Shabbat Morning Old City Tour

Saturday, Feb. 27

Written by Ben Denckla

We entered the Old City at Jaffa gate. It was carefully designed to require a sharp left turn, providing opportunity to attack right-handed horsemen more easily. Convenient slots for dumping hot liquids and rocks on attackers too. But there’s a nice big gap in the wall since 1898 made by the Ottomans for Kaiser Wilhelm’s 1898 visit. In fact it seems that over its history Jerusalem oscillated between being a walled and unwalled city.
Einav (our tour guide) pointed out many details I would have never noticed. Like you can date the street signs by the order of languages on them. English on top: British period. Hebrew on top: post ’67, though sometimes just by superposition on top of an older sign (Jordanian period?) with Arabic on top of English. For sure the theme of superposition permeated our day (a fancy way of saying history piles on top of itself here, in a giant and not infrequently violent but glorious mess).
Next Einav pointed out how Greek and Roman flavors of Christian orthodoxy compete with each other, visually.
We visited the new Ezrat Yisrael section of the Kotel, which will be undergoing improvements but already provides an unprecedented space for egalitarian worship. This made concrete what we had heard from Rabbi Silverman yesterday morning.

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