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October 2000


Today’s Tour Guide: Bun Bunz

Jerusalem, Israel

No one will ever be able to pinpoint what makes Jerusalem so special. The mountains, the wind, the extraordinary light may be part of it. Three thousand years ago, King David, the beloved warrior-psalmist of the Bible made Jerusalem his capital. Perhaps he saw the poetry of the place as it was then. The Gihon Spring flowed through a paradise of gardens nestled at the foot of the Kidron Valley. From there a long narrow ridge rose steeply northward, filled with stone houses perched precariously on its sides; at the top of the ridge, seeming to hang in the heavens, was the threshing floor of Araunah, which David purchased as the site of the Temple his son, Solomon, would one day build. Overlooking everything were the vast groves of the Mount of Olives, an ocean of silver leaves shimmering in the sun and wind, the source of the city's wealth and also the gateway to the sun, which rose over its ridge. From the crest of the Mount of Olives, the view opened onto the desert, which stretched over barren mountains and down steep wadis eastward to the Dead Sea. Into this wilderness, with great ceremony, the scapegoat was released each year, carrying with it Jerusalem's sins.

You can probably cover the major sights of East Jerusalem in half a day. As you go along Saladin Street from the north, toward the Old City walls, you'll pass the Ministry of Justice, on the right. Farther down, across the street in a tree-shaded compound, is the famed Albright Institute of Archeological Research. Just past it on the left, you'll find Az-Zahra Street, a modern thoroughfare of clothing and appliance stores, bookshops, restaurants, and hotels, leading to the Rockefeller Museum.

Mount of Olives
Here you'll find a half dozen churches and one of the oldest Jewish
cemeteries in the world. It was this cemetery that religious Jews had in mind when they came to die in the Holy Land. Start down the path on the right and you'll come to the Tombs of the Prophets, believed to be the burial place of Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah. Many Jews have believed, and perhaps still do, that from here the route to heaven is the shortest, since God's presence is always hovering over Jerusalem; others have held that here, on the Mount of Olives, the resurrection of the dead will occur.

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