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Looking Around the Old City

On Wednesday, I went along with Maiya, a fellow JOH intern, for an impromptu afternoon in the Old City. It’s weird, because I’ve only been back to the Old City twice since the seminar, so I mostly associate it with that portion of our stay. Still, it seems completely different when I’m not running from one holy site to another on a couple hours sleep. While it seemed that we had seen every inch of the Old City during the seminar, we had so little time to breathe and really look around.

We first stopped at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre since Maiya hadn’t been yet. I was amazed by just how much of it I hadn’t seen the first time around. Going in the late afternoon was a good idea; although it was far from empty, it wasn’t nearly as stifffingly crowded as it was the first time around. We watched a procession going around and chanting in Latin. Although I mostly recalled everything we learned during the seminar on the site, there were a few instances when we would walk into a room where everybody was staring at an object and I wasn’t quite sure how to identify it. We thought of trying to find a tour group and maybe inadvertently joining them, but alas, among the many groups we found, none of them were conducted in English.

From there we walked through the market into the Jewish Quarter, where we took  a stroll along the Cardo and found an observation point where we could see the Kotel (which, as per usual, seemed to have hundreds of women crowding into their respective section and about three men in theirs). We tried to give directions to an Australian couple who ended up just following us and I realized that I was somehow going into Tour Guide mode. I really should charge for this.

We ended up back in the market, where we took a much deserved  and delicious knaffeh break. Maiya didn’t seem to think it was quite as amazing as I did, but wow, I hadn’t had any since we were in Ramallah and I had nearly forgotten just how fantastic it can be. We finished off the trip on the roof of the Austrian Hospice. Watching the sun set and looking out onto the rest of the Old City, I thought about how in the last few months, I had started to fall into a daily life in Jerusalem, and it has become all too easy to forget that all of this beauty and holiness is all around me. Throughout the seminar, and in many ways in the last two months, it always seemed that Jerusalem is completely crazy, 24/6. Sitting on the roof, on top of it all, everything seemed so tranquil. While I have definitely not forgotten just how contested everything around me has always been and still is, sometimes it helps to put that aside just for half an hour or so, breathe, and take in the sights.


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