2011
05.30

SYNOPSIS: Wandering Jerusalem for the last time.

The taxi drivers at the Bethlehem check-point waved goodbye this morning when I rolled my suitcase up the steep incline to leave the West Bank for good. Business is scarce and they remember every customer. With one of them I explored the Banksy cartoons; another was our driver when Maria, Jack and David were here and several others had taken me from the check-point to town or to Beit Sahour where I stayed for the last week.  The check point was unusually crowded but processing was as smooth and courteous as I had seen it in the past – quite unlike the Ramallah crossing which has been nasty with only one exception.

Originally, I thought I would go back to Yad Vashem visiting the museum I had missed the first time around but then I could not tear myself away from busy Ben Yehuda Boulevard, enjoyed one last time walking Jaffa Street and some of the neighborhoods.  In Mea Shearim, I found a spot where I could sit with my camera between my baggy pants photographing some of the people coming towards me.  I have been after “the Curleys” as I called them, since I got here.  Those are the ultra-orthodox boys and men with their side-locks, their black attire and their hats which on holidays look like furry wagon wheels.  Jerusalem has large communities of orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews but it is nearly impossible to photograph them unless you are obviously rude and obnoxious.  You usually can only photograph them from the back.

Thanks to Tzippi, I finally made it around to the Jerusalem Open Market with its fruit, meat, fish, nut and bread stands.  It’s like any Arab market, but wider, more organized, and less chaotic, except perhaps on Fridays when every Jerusalem mother is out shopping for Shabbat. There, they have ice cream stores that feature the most unusual flavors such as Basil, Melon-Arak (that is that anise-flavored schnapps traditional for this region), and more.  In one day I had more ice cream than in any given week.  I had to do something to get over the sadness to leave…  🙂

In the City Center I stumbled across the home of  the Jewish artist Anna Ticho, which now has changing exhibits, and some of her works on display.  She died in 1980 leaving her Ottoman villa to the city.  The property has a nice garden restaurant in the middle of busy downtown where I sat for a while enjoying the quiet.  And I had to buy just one more pair of baggy pants…  The ones I took on this trip took a real beating, not just from crawling under rusty fences…  Like the red ones which I wore last year in Iran and which got me so much notoriety; they are just about unusable now…

And the Old City! Who could leave Jerusalem without strolling just one more time through the crowded quarters of the Muslim Souq, or the shiny white stone walls lining the alleys of the Jewish Quarter, or past the stores filled with religious paraphernalia in the Christian Quarter.  One final visit of the central roof restaurant.  One final panorama of the Old City domes and roofs – even though I already have hundreds of them.  One final listen to the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from the minaret right next to the gray domes of the Holy Sepulchre.

This country is special.  And this city above all others is enchanting to a point of danger.  She is luring you into her web before you know it.  I can see why so many people have craved to be here just once in their life time and why so many wars have been fought over her possession.

With a Palestinian beer from a West Bank brewery, I sat down at a bar near Jaffa Gate in the center of Jerusalem writing my last blog entry.  Where that beer came from, Israeli Jews can go no longer.  Where I sat, no Christian or Muslim Arab from the West Bank or Gaza can go without a special permit. This is a wonderful place, but it has reached a point in its history which is unsustainable and which will give me things to ponder for months if not years to come.

I will keep this country and all of its people – from the Golan Heights to the Gulf of Aqaba, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean – in my heart and in my mind.

I hoped that time would freeze just once.  But it didn’t and eventually I had to go to bed and this last day, too, came to an end.

Good night.