Well, the Israeli/Palestinian segment of this lengthy overseas trip is coming to an end.
I had two obligations abroad, one here and one in Europe, during June and July, but elected to hide out in the Alps — my favorite region of the planet, in many ways — and try to get some work done during the interval between them rather than spend the money and incur the jet lag of coming home and then flying back. It seemed a good idea at the time, and probably still is, though it makes for an awfully long trip, and will, during this interim period when I’m on my own dime, be awfully expensive.
The group that we’ve been hosting here loves to eat, and to eat well, and so we’ve enjoyed meals in some of the finest restaurants that Jerusalem and the Galilee have to offer — something that we’ve never done before. We had a marvelous dinner last night in a place called Chakra, on King George Street, and enjoyed some excellent shwarma today for lunch in a little place called Arkadash, just off of Ben Yehuda Street.
As for sightseeing, it was a light day. We revisited the Temple Mount, or haram al-sharif, and, once again, it was very, very hot and wonderfully uncrowded. Then we walked back past the Western Wall or Wailing Wall to the archaeological park at the south end of the haram, just below the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which our group really enjoyed when they visited it on their first full day in Israel. They wanted to see it again.
We’ve been running into Mormon groups off and on through the trip, and, today, we ran into two: a family up on the Temple Mount and then, in the archaeological park below, a group led by Professor Mark McConkie, of the University of Colorado, a son of the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie. I had corresponded with him before (and his testimony is up on Mormon Scholars Testify), but had never previously met him, so that was fun.
From the archaeological park we returned to a little Arab antiquities shop down in Silwan (that is, by the biblical pool of Siloam, at the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel), where members of the group bought various things (mostly the little ancient coins, fairly common around these parts, called “the widow’s mite”).
Then came lunch, and though we had thought of going out again to the Israel Museum, this time to the newly reopened archaeological wing, people were hot and tired, so we returned to the hotel instead. Here, we’re relaxing and getting ready for our flights to various places. We’ll have a great farewell dinner in our very nice hotel (David’s Citadel) tonight. Most are returning to the States, my wife and I are going to Munich, and one couple is heading to Istanbul for a few days for a very high level professional meeting there.
For us, though, pending unforeseen developments, it will still be Next Year in Jerusalem.
For what little it’s worth, I received an entirely unmerited compliment from an Arab Muslim in the Old City this morning concerning my Arabic. That was nice. Now, though, as is my usual practice when I go to central Europe, I’m about to begin reading a German novel in order to switch my mind over to German mode.
By the way, in the photograph above, the golden Dome of the Rock is plainly visible on the Temple Mount platform. At the lower edge of that platform, which is to say in the lower right of the photograph, is the archaeological park of which I’ve been speaking. Still on the platform, to the right of the Dome of the Rock, is Al-Aqsa Mosque, with its smaller gray dome. Just above that gray dome, across the Kidron Valley, is the Church of All Nations, marking the traditional (and likely) site of the Garden of Gethsemane. Up in the upper right hand corner of the photograph you can see BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies (the “Mormon University,” as it’s usually called here) spilling down the part of the Mount of Olives called Mount Scopus, just to the right of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with its tower on the hill. The large cleared plaza to the left of the Temple Mount platform is the space in front of the so-called Wailing Wall or Western Wall, which is a remnant of the retaining wall built by King Herod the Great (the odious and homicidal) to support his ambitious reconstruction of the Temple around the time of Christ.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.