Saturday, December 23, 1995

1995 Israel: Oops, Jerusalem III (12/23/1995)

Saturday, December 23, 1995
Up at 6:00. Brynne had a bowl of cheerios and we had fruit and juice, and packed fruit and bagels in our backpack. We were ready at 6:50 when Tom drove us to the Laromme Hotel where we would meet the Egged Tour bus to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. We left the apartment building and took stairs down past an entrance to a bomb shelter below the apartments, then to the parking garage under the terrace. Tom used a remote control to open the wrought-iron gate to exit out onto the street. Shabbat had begun one hour before sundown on Friday (yesterday), and would last until one hour past sundown tonight. The observant Jews would dress up and walk to synagogue. There would be no driving, cooking, showering, using the elevator, turning on lights (but the use of timers was allowed to turn them on and off!), etc. So it was very quiet in the neighborhood. We soon arrived at the Laromme Hotel, where Vice President Al Gore is due to visit next month, and later former President Jimmy Carter. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is a frequent guest here.
As soon as we stepped out of Tom’s car at the hotel, Brynne lost her breakfast. She kept gagging and coughing, and spit into the nice brass top of a trash can. We wiped the mess off the sidewalk and dropped it into the trash can, and decided to all get back into the car and go home. We had reservations for the bus tour, but luckily had not yet paid. We did not see anyone around to notify, and left. Back at the Ls’ apartment we apologized for getting Tom up so early, but he seemed just thankful that Brynne did not make a mess inside the car! Brynne was feeling tired, feverish, and was coughing. This was more than jet lag now, so she has the flu? We let her go back to bed, and Kent went back to bed as well.
I decided to accompany the Ls when they went to pick up their Christmas tree. It seems the Israeli government cleans out their forests and donates the trees to the embassies and consulates. The rest they bring to a designated place for distribution to local Christians who pick them up for free. We had seen people walking through the Old City dragging what appeared to be large evergreen branches, but apparently these were their Christmas trees! We did see some small artificial trees for sale in the souk. We drove up a street past the Prime Minister’s residence, but couldn’t really see much of it. We parked in front of the United States consulate on Agron Street, one of two in Jerusalem, the other being on Nablus Road/Derekh Shechem in East Jerusalem (near the Garden of the Tomb). The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv deals with the Israelis and recognizes Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. The United States Consulates in Jerusalem deal with the Palestinians, in an official capacity. We were buzzed through the door and the Marine allowed us into the lobby of the building. We exited out to the courtyard in front of the American Consulate General’s home. The “Christmas trees” were lined up along one wall, taller than the ones we had seen, but all rather asymmetrical. The evergreens had feathery leaves and large nebulous “cones.” They were more silvery in color than green. One was tagged for the Ls, and Tom cut off the bottom branches, which we saved. We then left by the auto gate, and a large shield behind the gate lowered into the ground so we could walk through. Outside a couple Israeli guards watched curiously as Tom tied the tree down in the hatchback of their Volvo 440. I took a couple photos, then we drove home.
US Consulate on Agron Road
Tom put the tree in the trunk of the Volvo 440
The Ls put the tree in a stand in a corner, and Tom got his electric drill to reposition some of the branches that were cut off. Dot put the smaller branches in a few of her Christmas arrangements which made them look even nicer. Kent was assigned to climb the stepladder and place the angel on top of the tree. Later it was exclaimed that he put the angel on backwards, but actually Tom had turned the tree around!
Jerusalem Christmas Tree, before
Brynne was still sleeping, so Kent and I decided to go out for a couple hours. It was a bright sunny day. The buses do not run on Shabbat, so we knew we had to walk wherever we went. We took off without bothering with the backpack, taking a section of Dot’s well-worn map that had the best street detail. We followed a few crooked streets, walking in the street like everyone else because so few people were driving. We found paths and steps as shortcuts between streets to work our way over to the Greek Monastery of the Cross in the Valley of the Cross.
Monastery of the Cross
Entrance to the Monastery of the Cross
This was a fortress-looking monastery where the church is supposed to be 1,000-years old. We entered the gate and no one stopped us. Followed signs to the church and found the nave with a floor mosaic, frescoes on the large square columns, and an ornate cross in the center. But no traditional altar or apse, which may have been closed off. Oh, it was an Eastern Orthodox Church where the chancel is closed off by the iconostasis. The right aisle was roped off, so we walked down the left aisle that took us behind to see the altar below which was a brass disk with a hole in it.
