Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jerusalem Syndrome

Yesterday we headed over to Jerusalem to walk through the market and check out the Wailing Wall and some Very Important Church and to be told we weren't even allowed to think about getting near the big mosque seeing as we're Jews (or in my case, a Jew-by-proxy). Warren's dad told me about this affliction called Jerusalem Syndrome, which is a real thing. Apparently more than a few people, upon arriving in the city, become psychotic and suffer delusions that they, personally, are being spoken to by god.

I personally became afflicted with a number of feelings, the predominant of which was a mashup of disbelief/fascination/freaked-outed-ness about how many people make a pilgrimage here to pay homage to their one true god who is not the one true god of all the other pilgrims. It reminded me of a U2 concert where Bono (who apparently also believes he is god) gets all under everyone's skin and has every audience member thinking that if s/he could just get a five minute audience with the guy, they'd be bestest friends forever. Then you look around at the other audience members and think, "Ugh, I could NEVER relate to THAT person," and yet, there you all are, thinking the very same thought.

It's really interesting how irritable and impatient a lot of these pilgrims seem, all in a hurry to touch a wall or a stone or light a candle. Everyone wants everyone else to get out of the way. When I got to the Wailing Wall, some security chick told me I needed to do a better job covering my boobs-- and to think I actually put on a TUNIC yesterday with the intent of being more covered than usual. I also needed to cover my head and the only spare hanky we had came from Warren's dad's pocket and was imprinted with the Western Union logo. I couldn't do much about the cleavage situation and wanted to point out that my top shelf was a gift from god and Oy, Can I help it if god chose to give me such a big gift? And I did note, with curiosity and confusion, that immediately after telling me to cover up or else, the guard WINKED at me. No really. She WINKED.

The marketplace, where money is the focus of worship, is a textile whore's dream. I mean I never so saw much beautiful fabric in one place before. Of course a whole lot of it is offered to provide head coverings for women who seem to have a lot more rules to follow. I didn't spot too many wigs, but noting one woman wearing one sort of called to mind vegetarian "meat."

This all sounds judgmental-- and before I let myself get too far into thinking about how ridiculous I find religion, I reminded myself that I did attend a Buddhist retreat a few years ago and that was very moving for me. And in Tel Aviv there was an astrology bridge where you could find your "sign" and touch it and make a wish and, hey, that was sort of appealing. So I guess we're all looking for something to believe in. But in Jerusalem, the sheer concentration of so many devout people swooning is so intense that even if you don't feel the hand of god reach down and chuck you under the chin, you cannot escape the feeling of all that human energy in one place.

Which all calls to mind Dan Bern's excellent song Jerusalem, in particular these lyrics:

Everybody's waiting for the Messiah
The Jews are waiting
The Christians are waiting
Oh so are the Muslims
It's like everybody's waiting
They been waiting a long time
I know how I hate to wait
Like even for a bus or something
An important phone call
So I can imagine how darned impatient
Everyone must be getting

Oh, and then there are all the uzis. You pass lots of young soldiers casually strolling around with their guns hanging off their shoulders-- in the grocery store, on the streets. I saw a gaggle of young women soldiers in sandals and loaded for bear, heading for the Wailing Wall.

One other thing before we get to today's photos-- I could never live here because it would hurt my feelings way too much. The direct-- nay, confrontational-- way a lot of people address you is (even with my NJ upbringing) forever startling. Maybe if I stayed a few months or years I'd grow desensitized. But really, if one more person yells at me to put my camera away (in a public place) I'm either going to burst out crying or yell back. On a lighter note, there is also this constant, low-level pissing contest going on. For example, when we first arrived in Jerusalem, somebody said something to me in English and I jokingly asked Warren how they knew I was American (I mean, come on-- it's obvious). A passing Orthodox dude turns and says how very American we look. Which was all Warren's mom needed to let him know in no uncertain terms that HER SON was BORN IN JERUSALEM so there. Alrighty then.

I think I might go back to the beach today where the fashion crimes remain abundant, the water warm, and the plunk, plunk, plunk of paddle ball lends a nice secular rhythm to the day.

Warren bought us one of these bread things-- Jerusalem's answer to the soft pretzel. After paying ten shekels, he overhears the vendor try to get that much from the next customer who responds, in Hebrew, "I'm from Jerusalem, don't fuck with me," and thus pays far less.
I really think it's time for Vibram to sponsor me-- everywhere I go people get freaked out by my monkey shoes.

I found Baby Jesus hiding out in the marketplace.

Forget the golden arches-- Jerusalem put the arch in architecture.

It's a trap-- a trash can planted in front of a sign warning you that if you throw anything out you will be in BIG TROUBLE.

The lemonade is served with fresh mint-- very nice.

When traveling, it's always fun to look for typos and translation gaffes. I have no idea what the Mutable Salad is, but it sounds quite adaptable.

I made friends with a soldier who did not ask me to cover my boobs.

My Western Union head scarf.

The Wailing Wall.

Warren captures a nearly full moon for me.

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