Travelogue – City of Ariel – Aug 7, 2011

This morning we struck out for the City of Ariel, also known as Jerusalem.  We left modern cosmopolitan Tel Aviv for a city that defies easy categorization.  In trying to characterize a city that is so historical, so controversial, so political, so much this to one person and so much that to another, one is at a loss.  Our tour guide, a young Israeli took us through all 4 quarters of the Old City, except the temple mount.  We saw parts of the city that I could never venture into on my last trip, nearly 30 years ago.

We saw a city more akin to Brooklyn, with distinct neighborhoods, a distinct flavor, and yet a city that worked together.  It is as if the city of the media was created by those who did not live in the City of Ariel, and who certainly didn’t want you or anyone else to live there.  It is an enchanting place and a haunting place.  The interplay of religion, history, the arts and commerce was fascinating.  The shops sold a range of religious inspired bric-brac: crucifixes next to mezuzot; palestinian scarfs next to candelabra-inspired silk shawls; Persian prayer rugs next to havdalah spice sets.  There was something for everyone; and it all could be bought with dollars, euros and skekls.

And  the people came from all over the world.  The crusaders were cruising through in packs, led by their corporals with microphones, each presenting his or her vision of the city in a Babel of different languages.  We treked from the Kotel out the “Dung gate” (it smelled of camel…), up along the wall and back in on the Zion gate, through the Jewish quarter, through the Armenian quarter, into the Muslim quarter (on the eve of Ramadan) and through a gate into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  There we landed on a processional of Russian Orthodox monks, in black robes, bearing candles, waiving frankincense and chanting followed by the Patriarch of  the Russian Orthodox church.  Only in Jerusalem.

iPhone Maps – Google. It was intriguing navigating the Old City of Jerusalem with my iPhone.  While I had roaming enabled (thank you Verizon), I had turned off data transfer.  The data rates are exorbitant.  However, I had enabled WiFi.  As I walked the Old City, I  latched on to unsecured WiFi access points.  I hitched a ride long enough for my GPS enabled iPhone maps application to identify my location and present me a map of the locale. I could watch myself walking on the map, instantly reorienting the map. If you have ever meandered the mazes of the old city, you would appreciate the utility of this App.  As they used to say in the old American Express commercials, I say of the iPhone: “Don’t leave home without it.”