises, lowrises, shops, restaurants, cafes. Culture abounds - with internationally recognized artists, musicians, actors. World leaders visit all the time. Almost every language you can think of is spoken here. In this respect, it's a modern, international city in a democratic society.

Modern Jerusalem. This is the "new city". Construction everywhere with many foreigners buying second homes here.

Except it's not that simple.

Its history dates back anywhere from 4,000-10,000 BCE, depending on who you ask. Either way, that's freakin' old. It's the birthplace of monotheism and critical for many of the world's religions. The holiest city in Judaism, third-holiest in Islam, and where Jesus just happens to be buried. Jesus, peeps! That's big stuff.

Therein lies the lifelong dichotomy of this city. It wants to be progressive and modern. Really, it does. New York. Paris. Rome. Jerusalem. It kind of works. But on the other hand, it never really will. Imagine, if you will, taking a tour. You walk on a freshly paved sidewalk, surrounded by shops. Zara, H&M, all the latest fashions. "Here, on your left, is the newest sushi bar, also the trendiest nightspot....".

Impossible to describe the smells of all these spices and incense all mixed together. Not to mention adding in men on the corners smoking hookahs.

You turn the corner. Suddenly you're on cobblestone a car could never go on. "Here, on your right, is where Jesus was resurrected. That corner is where David fought Goliath. Oh, and this was where Solomon did his thinking".

Far right, sign in Arabic in East Jerusalem, in the "shuk".

Middle, woman praying at the Western Wall.See what I mean? The modern thing will never fully work.

The other dilemma with Jerusalem is that everyone and their mother has a claim to this place. Come here and you will see the Arab-Israeli conflict with your own eyes. Fundamentalists on all sides. Haredim and Arabs fighting it out for who can have the higher birth rate. Modern life colliding with tradition.....and losing. Clearly. The weirdest feeling was watching Palestinian children run around, thinking one could have a bomb strapped to them in the near future. Because it's out of this poverty, right here, that Hamas rules. Sad, but don't be fooled, it's true. Not the most comfortable place for an American Jew to be walking around. Let's just say it was obvious Poker Chick did not belong and was not wanted walking around there.

It looks old, but if you look carefully you'll see the "Free Wi Fi" on the orange sign in the picture above.

In reality, it's Israel's capital, but the world does not acknowledge this. It's also the capital claimed by the Palestinians. Or, if you ask someone else, it belongs to the world. Huh. Clearly, an issue.

No matter what happens, it'll always be a history of unbelievable historical significance. To turn a corner and suddenly feel like you've stepped back in time hundreds or even thousands of years is indescribable.

Woman selling grape leaves in East Jerusalem.

It's impossible to talk middle east politics without having seen this for yourself. It will change your whole perspective. Go. Whatever you believe, go. There's nothing else like it.

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