Jerusalem Sights and People, Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre’s O Jerusalem.

Dunreith and Aidan in front of the Wailing Wall.

A spice vendor in Jerusalem's Old City.

Michael Thaler shares knowledge while walking us to Jeusalem's Central Bus Station.

We went to Jerusalem’s Old City today, navigating the streets in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian quarters to get to the Wailing Wall.

One of the last links to the First Temple, the Wall had dozens of black-jacketed men separated by a divider from women who also moved reverently and placed slips of paper with prayers on them into some of the wall’s thousands of cracks.

We had arrived in Jerusalem in the late afternoon, initially walking around some of the ramparts before descending and making our way to the Wall.

We tried later to get to the Temple Mount, but were too late.   We plan to see it on our return, as well as to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Stations of the Cross.

Jerusalem’s unique status as home to three of the world’s most influential religions has often been noted, and today was no exception as I made that point to Aidan.

After leaving the Old City, having a quick bite at one of the Cafe Hillels that populate the city and Aidan purchasing some chocolate at Roy’s, Dunreith and I took the proverbial trip down Memory Lane.  We walked past the Great Synagogue and to the Prima Kings Hotel on King George V Street, where each of us studied separately at Yad Vashem-she in 2005, and me in 1999.

Memories of listening to hundreds of hours of lectures, walking the streets of Jerusalem and dipping into the Old City flooded me and left me grateful that we had returned.

On our way to the bus to return to Tel Aviv, we were consulting a map when Michael Thaler approached us and guided us to our destination.

An observant Jew who was born to Holocaust survivors on a Russian kibbutz at the end of World War II, Thaler first came to Israel in 1971.  A veteran of the American and Israeli armies-he served in Vietnam, in the Yom Kippur War and in the First War in Lebanon-he has paid the ultimate but all too familiar price in this country for the love of the land: his daughter was killed in a suicide bombing in 2001.

During the course of our conversation, Dunreith shared that she worked for Facing History.

“But does it make a difference?” he asked, echoing Aidan’s exact words from the night before.  “Does anybody really care?”  He painted an analysis of the region’s woes that certainly would appear to be shared by Shira-the world is against the Jews, the United States is more supportive of the Arabs because of their political interest, and the nation needs to defend itself.

“It all goes back to 1948,” he said, after praising Aidan for his astute question.

Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre go back to just before 1947, when the United Nations vote to accept the creation of Israel and the subsequent British withdrawal meant that blood flowed on the very streets we walked today.

They tell the dramatic tale of this momentous period of history in O Jerusalem.

I’m about 100 pages into the book and enjoying it a lot, even as it is making me feel wistful that I learned so little of this history during my religious education at Temple Sinai in Brookline.

Collins and Lapierre have gripping material and characters to work with, and so far appear to be capitalizing on the opportunity presented them.  I’ll keep posting as I read more, and one of the powerful images of the first section I have read is of fabled Israeli patriarch David Ben-Gurion not joining the ecstatic dancing of so many other Jews after hearing the United Nations’ decision because he knows that war is imminent.

All in all, another rich and rewarding day.  Tomorrow we plan to head to Ein Gedi to float in the Dead Sea and enjoy some of the pleasures available at local spas.

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