Abandoned

Seeing decrepit and abandoned buildings does something to my soul. It’s not every abandoned building, mind you, but some are interesting. It’s often the mix between old and new, deserted and party sites, graffiti and trash that move me. One such place is an old abandoned army base called Beit Zeit Camp. It is situated between the town of Beit Zeit and Ein Karem in the Jerusalem forest. Easy to get there, and beautiful.

In the early 1950s this was an army base built as a huge emergency storage facility for the Jerusalem brigades in cases of a Jordanian incursion into Jerusalem or its environs. The equipment was all removed during the 1967 Six Day War. Later on the base became a general emergency storage facility and was used by the Logistic Brigade until it was finally abandoned around 2012.

24mm, 1/250, f 8

A mixture of half-destroyed buildings, trash, and graffiti.

As you take the winding road, you will pass many heaps of the buildings on your right. Keep going, after about 1km, you arrive at the area where the army did not demolish the building.

28mm, 1/250 @ f 11, HDR
70 mm, 1/200 @ 11, HDR
Even Frisbee enjoys the ruins
70 mm, 1/125 @ f 11, HDR

As one moves further down the road, the buildings are still standing. They are a mixture of decrepit and abandoned structures and hang-outs.

38mm, 1/8, f14, HDR

If you want to venture in and take a peek, these are very long buildings, built into the hillside, and are sort of bunkers. Inside, you will find a mixture of different things. You have some tables and sleeping areas, apparently inhabited by passers-by.

41mm, 1/50 @ f 14, HDR
For some of the buildings, the graffiti is beautiful and intense.
45mm, 0.6 sec @ f 14, HDR
If you want to venture in, you can see that people have recently been here. There are paper cups, matches, bottles, and some clothes scattered around.
53mm, 0.4 sec @ f 14, HDR
30mm, 1/10 @ f 14, HDR

These long, cavernous bunkers are filled with interesting art, and apparently some interesting installations.

28mm, 0.8 sec @ f 14

And for some reasons, heaps and heaps of bottles.

31 mm, 3.2 sec @ f 16

All of these structures fit organically into the beautiful landscape. It’s a mixture of beauty and filth, old and new, utilitarian and stoner-heaven. Definitely worth a visit.

Oh, the irony!

Sometimes life is more ironic than fiction. This is certainly true about today’s walking tour. Today we’re visiting the Muslim cemetery in Mamillah. Mamilla is a stone’s through from Jaffa Gate in the Old City and has been of use to Jerusalem residents since biblical times.

The cemetery was founded in the 13th century and remained in use until 1927. The word “Mamillah” is actually the mispronunciation of the Arabic “maman Allah” – “comes from Allah.”

1/15, f/11

1/15, f/11

Despite the fact that most Jerusalemites have walked through the cemetery at some point, very few actually know the story of the area.

According to tradition, the first people to be buried in the cemetery were soldiers who fought against the Crusaders. Perhaps the most famous was Sheikh Dia A-Din Abu Muhamad Al-Alami who commanded the siege of Acre in 1291.

Today, the cemetery is absolutely filthy, it is a repository for trash and is neglected by all. How embarrassing. If anybody around the world would treat a Jewish cemetery this way, all Hell would pay.

150, f/11

150, f/11

A beautiful tomb is that of the governor of Safed, Al-Kubki who was buried here in the 13th century.

1/60, f/11

1/60, f/11

1/15, f/11

1/15, f/11

Built in the traditional Muslim style, it is covered with graffiti, and as I tried to look in to the tomb, I saw that it was filled with trash. Shame!

2.5 sec, f/11

2.5 sec, f/11

Over the last century, there were lots of different plans to build here. Actually, the cemetery was much larger, and at some point (1927) the Mufti Amin Al-Husseini wrote a fatwa making burial in the cemetery forbidden. Haj Amin wanted to change the purpose of the area to allow for commercial development, and the Waqf sold part of the land to the city. If you cross the street to Hillel street, you will see a lone tomb in the street.

1/80, f/11, ISO 100

1/80, f/11, ISO 100

But, we still haven’t gotten to the most ironic part of the story. The city of Jerusalem has been actively trying to develop this land. It’s expensive real estate, after all. Smack in the center of the city.

