John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Sunday 4 November 2012

[Saturday 3 November 2012]

We both went down for breakfast today (ca.8.45am). I had what we’ve termed “rice crumpies” since we saw them labelled thus in Italy, then a sesame-seeded roll with butter. After that we visited the gift shop in the hotel lobby, and bought a little souvenir menorah and a couple of stamps for the postcards. Back up in the room, I wrote the postcards, to my Mum and to Chris, then edited 11 of yesterday’s photos using Photoshop (10:46–11:12). Janet updated her journal meanwhile. Ca.11.30am, we dropped the postcards off at reception for posting, and set off on another hot, sunny day to try to find the Pool of Bethesda of John ch.5 (“Pools”, in fact). We walked at a slow pace I could cope with, going past the turn-off to the Garden Tomb, and reached the wall of the Old City at the Damascus Gate. We turned left and skirted along the wall, entering through Herod’s Gate. It felt a bit like being in York!

12:06:16 Herod’s Gate
We found our way to the narrow street (more like an alley, really: stone-paved, with frequent steps) called “Bab Hutta”. Small children stopped and stared at us as we passed. Janet got a bit worried and suggested that when we return we do so by another route. I was looking for a left turn into “Salahiya”, not helped by the fact that the Hebrew and English in some of the trilingual street signs had been obliterated by black paint. I figured from the map that Salahiya would give access to the Pools of Bethesda almost straight away on the right. But the wall of the estate was continuous, without any kind of entrance. We went to the end, to the city wall, turned right along “Burj Laqlaq”, and right again along what’s marked on the map as “Shaiar Halarayot”, but what could be regarded as the start of the Via Dolorosa.

Click on the map to enlarge it.

12:12:46 Bab Hutta, with its flying buttresses and steps

12:23:40 Eastern wall of the Old City
There was a long, stone building on the right, and on the lintel of the first door there was written in black paint “BIRTH PLACE of the VIRGIN MARY”. A free-standing sign, on a pole, with a red arrow pointing to the door also said, “Birth place of Virgin Mary”, with other words in Russian below. There were Greek words written on the arch above the door, though, and a stone plaque to the right, also in Greek: “Ελληνορθοδοξον Πατριαρχειον Ιεροσολυμων Ιερα Μονη Αγιας Αννης” — “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem: Holy Monastery of Saint Anne”. In extra-biblical tradition, Saint Anne was the mother of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Inside the door was a hallway, and a door to the right led to a small chapel, recognisably (from our visit to Russia) Orthodox, with its iconostasis and central closed door to the altar: Greek Orthodox by the sign on the entrance, yet the woman at the souvenir table to the immediate right as one walked in was speaking Russian into a mobile phone.

12:27:16 “Ελληνορθοδοξον Πατριαρχειον Ιεροσολυμων Ιερα Μονη Αγιας Αννης” — “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem: Monastery of Saint Anne” — “Birth place of Virgin Mary”

12:28:18 The Orthodox chapel within
Beyond that, in the same building, were: This last information disappointed us.

12:31:00 Monastery of St. Anne

12:31:44 Monastery of St. Anne

12:31:44 Detail from the above photo

12:32:24 The locked doors to the Monastery of St. Anne

12:32:24 Detail from the above photo

12:32:24 Detail from the above photo
We decided to turn left at the next junction, but our way was barred by a young man in a high-visibility vest — friendly, but insistent — saying in reasonably comprehensible English that we couldn’t go that way because we weren’t Muslims. It hadn’t occurred to us that the way led to the Temple Mount. He proceeded to tell us that we could visit at 1pm, and took the map off me to point out the way to the entrance, tearing it slightly in the process — which earned him the mockery of his younger companion, in English: “Fool!”, or some such word. So we thanked him, and proceeded down the Via Dolorosa. (It escaped my notice that we passed Station 2 of the Cross: the “Ecce Homo” Arch, till I later compared the photos with the internet.)

