If ever there was a day that could have brought my spiritual awakening, today was it. After arriving at my hotel in Jerusalem a full 22 hours after leaving my home in Skokie, which with the time differences made it 3:00pm Wednesday in Israel, I still had enough energy and daylight to traipse through much of the Old City, which houses the most sacred (or nearly so) sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Although I am Jewish, I am far from observant, nor do I--as a lady asked me at JFK Airport before my connecting flight on El Al--"speak Jewish." And while I try to be respectful of anyone's beliefs, I have scant theological knowledge of other religions. But I am interested in religion's historical impact, and thus, when in Jerusalem, do as the pilgrims do.
Certainly, I can't deny the historic and photographic attraction of the Wailing/Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred place of worship, the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, which my tour book told me was on the site of Jesus' Crucifixion and commemorates the spot of his original tomb, and the beautiful Dome on the Rock, an ancient mosque that I photographed plenty but did not go into today. But even at the Wall, where I said a quick prayer for my Aunt Mickey (who is gravely ill) and left a note to that effect in a wall crack along with this more universal message, my reverence was far more mental than emotional.
But in visiting this religious melting pot (and I will return to the Old City tomorrow along with getting to some other parts of Jerusalem), I did re-discover the one thing that truly unites all cultures: tacky souvenir shops. It took me more than 2 hours to even find the Wailing Wall due to being caught in a labyrinth of bazaar-like souvenir shops lining several streets of the Old City, with all three religions and additional cultures being represented. And me being Mr. Uber-tourist, traveling alone and shlepping a Digital SLR, well, I was obviously a beacon for the merchants, with seemingly every one solicting me to enter their shop. Which despite predominantly selling tacky souvenirs--my favorite was the Guns 'n Moses t-shirt--didn't have my tacky souvenir of choice: shot glasses.
Anyway, there's a computer in the lobby of my little hotel, so for more of this invigorating insight--souvenir stands in tourist areas, my how shocking!--check back in the days ahead.