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Trip to the Old City Part I

I posted some blog posts ago about doing some mental unpacking. I went through scenarios of different encounters that I had, in detail, but for some reason didn’t post about the event that was essentially the catalyst for the post.

Several weeks ago I went walking through the passageways of the Old City. I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought I would accomplish within those walls, but I stuffed my backpack with a long mesh skirt, a heavily adorned scarf, my 12″ x 18″ drawing pad, a journal, compressed charcoal, my wallet, an ipod, and water. I guess it might help to pause for a second and do some prefacing. Around the time of this excursion, we, students, had a paper looming. We were asked to write about the political/religious sacredness of a site and, before my trip to the Old City, I had yet to decide on anything. Fast forward to my trip and although I consciously and decidedly went to the Old City without any intentions, I think I subconsciously hoped to be drawn, randomly, to a site.

I hadn’t been back to the Old City since our group trip weeks prior. Now, I think it is fair to say that if I had been pressed for time during this outing, it would seem unwise and undesirable to approach the maze-like area without some sort of mental map, at least. Because I had allotted the entire day to play within the walled area, however, I was excited to get lost in and negotiate my way out of the Old City.

Things started off pretty interestingly. On my way to the Givat HaMivtar light rail station, I was stopped by a woman who asked me, in English, where the train going to Jerusalem was. A bit confused, I told her that she could walk alongside me to the light rail stop and asked if she could explain to me, more clearly, where it was that she wanted to go (as far as I knew, we were already in Jerusalem and any stop along the light rail route was also in the city). After five minutes of speaking with this woman, I learned that she grew up in Jerusalem, still has quite a few extended family members in the city, moved to Bethlehem when she was around my age, and has no knowledge of Hebrew. I learned this woman’s name, her children’s names and ages, her age and occupation. I think I gathered all of the information that a person could possibly retain within five minutes, save the only thing I really wanted to know—her desired destination. We got to the train platform and I asked my fellow traveler if “Jerusalem” was close to the city’s center, or away from it. She immediately responded that it was close, and I told her I was headed in that direction as well. During our ride, I spent most of the time talking, sharing my name, my studies, my travels. I basically gave a small snapshot of myself in the 7 minutes or so that it took to get to the Old City’s Damascus Gate. When my stop arrived, I saw that my new acquaintance was gathering her things as well. I pointed to the walled city and asked her if this was the Jerusalem that she wished to get to. She smiled and nodded, giving me an affirmative “yes” before stepping off of the train. “That’s a new one” I whispered to myself as I stepped off of the train. I took out my journal and pen, tightened my backpack straps, and made my way towards this new Jerusalem.


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