Monday, January 02, 2006

A Tour of the Promenades

Last Friday morning I went on a tour of the Jerusalem promenades sponsored by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI). The tour guide was my friend Dani Barkai.

Here’s the route, taken from the AACI English-speaking tours page:

We’ll begin with the new Goldman Promenade encircling the old Governor's House in East Talpiot, continue along the Haas-Sherover Promenade and then through Abu Tor, Gai Ben Hinnom, and Yemin Moshe, ending up at the King David Hotel.

The tour was fantastic, and I’m not saying that just because a friend of mine happened to be the guide. I saw parts of Jerusalem that I had never seen before and learned quite a lot.

Here are some pictures from the tour. First, just off the Haas Promenade is a shaft dug two millennia ago, which is part of the complex system of aqueducts that served Jerusalem from Roman times until the mid-twentieth century:

Aqueduct mosaic

Here is the text of the explanatory mosaic in the photograph:

The aqueduct to Jerusalem was built during the Second Temple period and originally served the Temple only. It was in use up to the twentieth century. The aqueduct is an impressive engineering achievement. Its length is 61 kilometers with a gradient of 0.1 percent.

The next photograph is part of a mosaic that shows the aqueduct’s entire route, including significant landmarks:

Aqueduct diagram

From this spot it is possible to see the Herodion fortress. It’s the flat-topped mountain in the distance.

The flat-topped mountain in the distance is the Herodion fortress

Next, some early almond blossoms:

Early almond blossoms

Yet another bee on a rosemary blossom:

Bee on rosemary

Here is the windmill built by Sir Moses Montefiore. It was only in use for several months; unfortunately, the native wheat that grows here proved too coarse for it. Today it is a museum of the life and times of Sir Moses Montefiore, who lived to be 101 years old.

Sir Moses Montefiore’s windmill

As we walked, we found a large salt bush. The leaves are edible and are indeed salty—a good thing to know for hot days.

Salt bush

A panoramic view of Jerusalem, with a diagram at the lookout site to show us what we are looking at:

Jerusalem panorama with guide

This is the cable car that brought supplies across the valley to Mount Zion from the Yemin Moshe area during the War of Independence. Mount Zion was under a blockade then, and this rickety cable car was the only way to get supplies to the fighters. This was done at night, when no one could see the cable car; during the day it was lowered to the ground, where it could not be seen.

Cable car from Yemin Moshe to Mt. Zion

By the way, the name of the valley between Yemin Moshe and Mount Zion is Gei Ben Hinnom, otherwise known as Gehenna. That’s right: hell. This was the location in which, during the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Israelites carried out the abominable practice of sacrificing their own children to the Moabite god Molokh. Jeremiah’s denunciations of this practice, which was eventually eradicated, survive in the Bible.

The mountains of Moab—present-day Jordan—are quite close to where we were, and on a clear day they can be seen from where we were standing.

Here is a view of the Old City with the City of David—King David’s original capital—approaching the foreground.

View of the Old City

The Jerusalem barrier:

The Jerusalem barrier

Finally, a black and white cat we met on the way.

Black and white cat

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