Monday, February 2, 2009

The City of David, and It's Our Fault (like always)

With my mother in country for a visit (for my nephew's Bar Mitzvah), we took a "Bubby Day" and toured עיר דוד - the City of David, which lies just outside of the old city, and is an incredibly fascinating place and quite important if you want to understand Jewish history, the history of Yerushalayim, and many parts of Tanach. We had the good sense to hire a tour guide (what a treat!) and were fortunate enough to have Rabbi Asher Altschul, (pictured here with the kids) who just so happens to have spent a good chunk of time working for the City of David foundation both as a researcher and a tour guide. (Good tip on touring: if you want to really understand an important historical location, hire a guide. Otherwise, you're just walking around looking at a bunch of rocks. Better tip: If you really want a fascinating and exciting tour, hire someone with a passion and expertise for the material, like Asher. No, I don't have a deal worked out with him.)
I'd like to share a few somewhat unrelated comments about the day.
  • I had never been to Ir David before. Big mistake. It's a fascinating and important place. The first thing that you learn there is that what's now Yerushalayim where all the Jews live was not biblical Yerushalayim at all. Rather, in olden times (and farther back than that), Yerushalayim ended at Har Habayit (where the Temple Mount is now), and ran down the hill south (where the southern wall excavations were) all the way down the hill. This is what's now called "the Silwan" and is a predominantly Arab neighborhood. So while we fight about some neighborhoods, we really don't have that great of a foothold in the places where there is real archaelogical and historical evidence that Jews lived there for hundreds and hundreds of years. (To really get a sense of all this, see the City of David web site, which is a wonderful site that I think won some kind of web award.)
  • There was a really cool movie at the beginning, that kind of took you back to the times of the first Beit Hamikdash. Also in 3-D. Very well done.
  • During our tour, we heard a bunch of sirens and ambulances coming from far towards us. Asher inquired and heard that there was some type of "collapse" in a school. He began to fear that the collapse was caused by the archaelogical digging, and that it would somehow hurt the site and its ongoing work. Nothing of the sort. We found out later that the floor of a UN school had caved in, injuring several students, but that the incident was in no way connected to the City of David in any way. "Not to worry," I told Asher (and the lead archaeologist on the site, "I'm sure that they'll find a way to blame us." He agreed - but it was all in jest. And then I came home and saw this article on the Yediot Achronot web site. My favorite quote:

    One of the residents, Ala, whose cousin was hurt in the incident and evacuated to the hospital, offered his own explanation. "It's because the settlers are digging into the Western Wall," he told Ynet. "They dig under the earth and the Jerusalem Municipality is helping them."

    I guess I was right after all. It was our fault. And you can't make it up.