Jaffa Gate Through The Shuk
Let us step into the Old City. Do you feel that? That is the feeling of tension. Ahh. Jerusalem. Yes, they are looking at you and not saying ‘Hi.’
The Old City is host to some of the most ancient sites of what is known as the major religions, all owned by the Catholic Church. You can see the Kotel (Western Wall), Temple Mount, Domb of The Rock, Mount Moriah, and a lot of people that are praying. And prayer makes for a lot of tension. You can also see other ancient cites like the Burnt House, Roman Cardo, King David’s Tomb, Church of The Holy Sepulcher, Yitzchak’s sacrifice, Al Buraq and the falafel guy who does not take requests.
This an inter-religional tour, which is why I will not go into the church with you. My rabbi said I can let you know where it is, for parnassa (making money).
Many of the religious people of the different religions still get along and talk to each other, thanks to the security cameras you can see on every corner.
Let us enter through the Jaffa Gate. As we came all the way down Jaffa Road and now made it to the Old City, and that is the only name of anything I know in Jerusalem, let us enter through Jaffa Gate. There are another eight gates or so, but I do not know their names. We can also go for some Jaffa oranges later, to get the full David Jaffa tour experience.
To your right, before entering the city, you can see the Mamilla mall, where you can find Israeli stores like Tommy Hilfiger. You can also get a rounded Israel experience at The Gap and ‘Ha’North Face.
Mamilla is the 7th neighborhood built outside of Jerusalem, but don’t worry- the municipality was able to kick out those people. From 1948 there was a church there. In 2005, they decided that the religious people of Jerusalem needed more shopping and coffee.
We are soon going to go into the Old City Shuk to give the full tourist shopping experience. You will find Rolex watches and designer names in both places. I opt for the cheaper Chanel products, in the shuk. They are both Chanel.
Look, the Catholic Church owns that too.
Check it, The David Citadel. This is not the hotel, so we will not go in.
We are going to make our way down to the Kotel. Do we go through the Jewish Quarter or the Shuk? That depends on what happened in the news today.
Before we do that, let us quickly get the real Jerusalem experience and hold onto our Yarmulkes while walking, so that they don’t fly down to the highway below.
Look, the Jaffa Gate. Such a big Mezuzah. That parchment on the gate is almost as big as the parchment they used at Ben Gurion, at the entrance to the passport check. A mezuzah is what we put on the doorpost on the right side of the entrance to the house, to remind us how Gd protected us in Egypt. And may we say a quick prayer, as we enter into the Old City, that Gd protect us from the Jerusalem Stone stairs which are uneven and slippery, and all of the people that are not looking where they walk, who are bumping into us.
We are going to walk down, to share in the ancient experience of not having cars.
If you are on your own tour, you can drive down to the Kotel to see the modern site of no parking. You can also enjoy the Jaffa Gate road gate experience of not being allowed into the Old City and having very angry random religious people who live in the Old City, beeping you and hitting your car, for the sake of Heaven. As that is what the Lord would want.
Those tractors driving in the middle of the alleyway so that we can’t pass, with garbage that is falling on us? Those are the ancient garbage disposers of Jerusalem, dating all the way back to Temple times. They used to run the garbage over the people to disrupt their shopping, and make sure it fell on them while they were walking in their Shabbat clothes.
Every step you take in these ancient streets and alleys of the Old City, you will see a cat.
The Old City experience will show you many monuments and stuff for tourists to pay for. So pull out your wallets and look, somebody asking for money. Oh, you can feel the connection with the ancient unemployed people of Jerusalem.
A wooden camel.
Traditionally, in the times of the Temple, this city would be the religious gathering area. Jews would come for the three pilgrimage holidays to bring their sacrifices to the Temple. The Shalosh Regalim, 3 pilgrimage holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. This whole area would be packed. There would be even more pushing.
Even today, Jews make their way to the Old City for the pilgrimage festivals. during the intermediary days of the festivals, there is a huge Blessing of the Cohanim and many concerts, so that we can all share in the ancient Jewish tradition of crowds. I used the term intermediary, as that is the term the rabbis use and I do not know what it means. I am still trying to figure out what the Pentateuch is.
In the meantime let us get back to the Bible.
You might see a couple of people who call themselves prophets. They are probably not. We are in the Land of the Bible and Joshua does believe that Gd talked to him. However, I am guessing Joshua is not a prophet, as if he was, he would not be asking us for money right now. He would have seen it coming. If you do not have a job, you are not going to make money. And I figured that out without any prophecy.
Right in front of you, as you move into the Old City, is going to be the Christian, Muslim and Arminian Quarters. We are going to walk straight, through the Arab shuk:
The Arab Shuk- Known in Arabic as ‘Suk.’ In other languages knows as el Shuk, La Suk, HaMarket. This here is the main part of the shuk, which is populated by tourists. Located in the area of the ancient shuk of back in the days with the Romans, you can see where people used to yell out prices. And to this day, they keep to the tradition of not marking down how much stuff costs for tourists who do not know the going rates.
You will have time to go shopping later. Right now, I would like to talk.
Let me tell you a story of my first experience in the Arab Suk. Many Middle Easterners are political shoppers. Even so, I go to the Arab Shuk because I like tiny darbuka drums. I also love the little guitars they sell, which are too small to play. They sell really good stuff here, which is why each shop sells the same cloth. And I have never found cheaper Chanel products, even in France.
You can make friends very fast in the arab shuk. They were even greeting me with ‘My friend.’ It was great; over 15 minutes, I had 30 new friends. Every one of the shopkeepers called me ‘My friend.’ At first I was scared, because I never met them before and they were yelling at me in a broken English. Nothing is scarier than a broken English. Then I realized they were selling me stuff and I was much more relaxed. Why am I telling you this? Because it is a story about me and I am your tour guide.
I made many friends that day. One friend of mine spat on me when I did not like his linen for 2,000nis. I like to think that his spittel was a show of our new intimate friendship.
You would have notice that he had his items marked. Even so, he offered me 200% off, because that is what friends do. As I am a peacemaker and close friend, I bought a lot of cloth and teeny tiny instruments. If you do not want to make peace or buy stuff, just walk ahead and do not make eye contact. However, if you can make a new friend, like myself, they will let you know if you are getting a deal. That new friend of mine told me that 2,000nis is a very good deal.
You are a tourist whose only objective is to make it to the Kotel right now. You already have a wooden camel and tiny instruments. Later, you will have the opportunity to make friends. As you are trying to make it to the Kotel, do not be friendly. When they see you smile, that means a sale. For now, do not smile, or you will have a lot of friends and miniature orchestras you will be carrying to the Kotel. (We will talk more about the shuks when we talk about shopping in Israel). I support you making friends, at the right time.
Afterwards, I realized they don’t know me, they were not really my friends. That was a let down, but it did feel nice for those few moments. ‘I will always remember our time together, as friends, Walleed. I love the little flute you sold me. I am sorry I did not have enough cash on me to continue our relationship…Maybe, one day, we can be acquaintances.’
As I learned, when I went to the department store and shopped by people who did not know me, the linen was 150nis. Being friends is very expensive. As the great Rav Yehoshua the Song Perachia taught, ‘Purchase for yourself a friend.’ After the Kotel, you will have time to go to the ATM machine and make new friends.
We are almost down to the Kotel, which the Catholic Church owns according to Roman law.