After Easter, we had wondered a bit what our focus might be after the intensity of Lent and Holy Week. We need not have been concerned. We find ourselves in a form of meditative prayer, soaking in the rich density of life here. Last week was again wonderfully full, so much so we never once made it to the library at the Rockefeller Museum for reading time!

Wednesday found us enjoying a long and leisurely lunch at the American Colony Hotel. The American Colony is my favorite luxury hotel here. It is elegant in an understated way. The gardens on the compound are a riot of color and variety. The service is attentive but not obtrusive. The decor is Middle Eastern beauty. I even love the “old bazaar” style gift shop next door to a wonderful book store with many titles in English. We go there at least once a week to read the New York Times, Middle East version, as well as The Jerusalem Post, and Ha’aretz. The news is discouraging everywhere but the comfortable chairs and view of the courtyard garden helps me keep perspective. Being in a city that has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times is also helpful in understanding that there are larger forces at work in the world than current history and politics seem to indicate.

On Thursday, after our morning time in the organ loft at Redeemer Lutheran Church, we went grocery shopping. We discovered an amazing Russian grocery store near our regular loop of shops and markets. We will be checking it out again before we leave!

Next, we decided to check out the Print Workshop, a building we had walked by numerous times but had never actually made it into. What a delightful surprise! The owner of the building told us the history, everything from the printing press they had that had published the first ever newspaper in Hebrew to being a home with a synagogue in it to housing Italian prisoners of war (as it is just down from what used to be an Italian church, now the Israeli Ministry of Education). It turns out the man was a student of Jacob Pins, whose prints we had just seen at the Ticho House museum (now part of the Israel Musuem).

Study for a chicken

We will be going back, as they were closing and we were on our way to the weekly lecture at the Albright Archeological Institute.

On our way, we finally located where the Mandelbaum Gate had been, a crossing between east and west Jerusalem. John had read the book by Kai Bird on his childhood in Jerusalem and his daily crossing of that checkpoint to go to school. The Gate was eventually torn down and a tall stone sundial now stands where it was but with no plaque indicating the history of the spot. Also, the marker is between the light rail tracks in the middle of a highway! Not easy to find.

View from former Mandelbaum Gate















After the lecture, I suggested we go home via the Damascus Gate vs. the Herod Gate. That nudging meant we stumbled into the three-day Nablus Road street fair unexpectedly. Most of the institutions on the road opened their gates and housed face painting, craft booths, and food vendors. The British Council was passing out British scones and the American Colony Hotel had its heritage room open, a space we didn’t know existed. (The American Colony Hotel was started by the Spaffords of the hymn “It is Well With My Soul” fame. It morphed into a bizarre cult. Descendants still own it but it is now managed by a Swiss hotel chain.) We ran into people we have met here who told us about a book signing at the Palestinian Cultural Center. Of course, we headed in to hear Stephanie Saldana, an American, speak about living on the Nablus Road for seven years. Her book, “A Country Between,” is the Nablus Road equivalent to “Married to a Bedouin.” Both books are recommended reading along with Elinor Burckett’s insightful book, “Golda.” Consider these for your summer reading list.

Last night, we went to a Reformed synagogue service near the German colony.

Kehilat Kol HaNeshama synagogue

Sr. Rita of Ecce homo takes each round of volunteers here and she invited us to join this group. It was my first Shabbat service ever. Sr. Maureena, who is 91 and still runs Ecce homo’s Biblical studies from a Jewish perspective programs, met us there and gave us a useful tutorial through the service book ahead of time. The book, of course read right to left, was in English and Hebrew with the Hebrew also in transliteration. I love that the Friday night service is mostly singing and welcoming in the Sabbath. It begins with passages from the Song of Solomon, reminding us that our faith is first and foremost a love relationship with God. Thanks to Sr. Maureena and the rabbi’s occasional page number call-out in English, we kept up pretty well. Sr. Maureena believes that is the keeping of the Sabbath, as laid out by God in Genesis 2, that has allowed the Jewish people to outlive all other cultures and people groups. Considering that a volunteer pointed out in the post-service dinner discussion that all dynasties (familial, cultural, industrial) seem to last only 200 years, I found Sr. Maureena ‘s assessment compelling. Sr. Maureena emphasized that Sunday is “the Lord’s day,” not the seventh day of the week Sabbath. Also, the Sabbath, as outlined in Genesis and confirmed by several rabbis she consulted with is meant to bless all people, not just the Jews. Lessons from this unique place to ponder.

One other touching moment was when Sr. Maureena pointed out that the words of the Shema (Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one…) are words Jesus would have said in worship when he lived on earth. Saying them in a suburb of Jerusalem was very powerful, indeed.

Shalom and good night!