Jerusalem Accomplished

Written by  Denise Mattia

AFRICA Israel
Millennia of history lay before me when the van stopped at Mount Scopus. Religion. War. Architectural wonders built, destroyed and rebuilt.
The Dome of the Rock is visible from here. Built on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, it became a Roman temple in 70 CE, the Omar Mosque in 691, an Augustinian church in 1099, and was claimed by the Knights Templar in 1119. It was renovated by the Jordanian government in the 20th century, turned over to Israel after the bloody six-day war in 1967 and, to keep the peace, was returned to the Arabs soon after. Guides recite history books. Still, what was I to experience? We continued the journey to Jerusalem.

History and Tradition
The rooms at the David Citadel Hotel (www.thedavidcitadel.com) are comfortable, wheelchair-accessible, have excellent views of the city and are close to major sights. The hotel also has a fitness center and the Seasons Restaurant, where buffet delicacies are served at breakfast. Included are Hamantashen, triangular pastries filled with fruit jams, chocolate and poppy seeds, which according to one legend is a symbol of the pointed ears of Mmh Haman, prime minister to Ahasuerus the Persian king in the middle of the 4th century BCE. They’ve also been attributed to the triangular cloth worn by Haman who sentenced his rival Mordecai and all the Jews in Persia to death (and who were saved by the king’s queen, Esther). Any mention of the villain’s name is met with frenzied behavior, and during Purim, the holiday, Israelis commemorate victory over adversity by wearing funny costumes and wigs, munching on Hamatashen and imbibing to excess.
I visited the excavations dug deep into the City of David. Archaeologists display remains, some dating to the Bronze Age, nearly 5,000 years ago. The bowels of the cool, damp earth are riddled with passages, some of which extend along the full length of the Western Wall, where I lowered my eyes out of respect for women praying and venerating the Holy of Holies on the other side. Above ground, I watched from a distance while both sexes, separated by a fence, conducted prayers at the Wall. I followed the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, said to be the path Jesus took to the Hill of Calvary. The stations of the cross are marked beside ornate churches, erected for pilgrims to the Holy Land.
The Night Spectacular Show on the stone walls of the Citadel depict the history of Jerusalem using a sight and sound system of projectors, video players, computers and loudspeakers. The intricate, stunning show concluded with “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” written on the wall.
It seemed incongruous to be met by the marketing director of a world famous museum in a floppy black hat and a plastic mustache pasted on his upper lip. The Israel Museum (www.imj.org.il) is a venue for galleries containing archaeological artifacts, which tell about the cultures and civilizations worldwide and for masterworks on loan from sister museums. In addition to a visual cultural history, since its inception in 1965 the museum is also a showcase for new Israeli artists, which included New Sounds: Purim Noisemakers by Yaacov Kaufman. Displayed were 150 noisemakers adopted from Christian neighbors and are today central components in the holiday’s celebrations. The exhibit was well received by costumed children visiting the museum.
Set apart from the beautifully manicured outdoor sculpture setting designed by Ismu Noguchi are the remarkable Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world. The urn-shaped building, the Shrine of the Book, was designed by artists Frederick Kiesler in collaboration with Armond Bartos. The white tiled facade contrasts with the dark basalt wall and represents the battle between the forces of darkness and light.

Remembrance
The complex of Yad Vashem shapes the future by commemorating the Holocaust of six million Jews and Jewish communities, resistance fighters and the Righteous Among the Nations - gentiles who risked their lives to hide Jews from deportation to concentration camps. Located on the Mount of Remembrance, the 45-acre campus contains emotionally charged exhibits in buildings and monuments. Exiting from the Holocaust History Museum and the eternal flame in the somber Hall of Remembrance, I found solace in the Square of Hope. The minimalist park of trees and stone benches lit from beneath brings the world into a brighter future. I’m reminded of walking peacefully through the narrow, sun-lit cobble-stone lanes and strolling beneath the turquoise arches draped with blossoming vines in Old Jaffa.
I’d enjoyed my short visit to the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, where visitors from various countries and locals sat in outdoor cafes, absorbing the easy-going, laid-back atmosphere of the city. I’d spent hours in Old Jaffa, where the eclectic collection of the artist, Ilana Goor is housed. Like the “Smiling Whale,” her work is whimsical, yet it’s as powerful and inspiring as her figure, “Never Again” in the Yad Vashem Museum or “Motherhood” at the Sculpture Garden of her museum. Like the people in Jerusalem, Goor has the ability to mold creations by using the materials at hand. She, like Jerusalemites, embodies strength, determination and vision.  www.goisrael.com

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