Some genius got the idea that it would be a good place for a museum. A museum for what you may ask? What sort of museum could one build on a Muslim cemetery? Wait for it —

1/20, f/11, ISO 100

1/20, f/11, ISO 100

That’s it! Who would build a “Museum of Tolerance” on a Muslim cemetery??

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

So many surprises on Agron St.

I think that I must drive on Agron St. about twice a week. It’s a major road between anywhere and everywhere. Usually, I don’t pay too much attention to the buildings, although I know that there is the American consulate, the beautiful new Waldorf Astoria hotel, and a monastery or two. This week I decided to explore two buildings along the eastern (or bottom) part of the street.

My first stop is a beautiful and old building called Beit Habib Bshara, at Agron 22. This is a one floor square building with a ceramic roof and has four apartments. Habib Bshara was a Christian-Arab who worked as an architect in Jerusalem and designed this beautiful building at the beginning of the 20th century.

1/25, f/11

1/25, f/11

It’s perfectly symmetrical, and you can see the beautiful arched entrance. Notice the beautiful art deco iron works. You can also see that the stone has a reddish tint to it. The store on the bottom left is the oldest bicycle shop in Jerusalem (Yedidya). Everyone bought a bike from them at some point (I bought a few!)

1/60. f/6.3

1/60. f/6.3

1/100, f/6.3

1/100, f/6.3

The building is on a corner of an alley way (Zamenhof street), and it you go down the alley, you’re in for a treat. For those of you who are interested who Zamenhof was … he invented the language Esperanto (aka “Doktoro Esperanto”). We come to some lovely residential buildings.

1/125, f/6.3, -2/3 EV

1/125, f/6.3, -2/3 EV

1/100, f/6.3, -2/3 EV

1/100, f/6.3, -2/3 EV

Walking a bit further, we find more beautiful buildings and a small and lovely community garden. Hidden from view, unknown to many, but lovely!

1/320, f/6.3

1/320, f/6.3

1/50, f/5.0

1/50, f/5.0

1/200, f/6.3

1/200, f/6.3

We go back to Agron St and turn right. The next building is a gem (Agron 24). This two floor building was built in the 1920s and 1930s and is called Beit Lorenzo, after the Christian-Arab family (Lorenzo).

1/13, f/11

1/13, f/11

Here the red stone is very pronounced. Notice on the top right, there is a balcony floor. I see that they intended to add another floor, but the war (1948) got in the way, and the family fled (or were chased out).

If you walk through the central gate, you come into another hidden Jerusalem gem. You will see that there are actually two buildings – one on Agron street and another recessed in from the street. Separating them is an amazing garden.

1/10, f/7.1, -2/3 EV

1/10, f/7.1, -2/3 EV

1/5, f/7.1

1/5, f/7.1

And as you walk further in, you see the courtyard in all its splendor.

1/8 , f/11

1/8 , f/11

1/8, f/7.1, -1/3 EV

1/8, f/7.1, -1/3 EV

1/10, f/7.1, -1/3 EV

1/10, f/7.1, -1/3 EV

The original owners were a Christian-Arab family; you can see the Madonna on the roof of the central building. I spoke with a resident (Yisrael) who has lived there since 1949 (after the 1948 war, the building was abandoned and taken by the state and then re-sold), and he told me that despite one of the residents being a very orthodox Jew, they all decided to leave the Madonna intact, out of respect for this beautiful building.

1/20, f/11

1/20, f/11

There’s a lot of construction going on around the area (that’s what you are seeing behind the Madonna).

There are so many other beautiful buildings on Agron St., and I’ll write about them at some point. It’s just wonderful to really explore the area after passing it by so often. How many other gems are there in the city?

Ethiopia Street

One of the most beautiful streets in all of Jerusalem is Ethiopia Street. It is located just off the Prophets Street, and abuts both the downtown triangle of West Jerusalem on its south, Mea She’arim on it’s north, and the Old City on the south-east.

Connecting Ethiopia Street to the Prophets Street made it into an important street; however, during the Ottoman times, it was just a foot path. When the British came to Jerusalem in 1917, the Prophets Street was paved and along with it its tributaries. Originally named Abyssinian Street by the British, the name was later changed to Ethiopia Street.

Building on the street started in the 19th century, when Ethiopia was under the reign of Emperor Melenik II (1844 – 1913) who reigned Ethiopia from 1889-1909. Along with his Empress Consort, Taytu Betul (c. 1851-1919), Melenik II built over a dozen beautiful buildings in Jerusalem. This entire area was call the Habash Neighborhood (named after the Al-Habash on the Horn of Africa).

