Two-thirds of our travel colleagues have begun winging their way home, some leaving immediately after dinner last night and most of the rest at various ungodly hours in the middle of the night. We will be joining the "ungodly hours" group in a few days. We don't want to think about it and so far we don't have to, be cause we still have a few days to enjoy Jerusalem and environs. Our first stop today was the City of David.
Even though there are those who believe that every word in the Bible is true because it is the word of God, most of the rest of us have questions. The Israelis are always delighted when they can find archeological evidence that dovetails nicely with what is written in the Old Testament. The City of David is supposed to be one of those archeological sites. Once the Jews entered the Promised Land, they split into twelve tribes more or less occupying the current map of Israel. King David sought to reunite them into a nation and establish his capital in current day Jerusalem. The spot he chose for his city is a bit further down the hill from the present day old city. He chose a spot where someone else was already living, because it had plenty of water. Many battles ensued, but in the end his forces won and he built his palace and wanted to build the first temple here. David was a lusty fellow and impregnated Bathsheba after he saw her bathing in the river. Her husband Uriah was off fighting a battle, so David had him brought back so he could sleep with his wife and no one would be the wiser. Out of loyalty to his fellow soldiers who were still on the battle field, Uriah slept outside his house, foiling the king's plan. So David had him sent to the most dangerous part of the battle where he was killed and then he was freed to marry Bathsheba. To punish David for his skullduggery, God did not allow David to build his temple and it was built here by his son with Bathsheba instead.
Today the area is pitted with archaeological digs as intensive efforts continue to uncover evidence of David’s city. While there are claims that parts of David’s palace have been uncovered, many archaeologists are unconvinced. The excavations have also attracted controversy. Though the City of David is a national park, it is run by a private Jewish settler organization, which also funds its archaeological work. Tensions have arisen as excavations and park facilities spread down the slope of the Kidron Valley and into properties of the predominantly Arab village of Silwan. As we stood under our umbrellas and peered down at excavated foundations, we also peered down into Arab homes and yards. The Israelis would like to keep digging; the Arabs refuse to sell them more land and leave their current homes. Just another area of conflict....
For me a more clear-cut and satisfying part of the day was a visit to Mahaneh Yehuda Market. We have been to many markets all over the world and they never fail to intrigue. The variety of dried fruits and nuts for sale here was mind boggling. Market tables loaded with wheels of halva (sesame paste nougat), olives larger than thumbs, and glistening poppy-seed pastries and almost everything that can be made or grown locally was grown was sold here. We enjoyed the snack called American peanuts, which while it had a slightly peanut taste, were nothing like ours. We expected to see the brightly colored piles of spices for sale that we have seen in other parts of the Middle East, but were perplexed by other brightly colored piles of little squares that were dried fruit for making fruit tea. Just add a cup of boiling water and serve. Anahid convinced many of the vendors to give us tastes and many of us bought snacks to take home. Here's hoping that we won't have already eaten them before we do.