12:43:52 Via Dolorosa, looking back (east): Church of the Condemnation (left side)

12:44:06 Via Dolorosa, looking ahead (west): Ecce Homo Arch and Ecce Homo Convent and Church (right)
We turned left at the T-junction that we came to, and not far on, leaning against a small market stall, was a board advertising a restaurant through the adjacent arch, in the courtyard of a church. There were people at tables and chairs in there, and it appeared that there was more of the restaurant through the far door in the right side wall of the court. To the left there was a wall with a rectangular hole in it, which was a bar. We asked the man there whether we could pay by credit card (we had very little Israeli money left), and he shouted over to another man coming out of the far right door. I thought I heard something like “qrredit qarrd” in the words. The reply seemed to be affirmative. The second man set up a table and chairs in the shade near the bar for us. I had a Diet Coke and a lamb shish kebab with two pitta breads, hummus, salad, and (somewhat limp, but nevertheless edible) chips. Janet had two cans of Diet Coke. I tore one of the pittas in half and filled the middle with meat, hummus and salad, much as things had been served to us elsewhere. I did the same with the second half. I was full, left a bit of the food, and couldn’t eat the second pitta. I hate leaving food: I know it’s the custom of some people to leave food on the plate, but I was always brought up to eat it all. At one point, one of the restaurant people needed to manoeuvre a parked car out of the court, so we had to stand to let the staff move the table aside to give him room. We thought that was amusing. When it came to settle up, they DIDN’T take credit cards! Fortunately we had enough to pay the very reasonable 70 shekel bill, and were able to throw in the rest of our coins as a tip. It turned out that we’d been in the entrance court of the Armenian Catholic oratory, Our Lady of the Spasm, the Fourth Station of the Cross (“Jesus meets his mother”).


13:46:56 Armenian Catholic oratory, Our Lady of the Spasm, the Fourth Station of the Cross (“Jesus meets his mother”)

13:46:56 “Tuam ipsius animam pertransivit gladius” — “Thy own soul a sword has pierced”; cf. Luke 2:35

13:46:56 “Impressionistic” effect accidentally gained from cropping the photo with too high a resolution

13:47:16 Lunette over the entrance with a bas relief depicting the meeting of Jesus with his mother on the way to Calvary
I fancied going to the south of the Old City wall to the original Mount Zion, the City of David, but Janet thought we’d better replenish our stock of local cash. Where to find an ATM? We retraced our steps along the street we were in, El Wad Road, and kept going in that direction. With this being in the Muslim Quarter, it seemed strange as we were about to pass through the arch of the taller building ahead, straddling the road, for there was an eight-branched menorah on its flat roof, and a long Israeli banner draped down from there: white ground with a blue Magen David in the middle, and blue vertical stripes either side. Provocative?

13:49:02 Hanukkah-style menorah and Israeli banner on this tower
We carried on in the same direction, entering a tall archway and finding ourselves in a stone-vaulted market hall. Finding our way through that, and passing out into open space, we found that we’d just exited through the Damascus Gate.

13:59:20 Looking back to Damascus Gate
We crossed the wide dual carriageway and turned right, heading for an arcaded three-storey building ahead, which had a sign “Arab Bank Ltd.” above the arches. There were shops in the arcade, but nothing along its length that looked encouragingly like anything resembling a bank. There was a short side-street to the left just beyond the building, leading to a bus station with small buses parked in it — at the end of which, to my surprise, was Skull Hill!

14:05:44 Bus station with Skull Hill behind
We decided then to return to the hotel, for we were close to the route we’d taken on the outward journey; and we knew there was an ATM in the next-door hotel. My feet were hurting, so the prospect of going to the City of David was now not a welcome one; we decided, in fact, to stay at the hotel and not go out again. Janet wrote: “We were back around 2.30pm. It was lovely and cool in the room as we’d left the air con on low and shut the curtains.” I transferred today’s photos to the “little feller”; edited the rest of yesterday’s photos, 31 in all (14:53–15:54); and edited today’s, 22 in all, including some cropped, higher-definition details from other images (15:59–17:16). Janet wrote: “…I updated this, then packed as much as I could for our departure tomorrow. It’s now 5.35pm and I’m well organised. It’s dark outside. At 6pm I went off on my own for dinner. At one point Michael announced, ‘If Jesus came back today he’d say, “What a load of crap!”’ It made me laugh as he was referring to all the monuments, shrines, etc., at all the so-called ‘religious sites’. Don’t hold back, Michael! Norman appeared just before I’d decided to return to our room and told us that we needed to be in the lobby at 5.20 in the morning for departure at 5.30am. Before I left I got a couple of bread rolls and a couple of apples for [John]. I then went to Reception to book a wake-up call for 3.50am. Let’s hope we get it[1] — or at least that we wake up! I returned to our room around 7.15pm. I had a drink and updated this and I’ll now go and have a shower and wash my hair. After that, we’ll have a picture show then I’ll have an early night.”
[1] We didn’t get a previous wake-up call that we booked; there was some fault with the computerised phone system.

[Monday 5 November 2012]

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