Menelik II

Menelik II

Tayto Betul

Tayto Betul

Ethiopia is one of the most ancient of Christian communities in the world. Some say that it dates back as far as Philip the Evangelist and the 1st century. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has deep ties to Jerusalem. Ethiopian monks came to the Holy Land in the 5th Century and were originally located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and later on in the new city (more about that in a future post).

The church on Ethiopian street was initiated in 1882 after receiving Ottoman permission and built in 1884 by the Emperor Johannes and is called Kidane Miharat (Covenant of Mercy) in a beautiful area called Dibra Ganet (Mount of Heaven);  it was finally opened in 1893.

1/500 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 100 mm

1/500 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 100 mm

The blessing on the gate says: “This church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was opened by His Majesty, King of Kings of Ethiopia Johannes in the year of St. Mark, 1874.” Since the date is from the Ethiopian calendar, it is actually 1882 by the Gregorian calendar.

The church has a black dome with an Ethiopian cross on the top and is round. There are two entrances: one for men and one for women.

1/1600 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16 mm

1/1600 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16 mm

I really love the inside, the light is fantastic. In these shots you can see the round structure and drums which are used in ceremonies.

1/1000 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 21 mm

1/1000 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 21 mm

1/125 sec at f/4.0, ISO 500, 16 mm

1/125 sec at f/4.0, ISO 500, 16 mm

1/60 sec at f/4.0, ISO 320, 35 mm

1/60 sec at f/4.0, ISO 320, 35 mm

1/125 sec at f/4.0, ISO 500, 16 mm

1/125 sec at f/4.0, ISO 500, 16 mm

I was really lucky to catch this shot of a monk studying. The entire place was very peaceful

1/40 sec at f/4.0, ISO 2500, 30mm

1/40 sec at f/4.0, ISO 2500, 30mm

.Next to the compound, at number 8, is the former Ethiopian consulate. I loved the royal symbol at the top of the building.

1/1000 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100, 16mm

1/1000 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100, 16mm

1/2000 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 200 mm

1/2000 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 200 mm

In the church compound, I found another royal symbol.

1/2000 set at f/8.0, ISO 100, 200 mm

1/2000 set at f/8.0, ISO 100, 200 mm

There are other beautiful buildings on the street, but they are all difficult to see as they are behind fences. There are so many beautiful buildings and lovely alley ways.

1/320 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 35 mm

1/320 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 35 mm

1/80 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100, 16 mm

1/80 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100, 16 mm

1/60 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16 mm

1/60 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16 mm

1/60 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 17 mm

1/60 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 17 mm

One of the interesting ones is the house where Eliezer Ben Yehuda lived and died (number 11). Ben Yehuda brought the Hebrew language back to life in the early part of the 20th century. He died of tuberculosis in this house.

1/125 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

1/125 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

I specifically liked the balcony!

1/100 set at f/8.0, ISO 100, 35 mm

1/100 set at f/8.0, ISO 100, 35 mm

Snow in Jerusalem

Almost every year now it snows in Jerusalem. Winters seem to be colder and colder, and this combines with Jerusalem’s altitude (about 850 meters or about 2800 feet above sea level), mean that it will be cold and blustery.

1/160 sec at f/11, ISO 100

But with every year, it becomes harder to shoot the city in the snow. First of all, the snow usually lasts about 1.5 days. The weather just isn’t cold enough to sustain snow and ice. And secondly, the city usually shuts down. Roads are closed, and people are cautioned to stay indoors. So, it’s hard to get anywhere and see anything. And third, most shots of the snow involve the Old City and snow. It’s been done a million times.

This snow storm was followed by a lot of rain, and so the snow didn’t last more than a dozen hours. On Friday afternoon, it was clear and most of the snow had melted only to be followed by another flurry in the evening. I woke up early Saturday morning and saw that the roads were clear so I immediately headed out to see if there was any snow in the desert.

1/200 sec at f/11

1/200 sec at f/11

And then I drove to Mt. Scopus (the Hebrew University) and then to the Mt. of Olives where there were some nice views.

117802 10 Jan 15_6468

1/125 at f/11, 200 mm

1/2000 at f/4.0

1/2000 at f/4.0. 70 mm.

