Today is Friday and all morning the Muslims are praying in the mosques. Although I do not understand exactly what danger that incurs, we have always been forbidden from entering East Jerusalem on Fridays until 3 p.m. President Brown said that they prefer to ere on the side of paranoia, which would be one explanation. Classes ran all morning but a group of us went to West Jerusalem in the early afternoon. We just explored the area around Ben Yehuda Street. West Jerusalem is well outside the walls of the Old City and it is considered to be the hip modern place to hang out. It’s mostly made up of clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants and ice cream shops. There are a few touristy shops but they are pricier than the merchants in the Old City and stingy on bartering. There were sukkot erected every block or so for the Jewish “celebration of the tabernacles” and the streets were full of young Jewish men carrying palm fronds, citron, and other ceremonial vegetation for the feast.
We spent the later afternoon walking along the Via Dolorosa reading the correlating scriptures with each station. Although most of the Stations of the Cross have been proven incorrect by archaeologists and historians it was nice to partake in that tradition to some degree, and reading the scriptures to remind us of Christ’s life is always an enlightening experience. The Chapel of the Flagellation and the Armenian Church are two little gems that we found along the way; beautiful stained glass. I will definitely be returning to them in the future when I need to reflect and meditate, which seems to happen often here.
There were fireworks in the neighborhood outside the center tonight! I heard them in my room and thought they were gunshots but when I went out on my porch to investigate I saw the lights of the fireworks. I looked with the assumption of finding violence but found instead laughing and hooting. What a remarkable contrast! It’s those moments that have the most profound effects on my mind. I just sat and watched the fireworks, feeling completely at home in this place where humans find peace in their own worlds; in those special little moments with their families and friends.