Mark Twain and Herman Melville in Jerusalem

This week I took a day hike through the Old City looking for the two primary hotels used by travelers from the in the 19th century. Of note, Mark Twain was in Jerusalem in 1867 and he wrote about his experience in “Innocents Abroad.”

Finding Mark Twain’s hotel was easy, as it is an infamous building just inside the Damascus Gate. Twain stayed in the Mediterranean Hotel for only two days. The building was then purchased from a Christian owner in the 1880s by Moshe Wittenberg who renamed it as Wittenberg House. In the 1980s Ariel Sharon purchased one of the apartments – a thorn in the side of the local Palestinian residents as he didn’t actually live there – it was simply to create a provocation to have a settlement in the Arab section of the Old City. The apartment was eventually sold to the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish group, Ateret Cohanim.

I specially like the windows in the building. It took me a few minutes to find a good angle.

1/1000 sec at f/5.6

1/1000 sec at f/5.6

Actually, there were three versions of the famous Mediterranean Hotel. Twain stayed in the one near the Damascus Gate. Herman Melville stayed in the one at the Patriarch’s Pool not far from Jaffa Gate. It is almost impossible to get a shot of the front of the building of the one at the Patriarch’s Pool, as the road in front of the building is narrow. But the angle makes for an interesting shot. I still haven’t found the third incarnation of the hotel. But I will!

1/800 sec at f/4.5

1/800 sec at f/4.5

However, the back side of the building faces the Patriarch’s Pool. This ancient reservoir has many names: Hezekiah’s Pool, the Pool of Pillars, or the Pool of the Patriarch’s Bath. It is 73 m by 43 m and can hold about 11,356,235 liters! Today, it is impossible to get to the pool, except through the good graces of Al Quds University.

Walking to the pool, we enter a beautiful courtyard and walk through a sort of ante-room, with a beautiful vaulted ceiling.

1/80 sec at f/7.1

1/80 sec at f/7.1

1/500 sec at f/4.5

1/500 sec at f/4.5

You’ve got to love the couches!

1/25 set at f/4.0, ISO 640

1/25 set at f/4.0, ISO 640

1/640 sec at f/5.6

1/640 sec at f/5.6

Unfortunately, it is a filthy! Here in this shot you can see the back of Melville’s Mediterranean Hotel. I hope that for him it wasn’t so disgusting.

But, there’s still a great view of the city from the pool (looking north – west).

1/1600 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

1/1600 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

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.

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1/125 at f/11, 200 mm

1/2000 at f/4.0

1/2000 at f/4.0. 70 mm.

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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

The Shuk – Machane Yehuda

As promised, a bit more about the Machne Yehuda.

The open air vegetable market (Shuk Machne Yehuda or שוק מחנה יהודה) began to develop during the Ottoman period, at the end of the 19th century as peasants from the nearby villages of Lifta, Deir Yassin, or Sheich Badr began to bring their wares to sell on Jaffa Street, next to the neighborhood of Machne Yehuda.

In this wide open area, the villagers would peddle their vegetables to passersby as well as to residents of the surrounding Jewish neighborhood of Nachlaot. The geographical location (about 700 meters from the Old City) was convenient for the residents of these outlying neighborhoods, and so the vegetable marked thrived.

1/160 sec at f/2.8

1/160 sec at f/2.8

The local Ottoman government took no notice of the growing market and never built any sort of stable infrastructure to house the market. This became apparent over the next century as the market suffered from easy access for trucks and vendors, easy drainage or sewage, and shelter from the hot sun. Over the course of several years, the market began to develop and the local vendors began to erect roofs and proper stalls. Within about a dozen years, tin roofs were added. I remember when I began to shop at the shuk those tin roofs were still there and you could always hear cats running around on them, and feel the rain dripping through them in the winter.

1/100 sec at f/2.8

1/100 sec at f/2.8

During the last dozen years, the shuk has changed drastically. It is now a favorite tourist stop, for both international and local tourists. In Israel, every city has a shuk, but Machne Yehuda is the jewel in the crown.

