The streets of Jerusalem! Who calls them “streets” and why in “Jerusalem”? Things seem evident. Here is a compact nucleus, the kernel of what became a village, a town, built and divided into quarters. From there, arose a lot of major elements that became tremendous factors in all sorts of developments that expanded throughout the whole world.
Streets? Well, difficult to recognize the ways that exist in most of cities nowadays. In Hebrew and Aramaic, “Rachav-Rachava/רחב-רחבה” means a “space, a wide place, it is large”, but the sense of dimensions has changed over the ages.
In fact, streets are roads and most of them were sandy for centuries before they were paved with stones. Some areas in the heart of the Old City show how heavy and resistant these stones were and remain. Just walk through the Christian Quarter Road that starts down Jaffa Gate and goes straight to Khanqa Street entering the Muslim Quarter.
Strange how the pilgrims, visitors, tourists, and residents did not cut off some small pieces to bring back home. Here is the place where so many generations of Jews, people of all backgrounds, all tongues, races, Christians, and Jesus of Nazareth with the disciples and Muhammad and Islam’s followers came, made business, settled for a while, conquered each way and the roads then left or came back again and again along the centuries.
Jerusalem? Whatever significance, things are not so clear. “ihr/עיר = city” is a “watch-tower, a fort”, i.e. a small place that has to be defended or to welcome or reject the refugees, the fugitives, and the enemies that turn to allied. It was limited, and restricted and its narrow roads show the proximity of tribal life in new town settlements. Bethlehem and Jericho are told to be 10 000 years old. Who really can fathom this at present?
The name of Jerusalem, the “city of Peace, of the Dual Peaces (from Above and from Below) depicts a city of large human, spiritual, cultural, historic, and meta-historic scopes and prospects. It is more structured than a “yishuv/ישוב” (settlement, the word has been used for the first Jewish groups in 1917). The name deals with the second meaning of “Ihr/עיר, which, from another root means “an angel, a protector. Life was not sure, insecure, hard, and often cruel. Survival was also a challenge. Many people in the region and in the Middle East do remember this as they keep in mind that famine could ravage the population and reduce it drastically. This may explain why Israelis love “noshing”, eating a piece of something every hour or so.
The Old City is the “antique City – Ha’Ir HaAtiqah/העיר העתיקה. It fascinates, attracts and most of the Israeli visitors are “lost” and start calling their friends (“Where are you?/איפה את-ה?” is still the motto for the group that climbs up to the very heart of the multicultural city.
The Old City changes all the time. You can feel the influences, new inhabitants, these move in while others leave silently.
The Old City of Jerusalem has been seized by all sorts of powers over the ages, mostly the Ottomans – twice four centuries -, the British and the Jordanians.
In June 1967, more than two million Jews and others visited the place and went to the Western Wall. This remains an incredible image of how suddenly two thousand years had reached a deadline and new starts were in view.
Streets? The Via Dolorosa/Way of the Cross, the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth is not exact and we do not really know where it wanders around. Ararat Street is a narrow street that runs down the Armenian Quarter to the Syriac Orthodox Monastery of Saint Mark. Both communities have been present there over the full two thousand years of the Christian era. In AD 638, when Jerusalem was put on fire by the Persians, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem fled to Constantinople and the Armenians assigned a local patriarch to defend the local Christians.
Today, the Jews are back, not only in the beautiful Jewish Quarter but a bit everywhere in a place that encompasses all desires, faiths, creeds, religions, humanities, and ways of living that conquered the continents.