Thus the introduction of Yair and Danielle. A chance meeting of like minds in a place filled with frantic faiths and frictions. Discovered through the internet clan of “CouchSurfing.com” These two indubitably Awesome souls invited us into their home and the bosom of their world. With shoulders laden with bags once more we walked the cobbled Jerusalem stone to Yair’s apartment. Right in the heart of modernity in Jerusalem, a square plagued with hordes of American ‘Birthright’ teens and amusing buskers, we were soon perched on a colorful balcony drinking the ever present Gold Star and mud coffee. Before long it was Art. Video art, conceptual art, performance art and ingenuity in a place brim-full with tradition. The scene is minute, but drunk and wild on the frenetic energy of the place in which it sits. Yair is obsessed with television and he doesn’t even own one. His static filled dreams are built amongst the rubble of places lost and forgotten in Jerusalem, the desolation and isolation of the television drug itself. http://www.yairmoss.com/ Danielle is the future, an evolution from the future, puzzling over the strange ideas of the here and now. http://vimeo.com/user975404 Before long we are introduced to Yuda, a white soldier stuck in the eye of those who most need to notice the ever present war but have become blind to it. http://www.whitesoldier.com/ Ohad is in a dark room creating soundscapes which transport and evoke the jostling ideologies. The perfect retreat into the heart of the holy city before we take up residence in our small apartment literally around the corner. So nice to have neighbours again.
The markets hit us olfactorily before we can see the colours and hear the shouts and shuffles. Spices, dips, piles of beautiful vegetables, breads and yelling in Hebrew, Arabic and an odd form of English all merge into the tight-fitted walkways of the Yehuda Markets. We pick only the best of the vegetables and take the necessary Zoug, Humus, Muhummara and goats cheese. As the freshness is absorbed we add to its digestion a pint of beloved beer in a dark hole in an alleyway. Filled with strange art and people, Bass Club seems to be ‘the’ alternative venue of what is far from an alternatively cultured city. Projections, art, beer and a rooftop make for a fun time and we are comfortable and familiar in its atmosphere.
Before long we have found ourselves at Betsalel, the main art school of Israel and are camped in a white corridor while a girl constructs a strange, large structure from wire and foam. The classroom opens and we stumble into the dim light to see Danielle as evolved, connected to her computer directly she plays us a stream of growth all the way to the uncertain present and beyond.
Jerusalem is a city that lives up to its reputation as a beautiful and powerful landmark on Earth. The city sticks into you and pokes around, makes you feel something of its power and at the same time feel the eyes of those who have become fevered by it. Many people cannot handle the fervour which is produced by thousands of years of worship, focus and war. It is a thick and odd stew of Arabic, Israeli, Hasidic, Christian, Muslim, Zionist and Extremist. A melting pot which doesn’t quite meld as it melts. All white and stone with dark cobbled alleys and robes, hoods and veils. The heart of Jerusalem is its old city with over 3,000 years of written human history. It is a vision of the ancient, bygone days with the ghosts of history in every stone. A place of consistent conflict and passionate religious focus. Stones worn smooth as glass over centuries lead into dark alleys and markets upon markets colourful and carpeted, rich and showy. Wandering blindly we find ourselves deep in the labyrinth heading towards the muslim quarter, stopped by a group of kids who tell us the area is closed and lead us to the entrance for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place of the death and rebirth of Jesus (so they say, it was built 300 years after he died, on the site of a temple to Aphrodite) then demanding money for their services.
The courtyard is filled with robes, and hushed tones. The entrance is small, dark and weathered with a thousand crosses carved into the cold stone. Wailing, veiled figures kneel in the entrance and kiss a large stone over and over. The church is endless, shadowed and cool with a maze of small chapels, stairs and chambers. We join a line of tourists and are rushed into a small alcove by a grumpy looking man in what looks like the rich robes of a Bishop. The red robed man yelled at us to hurry up as we gaze at the tomb of Jesus. Emm’s brain spins with incense and humming prayers, her hair prickling on her head. A sensation that only intensifies as we locate the Wailing Wall.
