Day 4: Gardens, a close call, and the Western Wall, again

We were still sitting in the quieter half of the Garden of Gethsemane when all of a sudden we heard emergency vehicle sirens coming from the direction of the Old City. I remember it distinctly because it woke Miriam up from her stroller nap. We thought nothing of it at the time - if you're scared by frequent loud sounds, the Middle East is not the place for you.

The last stop on the itinerary before lunch was a pleasant stroll through Orson Hyde Memorial Garden, at the end of which we were supposed to meet our bus. We entered the garden and it was very pleasant (but I didn't see any troughs). The walk through it, however, quickly became less than relaxing. It was very hot (have I mentioned that?) and the path to where we were supposed to meet our bus was, of course, zig-zagging up the Mt. of Olives. I wish we would have had more time to enjoy the beautiful park, but our lunches were on the bus and we were all very hungry.

Of course, when we finally got to the top, the bus was nowhere to be seen. We ended up throwing olives at each other for fifteen minutes and then finally decided to just walk all the way to the Jerusalem Center. Apparently, the bus hadn't been able to navigate the road to the top of the garden.

We were almost to the lower gates of the Jerusalem Center when our bus showed up. So we jumped onboard for a ride, even though it would probably have only taken us ten more minutes to walk. The AC (and our lunches!) were worth it. We enjoyed our lunches in the shade on the front lawn of the Jerusalem Center.

It was around this time that we were informed that a shooting had taken place in the Old City. We didn't have any other details besides that, except that the Old City was now off-limits to us for at least the rest of the day. This explained the sirens we had heard just an hour earlier.

After lunch, we went to the Garden Tomb. Say what you will about its claims - or lack thereof - to historical authenticity: you have to agree that of everyone, they have best captured the feel of the place. Our short tour through the garden premises was led by a British Christian of the (I think) Anglican sect. He led us through the important areas of the site but didn't pressure us or bore us with his personal beliefs, though he did share them with us in a very heartfelt manner. At the end of the tour, we were left to enjoy the area on our own, as a group. By this time, it was my turn to supervise Miriam's wanderings, but I understand the group had a very good time singing hymns and sharing testimonies. Their singing was actually quite good, for a group of amateurs: while I was off to the side with Miriam, several other tourists stopped by to listen to the singing for entire songs at a time.

When we left, I made sure to thank our guide for his presentation. The Garden Tomb is low on pomp and gaudy displays of devotion, and yet, I was able to feel the spirit of the events that may or may not have happened there with greater sensitivity than anywhere else we'd been.

Back at the Jerusalem Center, we pulled up to the scene of two wedding parties taking pictures on the grounds. Both of the brides were happy to take pictures of Miriam, but Miriam was not happy about it. I was self-conscious that after a long day of traveling, my daughter was about as snaggly as could be. But I think they thought she was cute anyway.

We checked on the internet for more details about the shooting in the Old City. As I read information about the location of the shooting, I realized that we had been very, very near there just the day before. And when this video came out, I saw exactly where it had happened.

Do you remember me telling you about changing Miriam's diaper in a quiet corner of Christian Quarter Street, near the Jaffa Gate? Well, that's where the frame starting at 00:25 (the place where he steals the gun) shows. We were in that exact place not even 24 hours before. I'll have to add that to my list of close calls.

Despite the general ban on student trips to the Old City, we were allowed an exception to visit the Western Wall. We wanted to see the Jews coming in to pray at the beginning of their Sabbath. Our group arrived a little while before sundown, and passed through security without major incident.

The minor incident, though, was that right before us in line, off to the side and partially concealed by a construction barrier, was a half-naked old lady. Only a few of us saw her, and then she covered up and sidled into line in the midst of us. She passed through security with flying colors, even though she looked (and had just been behaving) rather shiftily. Meanwhile, one of our female students was detained as the soldiers searched her bag thoroughly. Naked crazy ladies: come on in! Innocent BYU students: not so fast - we're going to have to examine the contents of your bag.

The whole area was packed, especially right next to the wall, and just when you thought they couldn't possibly fit anyone else in, a dozen more men would crowd in. By sundown, there were men praying all the way up the entrance ramp to the Western Wall.

By this time, Miriam was done with behaving nicely, and I didn't blame her. So I let her roll around on the stone ground to her heart's content. She was already so dirty that I figured it couldn't get any worse.

We met an old friend of ours on our way out (by design), and went back to the JC to watch West Bank Story. It was hilarious. I can't even believe they made some of the jokes they did, but it worked and it was very, very funny. See it if you can.

Finally, at a little after 9 o'clock, we took an almost deliriously tired Miriam back to our hotel and we all fell asleep.

Day 4: Bethphage

Day 3: Temple Mount and miscellany