Friday, July 23, 2010

No Place Like Jerusalem

An interesting part of our Year In Israel Program is that on Thursdays during Ulpan we have the chance to learn information about Israel and Jerusalem. Yesterday we got to pick a group and explore a certain part of Jerusalem. Some people were in the group that got to explore Jerusalem with an art student, some people toured with Rabbis for Human Rights and went into east Jerusalem and many other options.

The group I was in got to learn about urban planning with someone that works for the municipality. He had a cool opportunity to check out a working, scale model of Jerusalem that had literally the entire city with new projects and planned projects placed to see how they would affect the skyline and sight lines. While Benny, our guide, was showing us the model, he also talked to us about some of the history of the city. It was really interesting how close to the Biblical narrative he told us about, but at the same time it was much more anthropological and made a lot of sense the way he was describing it.

Matter of fact would be a great way to describe the rest of the day. After leaving the municipality, we got a very cool walking tour of Jerusalem with Benny explaining so of the utilitarian uses for each of the building. He explained that some of the buildings were built in certain places because they effected how the numerous wars were fought in the city. Some buildings were built to a certain height to obstruct the views in case of sniper fire. Other buildings were destroyed to use as a blockade to stop convoys, after war they were built up and used for the same purpose in later wars.

We made our way into the old city and down the the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This place is a allegory for the entire city. Built as a level on another level, the deeper you get into the church, the older it gets. At the same time, many different groups had different claims to different parts of the church. They each get a certain part of the building that they all find important. They also turned the keys over to a Muslim authority to be in charge of the keys to the church. We need to find a way to use that working model for the rest of the city and not just the church.

After being in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher we want to a Hospice building because it had a fantastic view of the city. Look for pictures on facebook later in the weekend. It was fantastic to look on the whole city. Especially when Benny was pointing out places that technically were illegally built on. Although everyone knows that it is against the law, it is just let go because the situation is frustrating and there are so many competing groups fighting for space. As we were on the building, a bunch of local people were setting off fireworks. The teenagers are done with school now and they were setting off fireworks to blow off steam and also to annoy anyone in the old city. I loved learning about the city this way, it was a much different view of Jerusalem.

When we got back together as a large group we heard a lot about what the other groups had done. We all seemed to have a great chance to learn a lot about the city we are living in now. I don't think we would have had the opportunity to do this outside our Year in Israel Program. The day got rather long as we had a speaker afterwards. The organization she was talking about was very cool and I want to see about working with them as part of the Trumah Project we are going to be a part of, it was just very hard to listen to after the draining morning. All in all, it was a very solid start to this first weekend of being a graduate/rabbinic student.

That's all for now, I need to run to catch a bus to Tel Aviv for services on the beach!

Shabbat Shalom M'Yerushalayim,

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