Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nooks and Crannies in Jerusalem

Here's a thread intended to offer quick evocations about one of the most fascinating towns in the world. Installment number 1:

82 Prophets st. (Or is it Prophets' st? The Hebrew, Rechov Hanevi'im, could mean either). A block north of Jaffa st, basically smack in the middle of downtown, or at least very nearby. A closed compound most Jerusalemites have never entered and never will. I was once in there, 40 years ago, and remember my astonishment at the oasis of serenity in the middle of a town about with much can be said but not serenity.

Built in 1878 as a hospital by the Anglican Jewish Mission Society. At the time this would have been at the edge of town, but in a good area. I can't tell you if the good Anglican missionaries intended to aim only at Jews and not Arabs, or if the Jewish part sounded better for fundraising purposes. The architect was one Bradford Pite. Probably not an ancestor of Brad Pitt, but who knows? After the war of 1948, when the Haddasah hospital had been shut down for being on the wrong side of the border, the Haddasah organization used the compound for a while. By 1967, when I made my single, memorable visit, it was being used as it is till this day, as the Anglican school in Jerusalem. It's about a block away from some ultraorthodox neighborhoods, who leave it alone, so that's as good an indication as any that the Anglicans of today aren't missionizing the Jews, since the Ultraorthodox are very sensitive about such things.

Most of the students at the school are children of Christians in Jerusalem - UN officials, diplomats, that sort of thing. And a few more colorful characters about which I ought to tell someday.

As for the missionaries: I'd be willing to bet 18 Shekels that 130 years later, Judaism is a more vital religion than Anglicanism.

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