Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Markets and other less than usual spots
Natasha and I spent the day walking around an entertaining part of Jerusalem, a mixture of the old and the new. We began at the Italian musuem and synagogue. We continued through small pedestrian streets to the Anna Ticho House, looked around the museum and ate lunch there, walked around more, and ended the day at the large central market and the Ben Yehuda shopping area.
Many buildings in the area are old, some new, some a mixture. In front of a dull and poorly maintained high-rise office and housing building was the gate that once led into the Alliance Internationale Israelite -- the ironwork still had the date 1883, but the stone gates and ironwork were all that remained. The Italian Synagogue building originally was a church belonging to the German Colony, which stands next to a Russian cultural center. The Anna Ticho house was one of the first outside the city wall. Run-down buildings stand next to the offices of important foundations or law firms. In one courtyard is a small stone ampitheater, where a Russian furniture refinishing shop has its activity.
Anna Ticho (1894 - 1981) was originally from Moravia. She joined her husband-to-be, an opthalmologist, in Jerusalem before World War I. For much of her life, she helped him in running an eye clinic, treating problem diseases that troubled residents in the then-primitive city. Trained as an artist, she made many sketches of the trees and hills of Jerusalem. Those on display interested me because she had a way of outlining a whole tree and then detailing only a part such as the trunk.
The New Bezalel school was another of Anna Ticho's interests. The clinic and their home were in one of the oldest houses outside the Old City walls. She left all to the public, so the house now serves as a museum and pleasant place to sit in a garden in the middle of a busy city. A prior inhabitant was named Shapira: a small area in the museum described his career as a forger of antiquities.
We walked around the picturesque streets of the neighborhood, going as far as the sign warning us that we were entering Mea Shearim. The sign told us we would be unwelcome unless dressed to their ultra-orthodox standard, which I think we would never meet. Among the crowds of people on the streets, many conformed to this. Some men wore white shirts, black slacks, visible fringes, and dark skullcaps. Some also wore long black coats. (The temperature is probably well over 80 degrees.) A few wore striped silk coats, kneepants, black porkpie hats, and long black socks. Women wore a variety of hats or snoods, long skirts (some dark, some bright-colored), and long-sleeved blouses.
We looked into two churches: the Russian church, in a busy area near the police station, and the Ethiopian church, surrounded by very expensive homes with gates and gardens. The latter is dramatic: a circular building. Inside, a central area beneath the round dome is inaccessible.
A chained-off door leads into a dark sanctuary. Nearby are benches where there are many, many wooden staffs topped with a short handle, like bishop's crooks. A dark-robed barefoot monk welcomed us. We were also shoeless, as requested by the sign outside the entry.
On the walls of the circular outer aisle are numerous icons, many depicting Ethiopian saints or madonnas with Ethiopian features. Oriental rugs of all colors and types, mostly cheap ones, layer the floors. Plaster walls and pilasters are varied, brightly painted, adorned with cheap metal vases full of artificial flowers and similar decorative objects. Most of the massive doors are painted pale pink. You can look up obliquely towards the deep blue dome painted with disembodied angels in little clouds. Vivid sunlight enters the church from various windows, so it's well lit.
The central market is busy and full of smells: spice, fish, ripe fruit, and frying food. Vivid colors and shapes: piles of dried figs, dates, raisins, prunes, almonds, pecans, walnuts. Burlap bags of spice and fruit-nut mixtures. Fresh green almonds, fresh plums, apricots, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, cucumbers, onions, squash, beets, kolrabi, green grapes. Dried lentils, peas, fava beans, soup mixes with dried peppers and tomatoes, chili peppers. The whining sound of men at prayers in a stall that serves as a synagogue. A few stall owners call out that you should buy or look at their wares. Refrigerator cases display beef parts, chicken parts, or bowls of condiments and cooked salads. Men and women stand in front of stalls selecting produce to be weighed and packaged.
The jewelry shops along Ben Yehuda street are far less colorful and intriuging than the market. We circled back thorough pedestrian streets to the parking garage next to the Italian museum.
Posted by Mae Travels at 9:20 AM