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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Twelve Gates to the City

The Damascus Gate

A huge panorama from the Muslim cemetary, of the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane,
the 144,000 graves, and the city wall including the Gates of Mercy filled by the Muslims to prevent the return of the Messiah.

Panorama of the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall

The wailing wall has contentious separate places for men and women (right)
Chairs have been thrown by male worshipers at the women for seeking equal rights

Having arrived in Jordan the evening before and spent the night in Madaba famous for its Orthodox Christina mosaics, we duly arrived at the Allenby, or King Hussein bridge connecting Jordan with the West Bank and Israel which has a dire reputation for difficult passages, around 11 in the morning.

The Jordanian side has a string of slightly desolate rental car offices

Our little red Peugeot 107 nicely tucked out the back in a private park

We managed to put our Avis rental in a car park behind the Avis office at the bridge for 5 dinars.

Leaving Jordanian immigration on the JETT bus for the bridge

We then went through Jordanian immigration, paying a 16 dinar exit tax each, having to wait half an hour without our passports for a JETT (Jordan transport) bus to take us across to Israeli immigration (the passports were duly returned on the bus). Notably the Jordanians don't exit stamp your passport or cancel your entry visa, because technically you aren't leaving Jordan but just traveling to the West Bank, so if you return by the same route (as we did) you don't need a new entry visa.

The Allenby or King Hussein Bridge

The River Jordan is not chilly and cold but almost non-existent due to upstream irrigation use

Approaching Israeli immigration. If they think you have taken photos, they will wipe your camera.

At Israeli immigration things began to go badly wrong. I inadvertently mentioned I was giving a talk to a group in Jerusalem and then they demanded all the details but wouldn't let me open the computer to give them to them, then putting us in the security check group with a bunch of Palestinians. I made a hell of a fuss about this and was prepared to get arrested.

But then I got cunning and secretly opened the computer and scribbled down Shelley's address and phone number and cell honed her and took the phone to the guy in charge of the bunch of young girls who were running the immigration office. Shelly gave then a strongly worded confirmation and we finally made it out two hours later riding with a Palestinian woman who had previously been held for 12 hours there without water.

But there was a reason for this and it puts me in excellent company. Apparently Noam Chomsky tried to come through the Allenby Bridge abut a month ago after giving some inflammatory anti-Israeli speeches and got turned away - anyway the irony was that in the end we managed to go straight through without them even checking our bags after about a hundred times having to have them x-rayed and taken apart during out trip!

Images around and inside the Damascus Gate

Then there was a big fight with the collective taxi operator who was holding a full bus with one empty seat for an unspecified period telling us we might have to wait till the next day in the hot sun with no air con. So I led a bit of a rebellion by the male passengers of the bus and we finally hit the road.

Corner of the Via Dolorosa

So by the time we got to the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem it was late afternoon. After a cup of coffee and beginning a walk in which we began to lose our way among the many Muslims in the Arab quarter, the throngs of Christian pilgrim tourists in the Christian quarter, and the crowds of small merchants lining the densely packed shops in the souks, because our map was on the computer and too hard to get at, we turned up the via Dolorosa ( the road Jesus walked with the cross) firstly bought a map and then walking on up into the densely populated souks accidentally came upon the Hebron Hostel which happened to have a roof top double free for 200 shekels ( 3.75 = $1 US) so we suddenly had a home base out of nowhere.

After getting some food and drink from a little supermarket in the souk we headed out to give a talk to a group Shelley had got together on the cosmology of Sexual Paradox. After some unsuccessful attempts we managed to flag a taxi which had gps and could thus find the little street far on the outskirts of Jerusalem where Shelley lived and made it out to spend a fun evening giving a talk to some o fher academic friends.

Some of the souks in the Old City

Views of the Hebron Hostel entrance, roof and reception

The painting in the foyer of mass abasement to the Dome of the Rock and Mecca
The proprietor said to worship the one God - not the Trinity. But what about YHVH?

Next morning we finally went for a somewhat frenetic walk through the old city, to the Gates of Mercy overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane and to the little hidden balustrade I remembered, overlooking the Wailing Wall, and finally I went to photograph the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before we tried to hit the road to get a collective back to the bridge and out to Jordan.

However, when we made it to the Damascus Gate the taxi drivers claimed the collectives had all stopped for the day (which may or may not have been true) and we eventually managed to talk one drive down from 200 to 180 and 150 who then claimed we had agreed to 180 leading to a hurried departure into the Israeli immigration who then stung us for 167 shekels each departure tax figured at the shitty exchange rate of (3.42 = $1) hiking it by another 10% to $49 US each to escape.

Finally, after waiting again for the JETT bus and having our passports taken away we went quickly through Jordanian immigration and picked up our little red Peugeot safe and sound with out luggage intact and set out down the Dead Sea.

Morning views of the souks not yet open

Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane with the Russian Orthodox Magdalen church above

Absalom's pillar and the Vale of Kidron with the graves of the 144,000 of the left

Te Muslim cemetery outside the Gates of Mercy

Nuns near the Lion's Gate

Two views of the place where Jesus was flagellated, with Roman remains

Two views in the Jewish quarter

Roman remains below the current city in the Jewish quarter

Market near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre believed to be the site of Golgotha, with crowds

The aedicule shrine the centre of pilgrimage

Innermost chamber

On our way out to give the talk, which is included as a separate blog "The Cosmology of Sexual Paradox and the Fall" we saw a different face of Jerusalem from the old world charm of the Old City.

Modern Jerusalem heading north from the New Gate by Taxi

One of the kitch new developments in North Jerusalem

On our way back out to the Allenby or King Hussein Bridge, we finally got a fleeting look at the wall just at the point it looks towards the parts of East Jerusalem just north of where it separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the rest of Israel and the West Bank Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, jutting far into the desert of the West Bank beyond Bethlehem on the road to Jericho.

Internet image of the wall enclosing Bethlehem

The West Bank Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim from the road to Jericho

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