117799 10 Jan 15_6465

1/500 at f/7.1, 200 mm

I then headed down to the Old City and to the Damascus Gate. For the first time in my life, I found parking directly opposite the city gate. I guess that it was too cold for the locals to venture out.

1/2000 sec at f/2.8, 25 mm

1/2000 sec at f/2.8, 25 mm

I continued to look around for some interesting angles.

1/640 sec at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/640 sec at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/500 sec. at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/500 sec. at f/9.0, 90 mm

Nahal Draga (נחל דַרְגָה) or Wadi Darja (وادي الدرجة)

This week we decided to use the pleasant winter weather and take a hike in one of the wadis (river beds) leading to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth (about 410 meters below sea level) and so the river beds which empty out into the sea are quite steep.

One of the most beautiful wadis is called Nahal Dragot and it’s about a 40 minute drive from Jerusalem. It is a 43 km long river bed and is fed by streams over a 230 sq. km. range as far away as the Golan Heights and from the Bethlehem area and is divided into three different areas. The local Bedouin tribes named each of the sections, and the part where we hiked today is the lowest part of the river bed, called Wadi Darja (وادي الدرجة), so named for its high waterfalls and high canyon walls. This section starts about 4 km. from the Dead Sea and is about 12 km. long (lots of winds and bends).

1/160 sec at f/11, 28mm

1/160 sec at f/11, 28mm

One of my favorite aspects of this hike is the different colors of the cliffs on both sides of the wadi. The reds stones and the white sands contrast with the blue skies.

1/200 sec at f/11, 28 mm

1/200 sec at f/11, 28 mm

However, the contrasts are even more striking against the deep blue of the Dead Sea.

1/800 sec at f/7.1, 90 mm

1/800 sec at f/7.1, 90 mm, looking east to Jordan

1/250 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/250 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/500 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/500 sec at f/11, 24mm

An interesting part of this river bed is a bit further inland, further from the Dead Sea. There, one can see some caves which were used during the Bar Kochba revolt (132- 136 CE).

1/320 at f/7.1, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/320 at f/7.1, 90 mm, ISO 100

This is a very dry part of the Judean Desert, and there is not a lot of flora to be found, the colors are yellowish, and there is an occasional bit of green, red, or yellow.

1/2500 at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 sec at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 sec at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/500 sec at f/7.1, 90mm

1/500 sec at f/7.1, 90mm

And, as always, my hiking companion, enjoyed himself and never complained.

1/600 at f/5.6, 100 mm, ISO 400

1/600 at f/5.6, 100 mm, ISO 400

People Watching at the Market (Mahne Yehuda)

The open air vegetable market in West Jerusalem is called Shuk Machane Yehuda (שוק מחנה יהודה) and is so named because it is located in the old neighborhood of Machne Yehuda (Yehuda’s Camp). This part of West Jerusalem is composed of many small neighborhoods, each one with the designation of “machane” (מחנה). This particular neighborhood was built by three business partners: Johannes Frutiger, Shalom Konstrum, and Joseph Navon. Navon named the neighborhood after his brother, Yehuda.

Today, the Shuk is a giant produce and meat market, but also has lots to offer the visitor in terms of boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. I shop there early every Friday morning. Aside from the beautiful colors and rich variety, my favorite part of shopping in the shuk is watching the wonderful variety of people. I’m going to devote a few different pages about the shuk, but for now, I only want to focus on the clientele.

1/320 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/320 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

 

People come from all over the city to do their shopping and there is always something to see.

1/500 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/500 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

I’ve been shopping at the shuk for almost 35 years, and have seen many changes. Of course, I have my regular haunts where I shop.

1/125 sec, f/7.1, 50mm

1/125 sec, f/7.1, 50mm

Shopping always involves a bit of a conversation and a discussion of politics.

1/400 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/400 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

The market is situated almost exactly in the city center and is easily accessible by all sorts of public transportation and on any day you can see a multitude of different ethnic and cultural groups.

1/250 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/250 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

I don’t often shoot at the shuk, as I’m too busy pushing my cart around and trying to avoid the big crowds. These days, the shuk has become a major tourist attraction for foreigners as well as Israelis. The shopkeepers are happy, but we (the regulars) lament the crowds.

1/200 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/200 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/200 sec, f/3.2, 50mm

1/200 sec, f/3.2, 50mm