Sunday, 22 February 2015

The sights and sounds of Palestine and Israel....

First the good not famous sights…

The sewer/drain-access covers – seriously! They have lions on them – a symbol of Jerusalem. I noticed them the first time I visited Jerusalem, and they make me smile every time I look down!

The Montefiore Windmill… which will be mentioned in a variety of guidebooks, but very few people on a Christian Pilgrimage will see it as it is on West Jerusalem where there aren’t many Christian sites that Groups visit. And on that note…

The Ethiopian Church Compound… tucked away on a (very undistinguished) side street in West Jerusalem. Because it is so very far off the beaten track for Christian Pilgrim Groups, it is quiet, prayerful and not very full of people. It is possible to sit and pray and ponder – and breathe in the very faint smell of incense that hangs in the air.

The Scottish Flag… atop the ‘Scottish Church’ (the proper name of which is actually St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem) where I went to worship this morning. (The Service began at 10.05am and finished at 11.40, but had we sung the hymns at a decent speed we would have been finished by 11.20am I suspect! J ) I had never visited the Church before, and it is a lovely in its simplicity. There is a beautiful piece of art work in the apse of the Church created by people with Learning Needs living in Bethlehem. (Notice how the shadows make it into a Trinity... I like that, a lot!)

A good number of people (Anglicans especially) will make their way to St George’s Cathedral – so that counts as a famous site, I’m afraid!

Then there are the good sounds

The amazing range of languages and accents… from everywhere and anywhere. Today it was the Glasgow and Arizonian accents, and the Japanese and Dutch languages. As well as the Arabic and Hebrew (and Ethiopian!)

The Call to Prayer… not quite so evident from where I am staying just inside the Old City Walls beside the Jaffa Gate (so called because it is at the end of the road that leads from Jaffa to Jerusalem – just like the Damascus Gate leads from/to Damascus. There is the Dung Gate too… the least said about that, the better!) The first few nights I was here in Jerusalem the early morning Call to Prayer woke me with quite a start. Beside the Jaffa Gate lies West Jerusalem – the newer Jewish area… hence no Mosques on this side of the city.

The Church Bells… ringing out for Services, ringing for the Angelus, (and ringing ever-so-slightly out of sync with each other when ringing the hour!) There are single bells on some Churches, a handful of bells on others, and at the Lutheran Church I attended (and was unexpectedly invited to assist with on the Sunday I first appeared and then on Ash Wednesday – read about it here) there were four bells – rung electronically (don’t tell the Tower Captain at my Church, he’d be horrified! We have ten bells in our Tower, just so you know. J )

And then are the not so good sights…

The rubbish on the streets… especially of East Jerusalem, sad to say. There is obviously not much money put into this part of the City, and it shows. It is such a pity. This is my favourite part of the City, but it looks so grimy when compared to others parts – and just crossing one street is all it takes to see the difference.

The beggars… all over Jerusalem – the Old City, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem too. After the Service today I headed off to explore West Jerusalem, where I’ve never been before. Walking around I saw two men, one sitting on a Zimmer frame/chair holding out a plastic cup which he just about drew the strength to shake occasionally, if he woke up from his dozing. The other man didn’t even have a cup. I confess to walking by – but only to give myself time to get some change out of my purse in order to go back. Had I been near a shop my preference would have been to purchase a sandwich and hot drink as it was a fairly cool day today weather-wise.

And the not so good sounds… in fact the most irritating sound in Israel and Palestine…

The sound of honking car horns. Wherever you go – and at whatever time of day or night – you hear the sound of horns. People try to direct the traffic by them, taxis try to pick up a ride with them and, just (very) occasionally, people will warn pedestrians that they need to move out of the way.

It took me a couple of days to work out what was going on with the taxis as I thought they were honking either at someone else, or at me to tell me to get out of the way! When I did realise what it was about, I soon learned that a simple shake of the head or raising of the hand to indicate ‘no ride required’ is enough and on they go quite happily.

The ordinary driver is another matter though. Today at a set of busy traffic lights, the light was quite clearly red so that a) pedestrians could cross the road and b) the traffic moving across the junction could move too. Alas, this made no difference to at least six or seven of the twelve or so drivers waiting for the light to change to green. I can’t begin to describe to you the cacophony of sound that prevails… everywhere!

Tomorrow is a new day – heading to Tel Aviv to meet two friends who are treating me (and themselves) to a couple of rooms at a plush hotel for the night before we head up to Galilee on Tuesday. And so, more anon!

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