So with a rather surprising twist, tonight I find myself in my hotel room in Jerusalem at the start of a two week assignment to the local bureau to assist in the coverage of the upcoming elections. Never having been to Israel before, it was somewhat of a shock to the system to have the chief photographer take me on a quick tour, with choice quotes such as “there’s the gate that Jesus entered the Old City through” and “Bethlehem’s just over that way”.

Today began with a trip to collect my official media accreditation and after a coffee from AFP driver Mano that nearly ripped the top of my skull open, I was put behind the wheel of left-hand drive Mitsubishi Warrior and told to take it through the morning traffic to Hertz. With neither a map or satnav, I managed to navigate the 15 metre-long (slight exaggeration) monster through Jerusalem and swap it for something a little more city-friendly. Huzzah for my new Subaru!

With that out of the way, my only mission of the day was to get my bearings so I decided to take a walk up into the Old City. Now I’m not going to even pretend to know the whole story and politics involved in this place aside from to say that the Old City contains places that the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths all consider to be vital to their religions. As is often the case when religion is involved, this has caused “friction” over the years.

Being my first day, I wandered through Jaffa Gate and up into the markets and lanes before heading down to the Jewish Quarter which contains the “Western Wall“. After passing through tight security and scanners, I spent some time in among the men at prayer at the base of the wall. As you can see in the picture below, the notes pressed into the cracks of the wall are prayers, written out and placed there, usually when someone cannot make the journey themselves. Apparently when US President Obama visited last year, he left a prayer which was then nabbed by someone and published. Surprisingly, the prayer didn’t involve anything along the lines of “Go on, let me win. Please.” but was a prayer for family protection and forgiveness of sins. I think my idea would have been better.

Having had my day of exploration, tomorrow sees the start of the real work as I begin trying to illustrate an election between parties that I don’t know in a country that I don’t know. I do like a challenge..

12 Responses to “Middle Eastern promise”

  1. May God be with you.

    Posted by Grant
  2. Hey Leon,

    Sounds like an awesome assignment and a captivating place to be.

    Have a good one mate, catch yah soon.

    i:)

    Posted by Iain
  3. Blimey. A thoughtfully taken set of snaps. I’m not a religious man in any way, shape or form, but the impression you get through media, rightly or wrongly, is that this area is a bit of a powder keg in terms of religious beliefs and opinions. This may be an unfair representation, so looking forward to your photo-journalism exploits and considerations of the area.

    Posted by Dave Curtis
  4. How exciting! A friend of mine lives in Jerusalem and works for the UN/EU on various missions, she says it’s an amazing city, full of contrasts – as I’m sure you can imagine/see.

    The 3rd shot down is the winner for me but you’re certainly off to a flying start!

    Have you written “press” in duct tape on your car yet?

    Posted by Miles
  5. Oh reeeeally? *strokes chin* Do you think she can provide a lost traveller with information on how to cover an election? I’m sat here, surrounded by notes and tips that I’ve received from a bar tender last night and an ex-CNN presenter I met in Hertz. 34 political parties standing? As Kirsten said in a mail yesterday, it’s hardly Zimbabwe..

    Posted by tabascokid
  6. Nice pics…especially the little kitty cat poking its head out. Be interesting if you could get into Gaza and get evidence of their war crimes.

    Andy B

    Posted by Andy
  7. Y’areet, Butters? Cheers for the comment. I’m still hoping to head in the direction of Gaza at some point but for now it’s just politics and pussycats..

    Posted by tabascokid
  8. My friend is in Brussels at the moment, she just got back from a long mission in Bangladesh for their elections. I think she has a debrief this week then might be heading back home. I’ll find out, she would definitely be in the know.

    Posted by Miles
  9. Looking forward to your coverage. And congrats on the assignment.

    Posted by Michel
  10. Miles: I’ll be here until the election on the 10th by the looks of things so if you hear that she’s heading back here before then, please do let me know. :)

    Michel: It’s truly baffling out here to an outsider trying to get their head around the politics so don’t hold your breath for photographic gems! I can barely understand my satnav, never mind the subtle political nuances! ;)

    Posted by tabascokid
  11. Great set of images buddy. You are certainly getting to travel around with the job. Looking forward to seeing your take on all things Israel.

    I feel somewhat underwhelmed by my day tomorrow… :-)

    Posted by will
  12. I have but one question for you, Will. There appears to be this big blue thing, hovering over me every day since arriving here and I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m setting my cameras to the usual “London” 640ISO and I seem to be over-exposing. Locals refer to it as “blu-sky”. Being an Oz resident, do you have any ideas how to deal with it? ;)

    Posted by tabascokid

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