1/80 sec at f/3.5

1/80 sec at f/3.5

Today, you can find almost anything you want in the shuk. Vegetables, meat, fish, fruit, kitchen supplies. I love the colors and textures and always think that the shuk is so very visually pleasing.

One of the nice things about the shuk, especially for those of us who have been shopping there for a long time, is that we have our regular stops. In each stop, we have to chat a bit, discuss the week’s events, talk a bit about politics, and nibble a bit. It’s a great ritual!

1/50 sec at f/2.8

1/50 sec at f/2.8

1/640 sec at f/2.5

1/640 sec at f/2.5

1/250 sec at f/2.5

1/250 sec at f/2.5.

1/160 sec at f/3.5

1/160 sec at f/3.5

1/160 sec at f/3.5

1/160 sec at f/3.5

1/80 sec at f/3.5

1/80 sec at f/3.5

1/1250 sec at f/2.5

1/1250 sec at f/2.5

It’s always worth a visit. If you come to Jerusalem, make sure that you spend a good half-day in the market. Not only for the shopping, but also make certain that you have a nice break in one of the many nice cafes and restaurants!

1/30 sec at f/2.8

1/30 sec at f/2.8

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

Devotion in the Old City

One can never get enough of walking through the Old City. Usually, when I take visitors around, we have a specific circuit that I like to follow: going from the Jaffa Gate to the Armenian Quarter and then to the Jewish Quarter, and then finishing up for a big lunch in the Arab Quarter. At some point, I will more fully describe this short tour of the Old City, but in the mean time, I’d like to focus on the interesting people that one can encounter.

Being the “center of the world” means that people are naturally drawn to the Old City. And, as opposed to old cities around the world, this one is a fully functioning city: there are large residential areas, Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, inns, hospices, monasteries, schools and grocery stores. One can walk for hours up and down the hills and see incredible human variety.

We’ll start with the Western Wall. In Hebrew it is called the Kotel HaMa’arvi (הכותל המערבי), which literally means the “western wall”. In Arabic it is called the Hayat Al-buraq (البراق‎ حائط literally: the Buraq Wall). The revered wall was built in 19 BCE by King Herod and is the last standing retaining wall of the Second Temple. Not being a religious person, the wall doesn’t do much for me, but I do enjoy observing the devotion of the visitors.

f/2.8, 1/400 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

f/2.8, 1/400 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

f/2.8, 1/4000 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

Even cops, in their riot gear take a break for some devotion and praying. f/2.8, 1/4000 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

From here we move to the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the site revered as the Calvary, were Jesus was crucified and later buried. I’m not going to devote a large part of this post to describing the Church. It is very big and impressive, and so deserved a post for itself. It is the meeting place for Christians in the Old City, and if you hang around there enough, you will be immersed in the great variety of humanity that visits the Church every day.

1/4000 sec. f/2.0, ISO 100, 50  mm

It turns out that even Franciscan monks have dry cleaning. 1/4000 sec. f/2.0, ISO 100, 50 mm

Looking at the Church from the other direction, one can see the Via Dolorosa, and there is always a lot of good people watching there.

1/640 sec. f/4.0, ISO 100, 50  mm

1/640 sec. f/4.0, ISO 100, 50 mm

On top of the church is a monastery for the Ethiopian Orthodox community. The community has no property in the church, but rather has a gathering place alongside the Coptic Monastery. It’s a small courtyard, and leads into a chapel and a church. King Solomon, as we know, had quite a bit of dealings with the Queen of Sheba, and legend has it that when the Queen returned home, she was pregnant with Menelik (who would become the first Ethiopian emperor).

f/5.0, 1/2000 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

f/5.0, 1/2000 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

But, like I say, the Old City attracts all religions. Often, because of Israeli policy and control over the Muslim holy sites, prayer is restricted on the Haram Al Sharif (or in Hebrew: the Temple Mount), and so people are forced to show their devotion in make-shift meeting places.

f/2.8, 1/320 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100

These young men are were not allowed to pray in the mosques, and so line up their prayer rugs and face the Haram Al Sharif. f/2.8, 1/320 sec. 50 mm, ISO 100