An ordinary Jerusalem morning...

July 16, 2009 10:00

This morning, having the day off work, I got up late and went for my morning power walk about an hour later than usual. Instead of the quiet streets and the empty park that I usually encounter, today's Jerusalem scenery was a little different.

My southern Jerusalem neighbourhood is on the opposite side of town from the riotous Chareidi areas north of the Old City, so I was set to enjoy the relative tranquility of a mid-summer Jerusalem morning.

I'd walked only about half a block from my apartment when drops started falling from the cloudy sky--not an unusual summer occurrence for any of you who live in the US or northern Europe, but here in the parched Middle East it's a moment to relish. People on the street hold out their arms and look up to the heavens with a smile on their faces, not quite believing that raindrops are actually falling on our heads in mid-July. We haven't seen a drop of rain since late April and don't expect to see any until after Sukkot, so the 75-second shower is a lovely morning bonus for those of us who happen to be out in it.

Still savoring the slightly odd sensation of dampness on my skin, I continue on into Old Katamon. The sewing machine in the unmarked workshop of the elderly neighborhood shoemaker is already whirring. In sharp contrast, just down the block but a century removed, two young technicians stand hunched over an open Bezek box, fiddling with the maze of optic cables that power the neighborhood's Internet and phone connections.

Into the San Simon Park where notices posted by the Jerusalem Foundation announce the opening later this afternoon of a special dog-walking area "where finally, your dogs can run free," (that's the last time this dog-phobic person will include that park on my walking route!)

As I round the corner into the famous Katamon "sniper alley" of the 1948 War of Independence, I notice that the gate of the San Simon Monastery is open and a few Greek Orthodox women are in the courtyard with one of the monks. Tentatively I poke my head into the courtyard to see if there's any chance of sneaking a look inside--I'm summarily dismissed by a wave of the hand from the stern-looking youngish monk and continue on my way.

A few blocks away, I run into a bevvy of observant men of all ages, tallit and tefillin bags tucked under their arms as they hurry toward the next minyan at the Shtieblach, a 24-hour-a-day prayer hall. Just down the street a young bearded man with flowing payot and a green towel flung over his shoulders heads for a morning dip in the mikveh.

On Palmach Street, I stop at the ATM machine, and while I'm waiting in line, I see Aliza Olmert, wife of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert standing on the corner in a white T-shirt and jeans, shmoozing with an English-speaking friend.

All in an ordinary Jerusalem morning...

July 16, 2009 10:00

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