Bronze disk marks the spot where the tree
grew from which the cross of Jesus was made
Tradition says this is where the tree grew from which the cross was made on which Jesus was crucified. Paintings on the wall told the story of the tree. Apparently trees were planted here by Lot after he fled Sodom. After leaving the church we followed arrows that led us to several old monastery rooms, an old kitchen, a dining room with a long marble table, and perhaps monks’ cells. When we arrived at the gift shop we saw there was an entrance fee. I bought a mother-of-pearl cross, thinking it was 4 NIS, but it was $4. We are realizing that prices often are in US dollars. I mentioned to the man that we had gone through the church, but he did not charge us admission. So I felt okay about paying more than expected for the cross.
Next we headed uphill past rocky dirt areas with scraggly trees (some olive trees) and shrubs. We came up behind the Knesset building that was entirely enclosed by walls and barbed wire. We had to walk all the way around to locate the entrance, only to find that the gate was down across the road. We went into the Wohl Rose Garden to look down onto the front of the Knesset.
Wohl Rose Garden
Roses were still in bloom in the garden.
We found the Menorah, which I had expected to be bigger. It is a 10-foot high bronze menorah, the seven-branched candelabra based on the one that graced the First and Second Temples. Now it is the official symbol of the State of Israel. Designed by Bruno Elkin, it was a gift of the British Parliament in 1956. It was decorated with bas reliefs of events and persons in Jewish history from Biblical times to modern day.
We were able to get a closer view of the Menorah, but not get any closer to the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
Menorah and Knesset
The name and number of seats (120) are taken from the Haknesset Hagedalah, the Great Assembly of the Second Temple period. It is a unicameral government where the majority party picks the prime minister. The electoral system is proportional representation, so that any party winning 1.5% of the national vote gets a seat. There are a plethora of parties. In 1996, the voters will be able to directly choose (vote for) the prime minister. The president of Israel is a figurehead.
We walked back along the road to the back of the Knesset, then across the street to the Israel Museum. We read a sign that we were supposed to get tickets for Saturday in advance, as they cannot sell tickets on Shabbat! But there was a van parked outside selling tickets, so either a non-observant Jew or a Christian who was allowed to handle the money transactions today! It cost 18 NIS each to enter the museum complex. Built in 1965, it was a series of glass and white stone pavilions on a 22-acre hilltop. Our goal was to see the white dome-like Shrine of the Book housing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Shrine of the Book dome/Sons of Light and
basalt slab/Sons of Darkness
The dome of the shrine was inspired by the shape of the lids of the clay jars in which the scrolls were kept. They were written in the Second Temple period by a fundamentalist Jewish sect called the Essenes. (Some Christians believe St John the Baptist was an Essene.) There is agreement that they are dated to the late 3rd century BC and none are later than 68 AD when the Essene community of Qumran was destroyed by the Romans. They were written on parchment and well-preserved because of the dryness of the Dead Sea region. The manuscripts include the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament (including all 66 chapters of Isaiah), which authenticate the almost identical Hebrew texts of today. Documents also included the “Thanksgiving Scroll” of psalms, and sectarian literature such as the “Rule of the Community/Manual of Discipline” (a constitution of the Essenes) and the “War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness” (an account of the cataclysmal conflict presaging the Messiah). These documents are the most important archaeological find ever made in this region. The 2,000-year old scrolls were found by a Bedouin boy in 1947, who was looking for a lost sheep or goat in a cave in the Judean Desert. Supposedly a Bedouin took the parchment to a cobbler to have shoes made from it. But the cobbler realized the parchment could be important and took it to an antiquities dealer, who then took it to a university. Expeditions were sent to see if there was more. The entrance of the shrine has a huge slab of black basalt to represent the Sons of Darkness vs the white dome representing the Sons of Light. Down the entrance corridor were displays of parchment and papyrus documents of a later period, the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132-135 AD when Jews fled Roman legionnaires, and hid in remote caves in the desert, taking prized possessions including land deeds, marriage contracts, etc. These were found in the Ein Gedi region. The Dead Sea Scrolls were displayed around a circular room under the dome, with light switches to light them as needed. A facsimile stood in the very center. We started around clockwise, but realized if we could read Hebrew, we should be going counterclockwise! There were English explanations for everything. In the spaces below the Dead Sea scrolls were artifacts found in the Ein Gedi caves, including parts of woolen blankets, prayer shawls, and a few glass objects including a glass bowl in perfect condition, the finest found from the ancient world.