The last remaining wall of the Second Temple of Judaism and the most holy site of the Jews. A large cobbled square with a division separating the women folk from the men, the Holiest of Holys is so humble in comparison to the Christian church, and I would guess, the Muslim Dome of the rock. Judging from the giant gold dome looming over the city, but we were not allowed to confirm this last comparison as we were not allowed into the belly of the muslim quarter. Walking to the female side of the wall, covered in modesty, and waiting for a moment when there is a free space near the wall, watching as women whisper their prayers with their heads gently placed on the wall or rocking in time with their inner rhythm. Every crack is jammed with written secrets and creeping weeds and thoughts begin to circle of all the hands that have been placed here over the years and what stories this wall contains.
It’s easy to understand how people can get overwhelmed, to lose their mind to the “Jerusalem syndrome” So many wandering souls roam the city convinced they are the next messiah. Unfortunately, it seems it’s much harder these technological times to be heard amongst the hum of electricity and skepticism.
More friends come out of the clock work to play and we hit a Rock bar with Uran before the three of us head over to a rooftop party for Zini’s end of year party (these weirdos have their end of year in July) Yair mixes up the dance floor with some classic Aussie Tekkers that has us reeling into the past and kickin’ up shredded confetti. A war breaks out and under the smelly sway of Arak we cover each other in paper strips before the police (with machine guns!) asks us to quieten down. A visit that all good parties must have.
And now for a very series note. The Jerusalem museum was closed for refurbishment (poo) but the other museum on our list was Yad Veshem. The memorial and history keeper of the holocaust. Set in an architectural shard that cuts into the mountain, it is a long labyrinth of atrocity in a collage of photos, letters, propaganda and video (one of the best video art collages we have seen was made up of films predating the war) It is a story we had been aware of as kids but the details are madness. Dotahn even saw his family name Serebrenic (change to Caspi) amongst personal belongs. It was hard, so we decided to look at the art exhibition. No dice. Only suffering. More? Sure, go and check out the children’s memorial. A dark chamber filled with candles from floor to ceiling made infinite with mirrors and the names of children being read out by an ominous voice. Still a bloody wound on the people of Israel, you can see it in the fearful and headstrong way they “protect” themselves with guns. It is an often said thing, especially amongst the older generation, that they are not safe anywhere. As even their own countries turned against them during the war.
Returning the hospitality, food was celebrated once more with Dannielle and Yair as our guests. More stories were swapped and Art shared.
Treating ourselves to a delightful dinner, the highlite being delicate ceviche served in a watermelon cube, we left the restaurant as the stars began to emerge. As the air cooled for a crisp evening, the exotic old city called us and we entered into an abstracted history of light on stone. The Tower of David played host to a beautifully constructed experience using twenty projectors and a wonderful fusion of history and new media. Playing out across walls, balustrades, towers and stairways the history of Jerusalem was reconstructed in colored light and often abstracted video art. The combination of night air, big sound and the lack of spoken propagandic narrative made for a beautiful experience. We returned the next day to engorg ourselves in more history as we were taken through the story of Jerusalem in more detail on a tour. Weaving around the towers museum with our strange guide.
Apartment time came to an end and we went once more to stay with our new friends. When hanging out at Dannielle’s comfortable abode we met a wonderful girl, embellished with the stripes of a Zebra, known as Rachella. We joined forces with her and another two peeps in yet more explorations of the old city. Underground caverns hidden amongst churches, filled with stagnant water, but adorned with the most incredible acoustics. Rooftop views of wonderment affording a line of sight encompassing the entire old city and Mount of Olives. The depths of the Arab quarter and densely packed marketplaces shrouded in burkas and scents led us out in a daze. Only to return again (it really is beautiful) the next day for another three hour dose of the in depth history of Jerusalem. An Archeologists wet dream of humanities drama and it’s relationship to the mono God, we entered the tunnels made by the scientists underneath the city itself to walk upon cobblestones from the Roman era. Getting a further insight into history, construction methods and the power of religious doctrine. As we walked through the dank tunnels excavated deep under the Arabic quarter we came across what is really consided the closest to the holiest of holys for Judaism. A tiny piece of wall in a dark tunnel being the closest point to the temple of Solomon and the place Abraham was to kill his son.( If God asks us to sin how do we know it’s not the devil?)
With wrenched heart strings taut we sat to a delicious breakfast prepared by Danielle and Yuda. Keeping the goodbyes quashed for our inevitable return. We were not ready to sever the link yet and would return for Yair exhibition.