Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Layers of Jerusalem

The Davidsohn Center is a tourist center to the immediate south of the Temple Mount. It was opened a few years ago, and there's a funny story about that. As the American State Department refuses to learn, building in Jerusalem is an arduous and multi-stage project, which takes years to cross. The folks behind the center didn't want to wait all those years and deal with all the bureaucracy, so they made the case that they weren't actually bulding anything new, merely refurbishing the basement of an Umayyad palace. The palace was built in the 8th century and then forgotten from history until it was rediscovered in the 1970s by Israeli archeologists, who uncovered a series of monumental Arab structures no-one had known were there. Refurbishing is a shorter process than building, and so the center opened at least five years earlier than otherwise. The Haredi guide we were with said - tongue in cheek - that when the time comes to build the Third Temple the same argumentation should be made: it's a reconstruction, not a new building.

Anyway, the reason the center is a tourist attraction is that it sits on the main road from the oldest parts of Jerusalem into the Temple, and throughout the two temple eras, all the way up to the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE, this was the main thoroughfare for pilgrims (the Talmud mentions this in detail, which is the kind of thing you learn when you've got a haredi guide). In the center there's a 10-minute film, in which a fellow acts the part of a modern researcher and also a 2nd-Temple pilgrim, wandering through the area then and now. It's a cute sort of thing.

Since the majority of tourists to Jerusalem are not Jews, the film depicts a Jewish pilgrim from the early 1st century CE, a youngish man with a beard, who just so happens to come from the Galilee, and not, say, from anywhere else Jewish pilgrims would have come from. In case any of us weren't getting the hint, our Haredi guide spelled it out for us.

The actor, depicting a contemporary Israeli and a Jesus-era Jew, is one Juliano Mer-Chamis, an Israeli mix-up who had a Jewish mother, a Palestinian father, founded and ran a theatre in Jenin, and lived on a hill above Jenin from which he could see Haifa, where he was born, and Jenin, where he made his life. He was murdered earlier this week by some Palestinian thug who apparently was angry, among other things, at Mer-Chamis' eagerness to have Israeli and Palestinian theatre troupes collaborate.


Anonymous said...

We visited the Davidsohn Center in 2008. What a wonderful visit! And what a wonderful film. I remember it.

I was saddened to hear about the actor's murder. Now, I am double saddened.

What a waste.


Avi said...

The Davidson centre is also the site used by non Orthodox Jews for bar and bat Mitzvahs at the Wall, but not at the Wall.

IMHO it is a different experience to actually walk and pray on the Herodian street rather than on top of 2,000 years of accumulated landfill.

BTW, I was there yesterday, Rosh hodesh and to my unpracticed eyes, the "temporary" bridge going up to the Temple mount built of wood and scaffolding looks decidedly shaky. Who needs stories about the wooden ladder above the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre to illustrate the idiocy of "status quo" when you have this stupid bridge.

I did not know that the actor in the film clip was Juliano Mer-Chamis. I love the layers of complexity and confusion round here. Anyone who thinks that it is simple, is him or herself simple.

Saul Lieberman said...

Nu, Yaacov let us know if you are planning to lead a tour of Jerusalem during Pesach.

MSS said...

The Davidsohn Center was one of our favorite sites when we spent three months in Jerusalem last summer. I was especially moved by the remnants of the mikveh that you can enter on the visit.

I had no idea that the actor in the film was the same one whose murder was in the news this week. Thanks for this information, Yaacov.

Anonymous said...

Change of subject:

Yaacov -

I stumbled upon this treasure.

It is getting towards that time of year, ya'know.


Daniel said...

According to Amira Haas over at Haaretz, Mer-Chamis was born in Nazareth. I usually dont' take things Haas says seriously but thought i'd point it out.

Great post!

Sylvia said...


Ongoing fire from either rockets or anti-tank missiles or mortar in the Western Negev (for those who know this area it's between Saad and Nahal Oz). A bus possibly carrying school children was directly hit. One 13 years old seriously wounded so far.

Anonymous said...

Terrible news, Sylvia. Stay safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


Yaacov said...

Sylvia -

Please contact me at yaacov dot lozowick at yahoo dot com. I've got a proposal for you.