I arrived in Israel earlier this week, on Monday, and I’m just starting to get over jet lag. I walked around the Old City this afternoon with a friend, and we saw some interesting things – including the preparations for some kind of army ceremony at the Kotel (the Western Wall). I didn’t have my camera with me so I wasn’t able to get any photos of the scene.
The plaza was already pretty full of people. There were flags flying on the low wall that separates the prayer area from the plaza – I think they were of the army unit which was having the ceremony – יחידת שפיפון (according to Wikipedia it’s part of the paratroopers). My friend didn’t want to stay for the ceremony, although I was curious enough to want to stay, having never attended one before – she didn’t like the connection ceremonies like this make between the army and the Kotel. When I was visiting Israel in January 2003, I came across the preparations for a ceremony like this at the Kotel, but again didn’t see it (photo of that ceremony can be found below).
We then left the Old City to catch a cab back to our neighborhood. Just outside the Old City at the Dung Gate, we got a cab, and the driver insisted on taking a route through Silwan rather than driving on the road that hugs the Old City walls. We went down the very steep, unmaintained streets of Silwan and then up again into Abu Tor, and reentered the western part of the city. Below is a photo of Silwan, also from January 2003.