2011
05.03

SYNOPSIS:

A visit to the Jewish Quarter and a celebration of various death-related world events past and present. OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD.

As we were having breakfast, a siren sounded across town.  We noted it but completely missed its significance:  two minutes of silence to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust brought the country to a standstill.  If we had been out, we would have noticed cars and people stopping, and soldiers in attention.  It is Yom HaShoa, a national holiday in Israel.  Flags are at half mast.

Instead we were catching up on the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death!   His death will change little in world politics, but it’s an important symbol nonetheless.  What’s more than a symbol is the fact that he was found just 35 miles outside of Islamabad, not in the mountains, but in a villa!  Wow.  That tells you something about the Pakistani government and its loyalties.  I hope our government can draw some lessons from that.  And Hitler committed suicide on this day 66 years ago.  The air was thick with historical deaths.

Quite fitting for the day we explored the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.  First, the “Burnt House”, found during excavations after 1968.  It is the house of a priest near the Temple Mount that got razed to the ground in the year 70 AD when Romans besieged Jerusalem, torched it, and banned Jews from ever entering it. This is also when the name Palestine was coined to insult the Jews even further – a name based on the name of their enemy tribe, the Philistines.

After a visit to the Western Wall – today was a low-key day, and more visitors than believers were around – we headed to the Hurva Synagogue, our main attraction for the day.  It has seen its own “death”, or destruction three times, hence the name Hurva or “Ruin”.  It spent more time as a ruin than as a functional building and was finished only a year ago and opened again to the public.  A spirited guide, whose father’s and grandfather’s lives had been affiliated with the synagogue, led us around for two hours recalling the history of the building as well as the history of the Jewish Quarter.  He was one of those gifted guides who could have gone on for another two hours without boring us.

Hurva synagogue is unique.  It is the only synagogue that towers above the Dome of the Rock if you look at the skyline of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.   Its architect was a Muslim and he got away with it.   All other synagogues had to lay low.  How would a Muslim architect build a Jewish synagogue?  I guess the money was right.  🙂

Today, a Yeshiva is associated with the synagogue and several young men were praying in full regalia while we toured.  The building is bright and airy.  The views from the gallery atop the dome over Jerusalem are breathtaking.  Don’t miss it if you are nearby!

In the evening we were meeting up with “Mountain Man” Aubrey for a dinner in the Old City.  I am glad, Maria, Jack, and David were able to meet him, finally.

Good night!

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