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?

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.

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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

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

Walls and angles

For those of us who live in Jerusalem, we see the Old City almost every day. For most of us, it still strikes us as being a sort of magical place. Kind of like being in a sort of time-travel, where cultures and religions mix, where there are constant noises and smells, and lots and lots of crowds.

Shooting the Old City is always challenging, since so many photographers have taken on the subject. I write here: “shooting the Old City” as opposed to “shooting in the Old City” since I like to try to think that the Old City is a character on its own accord. In this series of shots I tried to focus on the city walls: from the first few shots, I am standing on the Mount of Olives looking westward. This is a seldom used park, and for good reasons. You are in the heart of Eastern Jerusalem, and a bit exposed: I don’t think that I would want to shoot there unless I was in a big group (which I was).

The dominant part of the Old City is the Temple Mount or Haram El Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), as it is the home of the two prominent mosques: Mosque of Omar and El Aksa. All photos of the area include the two mosques, so I wasn’t too concerned with showing them, hence my use of a depth of field which would allow me to hint at the structures. You’d really have to know that they were there if you see the shots. So, first I’ll show the Mosque of Omar (or Dome of the Rock), and then I’ll let you see the abstraction.

(f/22, 1/60 sec, ISO 100, 80 mm).

(f/22, 1/60 sec, ISO 100, 80 mm).

I am leaving these in black and white, since I think that the mosque is so powerfully colored that I don’t want to distract from the overall scene.

(f/5.6, 1/640 sec, 100 ISO, 105 mm)

(f/5.6, 1/640 sec, 100 ISO, 105 mm)

As you get closer to the city, you can see the beauty of the walls. Many of the stones have been recycled over the ages, and I love the way they come together. I was luck this day, as there were some cloud (most of the year it is too hot for clouds).

(f/22, 1/5 sec, 100 ISO, 32 mm)

(f/22, 1/5 sec, 100 ISO, 32 mm)

Here, we’re walking from Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate. Most of the walls were built during the Ottoman reign in Jerusalem. The walls were rebuilt between 1535 – 1538, under the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. An interesting thing to note are the  arrowslits (or balistaria). If you notice, they are not correctly placed (they are too low and at incorrect angles): they were put in for show by the builders. They are purely ornamental.

(f/16, 1/60 sec, 100 ISO, 200 mm)

(f/16, 1/60 sec, 100 ISO, 200 mm)

Despite the monochromatic nature of the walls, there is often some color around them. The city has planted flowers where possible, and they always add some color.

(f/18, 1/40 sec, 100 ISO, 85mm)

(f/18, 1/40 sec, 100 ISO, 85mm)

In the future, I’ll add a lot more about the city walls: there’s a lot to show, and a lot of history.

When in the Old City or its environs, I don’t take Shooby: it’s too crowed and people are often not happy to see a big dog in crowded spaces. Besides, he’s always a bit stressed when in the Old City. So, no Shooby today.