maximum verbosity

as the old Infocom games used to say. Man, do I seem to have a lot to say these days.
Here’s some more (about Israel this time, from the journal):

I went to Jerusalem with my two roommates today. It was very fun. We taxied there with a cabbie who was carrying a handgun and who didn’t know where the Jaffa Gate was. He kept stopping & asking people about once a block in Jerusalem. We had brunch at the American Colony Hotel. It was a really beautiful place, we sat in the courtyard. It also wasn’t kosher, and had ham, which was rather exciting.
Then we went to the Church of the Flagellation. It was very quiet and contemplative, especially after walking through the crowded and noisy street of the Arab Quarter. On the dome above the altar was the crown of thorns decorated with small, star or flower-shaped stained glass windows. There was a larger one of those in the center, and it looked like the thorns were flowering as they went up towards it.
We went to the Western Wall, but couldn’t go up to the Dome of the Rock because it was closed. A group of Israeli soldiers were sitting up at the entrance preventing people from walking up there. They were laughing and singing as we walked up, and one of them dropped his AK-47 which he had been toying with while they talked to us. Fortunately, it didn’t go off.
Then we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The building looks more like people have tunneled in and carved out rooms than like it was “built” per se. As you walk in, there is a slab on the floor where Jesus’s body was supposed to have been laid (according to Helena, see above link). Behind it is a mural of Jesus’ body being taken from the cross, looking up you see balconies of the floors above. Different groups control different parts of the building–Roman Catholics, the Coptic church, etc. To the right is a staircase up to a small, dim, candlelit, heavily decorated room. Golden lanterny things hang thickly from the ceiling, there is another mural in the back of the room, and in front of it is a table. Under the table is a sort of a glass dome with a hole in it. You duck down and reach through the hole, under it is a rock with a hole in it in which the cross was supposed to have been anchored.
Downstairs again and off to the left is the actual tomb, with an elaborate and highly decorated edifice built around it, inside a circular domed room of the building. Beyond that you sort of wend your way through various rooms and chapels and down; towards the bottom the walls are made of rock and covered with crosses carved by pilgrims.
We did some wandering around and shopping in the Old City. Squiggly narrow streets wind around, on either side are stone-built cells with shops selling pretty much everything you can possibly think of, from tourist garbage to basic household goods to food to slabs of raw meat hanging outside for you to smack your head on as you walk along. The streets slope up and down as well as round and round, we followed one of my roommates who knew where she was going, I would have had a hard time navigating around. Some areas were packed shoulder to shoulder, others were much more open. Shopkeepers greet you in English, as they can tell by looking at you that you are American, and try to lure you inside with offers of free tea and cheap prices.
After we left the Old City we went to a Palestinian pottery-making place and I bought some pottery with fish painted on it. I liked it because of the fishes’ facial expressions, which range from depressed to tentatively optimistic. We then visited the Garden Tomb, which is the Protestant answer to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I was told the tomb probably dates to several hundred to a thousand years before the time of Christ, but it was a very nice garden. I did quite a bit of shopping in the gift shop there: more carved olive wood items than you can shake a stick at.

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