So, if you remember, I was left looking at the view of Jordan and the sunrise and my cholesterol-busting friends (S+J) had trotted on to the next stage of our walk. If I hang around too long I’ll lose them and will drift off in the wrong direction (both physically and cholesterolly) and so I tear myself away from Jordan and the Judean desert and head off back towards the car park where we started.

In the meantime, I want to introduce you to a new character that is always appearing on the walk – the noble olive tree. Much has been written about this wonderful tree- How it lives for hundreds of years (bet they don’t have cholesterol), how they provide a living for thousands of people, how they can be the cause of sometimes violent feuds between Jewish settlers and Arab farmers (time to tick off Politics on my original list) and how their produce makes a brilliant salad dressing. Of course, one of the first mentions, if not the first, was when Noah saw the dove carrying the olive branch to signify the end of the flood (Religion?). That picture has now been converted to the well-known symbol of peace and tolerance. Well, after all that poetry, you can imagine my disappointment when the first olive tree I see is made of …metal. You know, it’s a bit difficult to get salad dressing out of a metal olive (like getting water out of a stone, maybe?) and my romantic notions have been dashed against the hard metal of a 15 meter tall monument that appears in front of me called the “tolerance monument “. This consists of two tall, split columns, with a big olive tree stuck on the top that was donated by Mr. Aleksander Gudzowaty an influential Polish businessman (see Wikipedia for more details and a not bad picture) and put up a few years ago, right in front of the UN Headquarters and between the Jewish Armon Hanatziv area and the aforementioned Jebel Mukaber Arab village. Now I’m not the greatest poet or idealist (my friend J often calls me a cold- hearted cynic) and so I do have some difficulty with the combination of Polish/Jewish/Arab when it comes to tolerability but hey, you know what, I suppose it’s worth a try. Can’t harm.

Anyway, it does have its uses- we climb up to the base of the towers (about 5 meters high) and briefly, while J and I catch our breath, look around at another view.  The astute amongst you will be asking why S doesn’t need to catch his breath-that’s another story for a later article. So here we have a rather splendiferous panoramic view of both the Judean Desert, including Herodian, and the City of Jerusalem. Now, I’d like to ask you a question- how much detail do you want me to go into? Books have been written about Herodian, for example, and some fascinating tours can be done visiting the site so I feel a bit of a fraud if I start telling you the history of the place within a few lines. Suffice it to say, Herodian is a fascinating, man-made hilltop, about 15km. south of Jerusalem that on a clear day can be seen from the top of the monument and is well worth a guided tour. (For more- “Google “it)

We tumble down the mound and carry on to the starting point- the car park at the beginning.  Here we meet the next characters- the crows and the pizza and sandwich boxes. During the day the car park is the site of numerous tour buses that unload their wonderful cargo to have a look at the view (the wonderful one I mentioned last time) stop for a picnic lunch and then move on. In the evening the car park turns into a not-so-secret rendezvous for young couples, mainly from the surrounding villages, who stay in their cars, dump their supper containers out and look at other views. All this fevered activity takes its toll on the car park which is swamped by the visitor’s remains. The crows have a field day of course. J, who is a very talented Ornithologist in his spare time, then begins to talk “bird’, keeping us fascinated. More pearls of his wisdom are produced later on in the walk. Since we get up very early for this walk (did I mention that I sacrifice my cozy duvet to keep you all amused?), the diligent council workers haven’t yet arrived to clear up. The rubbish tells its own story – For example: how many sandwich boxes tells how many tourists there are in Jerusalem at the moment which tells what the security situation is like at the moment (tick it off) which tells how many traffic jams there are in town because of the buses (economy) which gives an indicator if I should get the bus to town or just get back under my duvet.

Now I know that you are waiting for the man who walks backwards but I’ve only walked for about 15 mins (believe it or not) and not yet met him.

Next time!

Politics, Foreign Policy, Religion, Security, Nature, Ecology, Culture, Geology and Climate permitting.


Harley Goldstone