From the Shrine of the Book we went up to the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden, donated by the American impresario/director and designed by Isamu Noguchi (whose sculptures are in the garden). It was a series of semicircular terraces divided by stone walls.
Homage to Garment District (197, by Arman)
Kent with Vertebrae (1968-1969, by Henry Moore)
Adam (1880, by Auguste Rodin)
Kent examines Apple Core
(1992, by Claes Oldenburg)
Sculptures included works by Honoré-Victorin Daumier, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso (did not see), Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Jacques Lipchitz, and Elie Nadelman.
Terraces of the Israel Museum
We were due back at the Ls, so headed down the hillside behind the Monastery of the Cross, which had a large walled-in enclosure of rocky land. On our side of the hill were low semicircular walls at a couple points, and scattered around were the charred remains of fires. From picnics? Rituals? We retraced our steps to the Ls’. They do not eat a real lunch, so we ate our delicious big real Jewish bagels! Brynne napped on and off, and took Tylenol, as she was still feverish and coughing. Tom had done what he could to the Christmas tree and had put on the lights. We had Brynne come out and sit on the recliner as we all pitched in to put ornaments on the tree. Well, Dot and I did while Tom supervised and Kent read, although Kent and Brynne helped a little.
Brynne decorating the Christmas tree
Jerusalem Christmas Tree, after
A German smoker
Brynne with a German candle "carousel"
The Ls had lots of ornaments, and they said this was only a fraction of what they owned! They had started State Department life with no ornaments, so what they have are mostly souvenirs of places they have been, which Tom managed to make hangable! Tom went to get a few gifts to put under the tree, and Brynne discovered a couple were for her. She went to get the gift she made at school for Kent and me, to put under the tree.
One hour after sundown, Shabbat ended with a lot of noise, shouts and drumming. It was unusual activity, perhaps because of Hanukkah (which would end on Christmas Day this year)? We have noticed big commercial hanukkiahs, and small ones in the windows of homes. Each night an additional candle is lit, and I think this is the eve of the seventh day of eight. We at the Ls', though, listened to Christmas music!
For dinner we had a lamb roast with cranberry sauce, carrots, kohlrabi, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad, bread and butter. Brynne had not eaten all day, but wanted to try something. We found Ramen noodles to make for her with chicken bouillon, which initially she was afraid to eat, then had some.
Kent and I decided to go to Ben Yehuda Street, the pedestrian shopping area. Now that Shabbat was over, the buses would be running and the shops would be open. Tom drove us to the beginning of Solomon Street then continued to go beer shopping. It was already 20:00 and I was wondering if anything would be open. But all the taverns, restaurants, and discos on Solomon Street were busy. The pedestrian street was crowded with people. There were some street musicians, a juggler, a few fundamentalists out lighting a hanukkiah, or driving around with a lighted hanukkiah on the roof and shouting through a bullhorn. On this car were posters of Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose pamphlet we had received at the Tomb of David. We window-shopped along Ben Yehuda Street. Saw a McDonald’s down a side street.
McDonald's in Jerusalem
Stepped into the Nesher taxi stand. But it was too early to reserve a sherut to take us to the airport on Tuesday. They only want to hear from us the day before! Near the top of Ben Yehuda we saw a fire truck backing out of a plaza, the same thing we saw in the same place when we arrived in Jerusalem from the airport! We backtracked and checked out a couple other streets. Stopped in a pharmacy where I bought Kleenex for Brynne and Kent went to the pharmacist to get a Tylenol equivalent as we were running low. We found where to catch bus #15 and rode it back home. We were only gone an hour or so and arrived back at the same time as Tom. Showered and to bed at a decent time as we had another big day planned for tomorrow. We decided to try the bus tour again on Monday. The new Tylenol seemed to work better on Brynne’s fever, although Brynne did not like it. But she only had to take one pill instead of four children’s pills.
Next: Masada.

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