One of the richest parts of our visit to Israel was our stay at Shlomo’s house in Jerusalem. Shlomo is a third generation Israeli whose family heritage goes back to Yemen. He had retired about 10 years ago from being a computer professional; and years ago, while working his ‘day job’ he got a degree in Film studies. Shlomo is quite the renaissance man possessing varied interests, many of which center around art, history and music. He is a regular volunteer at the Israeli museum and just before we left Jerusalem he was studying up on an upcoming new exhibit so he could train other volunteers to enable them to conduct tours of the new exhibit.
Highlights of our visit included a tour of the museum with him which began in front of a 1:50 scale model of the Old City of Jerusalem as it was around the first century C.E. before the Jewish rebellion of the Romans. And a few days later we did a walking tour of the old city reviewing the views, angles and positions against the model of ancient times we had seen days before.
Cindy, Jim, Shlomo and I sat ‘inside’ a simple but profound piece of modern art by American artist, James Turrell. We are looking up through a ‘frame’ of the sky which changes as the frame of the sky and clouds, day and night changes. Turrell captures the basic, simple and elegant view we all have of seeing the world in frames. I’m not sure exactly how we would have reacted seeing it by ourselves but I feel certain we appreciated it so much more having had this wonderful piece explained to us.
The tour continued with a permanent exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls and included a documentary film on its discovery and a second film with re-enactors about what Jerusalem and the surrounding areas may have been like around the turn of the turn of the Common Era, or C.E.. In the “re-enactor” film, a Jewish splinter group called the Essenes moved out of Jerusalem — thought by them and some others to be corrupt– to live pure spiritual lives by studying the Torah, the Dead Sea Scrolls and practicing strict ascetic living. (I really got a kick out of one scene which one person leaves the group for the big city–Jerusalem– and gets his pocket picked.) It was a time of religious and political upheaval and it’s easy to understand how someone like Jesus could develop a strong following by preaching basic humanistic concepts. Those values and the communities it was supposed to have served may have been ignored or simply underserved by a religious establishment who had developed a quid pro quo relationship with the Roman administrators.
The Jewish faith forbids religious images so the written word was the sole medium for communication. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written as early as 400-300 B.C.E. and in Hebrew that can even be read by children today.
Shlomo had the best advise and suggestions about where to go, what to do, and how to get there. We told him of our plans to end our Israel trip in Tel Aviv and since it is a very expensive city to stay in, one of his suggestions was to ‘commute’ there by taking a 40 minute bus ride from close to his home to a free shuttle which takes you right into Tel Aviv center. It worked out wonderfully!
We rented a car for a couple of days so we could access the north (Tiberius on Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee) and Caesarea just south of Haifa. We saw some spectacular scenery, though, Tiberius could have been missed as it was super tourist-kitsch and since we had no GPS we wasted a bunch of time trying to navigate our way in and out.