Where to start? It’s been three days since getting collected from Be’er Sheva by our tour guide, Nomi. She drives a Mercedes van that, with the exception of the Merkava tank, is the largest vehicle on the road in this nation.We are having a great time with her. From conversation 1, back in Montreal, we clicked and the insight and stories provided have been a gloves-off, straightforward and frank assessment of all aspects, political, social, economic, etc. 

Arriving in Jerusalem at sundown Friday is the equivalent to going into a coma. Everything is shut down, from the stores on the streets to the espresso machine in the hotel lobby. If it requires power, it don’t work. Fotunately, the earlier part of the day that preceded sunset was chock full o’ good times. This is our first time in Israel since 1978; my second trip, Lori’s third. Although I’d spent 5 months here last time, I never made it to Masada. Same story with the Rodin Garden in Paris, but I digress. 

Heading to the lowest part of the earth, dropping 1,200 meters to about 400 meters below sea level in half an hour was an ear popping experience. 

Opting for the cable car route to the mountaintop fortress as opposed to the hairpinned, switchback snake path route with accompanying heart palpatations was an easy choice. The sense of defiance emblemized by the crested defence position that pissed off the Romans to the point whereby they allocated full divisions to rid themselves of the nuissance of 940 men,women, and children 2,000 years back came to mind again today. We visited the Holocaust Memorial Centre at Yad Vashem. In 1943 when five square blocks of the Warshaw Ghetto, housing half starved Jewish resistance fighters armed with home made weaponry 

required a regiment of fully armed Nazis, led by a newly appointed commander to put them down. Again, something magical about the indominable spirit of the Jews

Masada was followed by a quick dip in the Dead Sea, where I am pleased to report that Lori, not famous for buoyancy despite structural elements that would suggest to the contrary, managed to stay afloat. While we refer to the body of water as the Dead Sea, the Israeli’s refer to it as the Sea of Salt and consider it anything but dead. Factories located at the banks extract Potash and other major minirals from the water and the encrusted shoreline that has, unfortunately, receded faster than my hairline over the past 35 years.

The road to Jerusalem took us along the edge of the Dead Sea, with the setting sun providing beautiful pinkish hues of the mountains of Jordan, just on the other side. Geographically, the area is part of what is known as the Great Rift Valley and extends from Turkey down through Africa. My wish is that the people who live on both sides of it did not take the name so literally.

A brief stop on the way to the capital allowed me to complete a rare accomplishment. I succeeeded in removing two items from my ‘bucket list’ in one day; seeing Masada and 

riding a camel. Very productive 4 hours.

We were both very excited to return to Jerusalem. The city emanated a unique spiritual vibe and I was curious to see if time would have changed all that or if I’d built the experience up to be larger than life. Truth is, the city has grown significantly and had become much more commercialized that I’d remembered. Our initial sense was that Jerusalem had lost its magical identity and now pursued a captitalistic model akin to other developing cities. Introspectively, while I felt disappointed at Jerusalem’s march forward, who was I to ask the city to restrain its growth to allow those such as I to relive nostalgia. Far be it for me to request the citizenry to relinquish their rights toward a more comfortable, and yes, consumer driven lifestyle.

Fortunately, subsequent visits to the old city and other historical and biblical landmarks rekindled some of what made the city special and one of a kind. Touring through the Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Moslem quarters, there was a sense of modernization, even in the market places. Most of the junk being sold in the stalls was repeated from door to door. Now, 95% of the merchandise is made in India or China. The merchants are much less aggressive than last time, and the soldiers from the IDF were almost non-existant, particularly when compared to their omnipresence in the late ’70s. What blew my mind were two things. One a re-emergence of a previous experience, the other something totally new. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (are there any unholy sepulchres?) where Jesus was crucified and burried, 

viewed Al Aqsa, one of Islam’s three holiest shrines, the Gold Dome which is where Mohammed supposedly alit to heaven, 

and the West Wall of Temple Mount that was the home to the two Jewish Temples, the first of which, destroyed in 70AD supposedly held the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments (both in DVD and 8mm formats). 

How odd that in a span of less than five hundred meters, three of the world’s major religons compete for top billing. The world is so large, why do all these holy sights get dumped in one back yard?

The second revelation dealt specifically with the condition of the Al Aqsa mosque. I may be accused of many things but ‘appologist for Islam’ is not usually one of them. That said, the memory of the silver domed mosque, acting as the minor chord for the Gold dome produced a magnificent sight. Today the dome has rusted itself to the point of looking as if it is about to erode through. 

Shocked, I asked what the deal was. Nomi advised me that those responsible for its upkeep do not have the money required to maintain and replate. I was awestruck. This site, holy to the Muslims in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Iran, Libya and other petro states can’t afford a bucket of paint?!?

The incredulousness and mystical prowess of Jerusalem is maintained. Slightly less in evidence, but a bit of scratching of the surface is all that is required to bring to light all that is incredible.


  • tina
    Posted at 19:17h, 29 December Reply

    Interesting as always – It is amazing what one can do in Israel in just a couple of days – from Masada to the Dead Sea to Jerusalem x 3! Incredible!
    Have fun and keep the stories flowing –

  • Cookieman
    Posted at 20:45h, 29 December Reply

    Now I understand when I thought I heard the angels sing the other night, it was simply because a great deity was in such close proximity to the holiest shrines in the world. The glow in the sky was simply a reflection of the majesty of the moment, blessing us all with grace, wisdom, and serenity. Not my kind of a neighborhood though, there is nowhere you can get a good porchetta.

  • Bruce Burnett
    Posted at 21:42h, 29 December Reply

    But the cheese blintzes can't be beat.

  • Bobina
    Posted at 03:53h, 30 December Reply

    Are you serious when you say that the junk they sell in the market is made in China??? That is progress? What a fun and interesting take you have – keep writing! Xo

  • michael woloz
    Posted at 18:49h, 30 December Reply

    The reasons for the rust may be shocking, but is anyone truly surprised? The relevance of Faith is in a long term down-trend, even in its strongholds.

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