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..