Monday, March 12, 2012

Western


I felt right at home  in my first visit to Jerusalem in many years because the shuttle driver from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport was impatient, as his kind proverbially are, but with a penchant for explaining things to the drivers at whom he raged (though no more than one could possibly have heard him). I didn't understand all his cursing, but the end of one string of invective sounded like simcha, the Hebrew word for happiness.

Spent my first evening wandering around the Old City, and I didn't get lost, at least not in any way worthy of the name.  The Old City is divided into Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters, so I saw:  Orthodox priests who, with just a splash of color in their garb, could have been Piero della Francesca's King Solomon; Chassidic Jews with hats cooler than those you'd see on any American hipster, and young Israeli Arabs who were more than happy to offer spur-of-the-moment advice, including one about 12 years old, who said, "It's closed" when I tried to wander down a side street to see the Al-Aqsa Mosque. "Only for Muslims."

Read some more Elmore Leonard on the plane over, including one story that began with a long, stolid, grimly straightforward description of a buffalo hunt that ended thus (the description, not the hunt):
"Wait until he rode into Leverette with a wagon full of hides, he thought. He’d watch close, pretending he didn’t care, and he’d see if anybody laughed at him then."
The man knows how to create tension.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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16 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Dont listen to people who tell you that things are closed. They generally arent. I lived in Jerusalem for a year and was constantly being told that Al Aqsa was closed or inaccesible or "only for Muslims" none of which was true.

March 12, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

Loved the photo, Peter. If Kafka had desingned railway stations, I think that's what he would have come up with. Of course, he would have demanded that all the passangers wear black. Natch. But where's the ticket office?

March 12, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Chassidic Jews with hats cooler than those you'd see on any American hipster"

Yeah! I've often been tempted to ask one of the Orthodox Jews in our neighborhood where he got that bitchin' fedora!

March 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: A 12-year-boy latish in the evening may not be the most reliable of tour guides Today I visit the Old City during the daytime to explore the area further.

March 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, your comment is not as shocking as you probably would like it to be. The first time I saw the Western Wall, I was shocked at how clean it was. And this photo, which crops out the night sky, does give a look very much like Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, now that you mention it.

March 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: Besides, I'd just have shot photos last night, and my Arabic insufficient for theological debate about images with a pre-adolescent.

March 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, one can't buy a ticket for the destinations served at that station.

March 12, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Funny, but I've been following the blog of a local guy here for awhile. Apparently he is now in Athens. His blog starts They Closed the Agora.

Turns out they closed the Acropolis too. Wonder if I should tell him to persist.

On the other hand, the first time I visited Paris the museums were all on strike so we couldn't see the Louvre and the palace of Versailles was closed. But we walked through its gardens for hours and for some reason the Petit Trianon was open and quite lovely. It was actually one of the best days I ever spent.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I visited the Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington when it was the only thing open in town because Newt Gingrich had shut down the government. Everyone in the city was there, all in a few galleries. Great paintings, godawful unpleasant crush.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, the strictest of Chassidim would be shocked if a woman walked up and asked, "Dude! Where did you get that bitchin' fedora?" A man would have to ask the question, and probably not within the precincts of the Western Wall.

March 13, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

I might occasionally try to be irreverent, but shocking? Not my style, Peter.

Here's an image from a train station in Porto. I know you were in Portugal recently. Perhaps you were in this station.

Many of these places seem to be designed to look like cathedrals or other places of worship. I'm a long way from being the first person to make this observation.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My hotel in Porto was a short walk from that station, a famous attraction in the city and justifiably so, for that azulejo tile work.'

Many have made the observations that train stations look like cathedrals, but that a place of worship a couple of thousand years old looks a train station? Fewer have said so, probably. But it is an apt description, thought probably more with respect to big American train stations than to big European ones, which tend to be more ornate. But Philadelphia's has that light-colored stone (marble, I guess), and I may feel an urge to pray the next time I'm there.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In Porto's case, that hall with the tiles is just where the narthex, or entrance hall, to a church would be. You may be onto something.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, had the covered pedestrian walkway up to the Temple Mount through the Moorish Gate been built when you lived here? Today, that is officially the only way through which non-Muslims can get in. So maybe my helpful Old City were friends were telling me not that the Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslims, but that the particular entrances I tried were so closed.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I happened to be just now reading a little piece by Robert Walser from the NYRB imprint Berlin Stories. It's called 'Something About the Railway' and is about how delightful it is to go to the train station of a major city like Berlin and just hang about and observe the ebb and flow. I doubt it's exactly the same now, but Walser was a connoiseur of savoring simple pleasures.

On a different note, our former county supervisor, Gary Patton, whose disappointments about the Acropolis and the Agora I mentioned yesterday, seems to have hit upon an alternate plan in Athens. He calls it the Food Flank. It sounds like an excellent strategy.

March 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, just any place where people gather can be worth sitting in and observing. I don't think American railroad stations have the importance as transportation and social centers that European stations do, and I'm not sure they ever did. Maybe that's because the country is too big.

I like the idea of a food tour -- as long as a country's cuisine it not too much for one's stomach.

March 13, 2012  

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