While on the walls, we saw a Bar Mitswa taking off. It is Thursday, traditionally one of the days that Bar Mitswa’s are celebrated at the Western Wall. So we set off to see what’s going on there. It turns out to be one big photo opportunity – the sunshine, the many colourful people, the traditions… it is almost too much to take J. We spend much time at the Wall, watching the celebrations. Things we know from books are reality here: men dancing together, kissing the Torah, fully into tradition, while modern-dressed and stylish women stand behind the fence cheering and taking pictures. Inside the closed part of the Wall to the left, we enter into yet another world: there are men everywhere reading and citing Torah, some sitting down, others standing in reverence. We walk out again, and notice an increasing crowd on the square. Many children (boys!) are around, entire school classes are together. As we don’t know what is happening, we walk out towards the City of David. When we asks someone what is happening, it turns out that there is indeed an event happening: school classes are gathering to pray for rain – which is much needed. We can hear the citing and singing all around the place.
After lunch, we wander through the Old City. It is a fascinating blend of cultures, peoples, traditions, colors and most of all religions. From the Western Wall we take the tunnel route through the Moslem Quarter to the Via Dolorosa. Within 15 minutes we pass from a purely Jewish culture at the Western Wall through the Arabic-islamic culture of suqs and mosques (where we are denied access to the Dome of the Rock by a young Moslem) to the Christian-Catholic tradition of carrying a cross through Via Dolorosa (which we actually saw a group of Spanish Catholics do).The Via Dolorosa is actually much more part of the regular city life than I had expected; the so-called ‘Stations of the Cross’, the different parts of the final hours before Jesus’ death, are hard to find between the shops and markets. We continue the tourist route outside to Getsemane. Here are more traces of actual pilgrim-tourism: big churches on the ‘holy places’, street sellers around, and so on. The olive trees in Getsemane are real though; they might not be 2000 years old, but reliable estimates go back as far as 1500 years. The gardener gives us some branches to take home. This is actually the only place where I can see Jesus must have been – apart from the nice pathways made through the garden, the environment must have looked more or less the same.