National Geographic : 1927 Dec
THE PAGEANT OF JERUSALEM Through a beautiful archway, we re enter the Temple area. The heavy wooden gate is locked, but a part is still open. An old man, striking the pave ment with his stick, calls on "the name of God" as he bends to enter. TWILIGHT IS THE PRAYERTIME OF THREE FAITHS Two Mohammedans are saying their evening prayers. Little groups of people are also at worship. Women, their veils fluttering in the wind, press homeward along the short cut through the Temple area. Chimes from the tiny church bells of the Sisters of Zion float across the air. A wee Moslem child is heard repeat ing the wisdom of his fathers, Allah el Akbar-"God is Greatest." Passing an imam with a white kerchief bound about a red fez, we mount the raised plateau, on which rises the Dome of the Rock; he wishes us "the peace of God." A lamp throws the Mosque el Aksa (see illustration, page 638) into re lief beyond black cypress trees. A feel ing of peace, of dignity, of hope, of the mercifulness of God, comes over us, as we leave the Dome, descend the steps and enter an old vaulted building which over looks the Wailing Wall. Through a barred window, in deep shadows, we see the ancient wall. A chorus of lamentations beats the air like the wave roar of a distant sea, but from time to time a staccato voice, rising above the others, carries a sound of pulsating, throbbing, poignant sorrow. The voices die away, but each time a fresh burst of lamentation echoes through the vaulted room (see illustration, page 670). The wall is in almost complete dark ness, but as the eyes become accustomed, figures of individuals gradually stand out. Women leaning against the great stones are silent except for dull, half-stifled moans: a few old Yemenites, sitting at the back of the alley, nod their heads in unison to the fervent dirge of those who bemoan the fate of Israel. There they stand, in long coat and skullcap trimmed with fur, wide felt hat or modern straw. The worshipers con tinually throw their heads backward and forward and from side to side, shaking themselves as they pour forth fervent lam entations to God. The throbbing sound follows us like a poignant plea for pity, as we ascend to David Street. Restaurants and coffee shops are aglow, and an Arabic song from a gramophone strikes harshly on the ear. A richly sad dled donkey stands across our path, wait ing to take his master home. Men squat ting on low coffee stools exchange gossip. A merchant with a shop below street level lifts himself up by a chain to close the shutters. A CITY OF SHADOWS AND PEACE Color has gone from the bazaar and the arcade of the silversmiths. The arched tunnel is black, with a point of light at the far end; the color and charm of the merchandise have disappeared be hind wooden bars. Smells of sandal wood, spices and curry alone remain. A blind man comes slowly along, tap ping the timeworn stones. Near the en trance to the courtyard of the Holy Sep ulcher a tailor works late finishing a job for the early morning and a heavy iron sizzles on damp cloth. From the low entrance to the court yard, an old man emerges, calling, "Allah, Allah." The courtyard is almost deserted; the great doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are about to be closed. In the darkness, a tiny lamp flickers over the Stone of Unction. Little groups, shadowy phantoms, stand about chanting, "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy upon us and bless us"). A man says his pray ers before the shrine, which is outlined by olive-oil lamps. Calvary is flooded with light from candles of the faithful. As we pass through the church, the groups fade into the background. Peace reigns. As we reach the Damascus Gate, the "Last Post" sounds from the police camp on Scopus. Our walk gives meaning to the city's pageantry. Christian, Moslem, Jew, each is maintaining in his own way, and by customs hallowed through the centuries, his relationship with God. The vivid daytime is superseded by the beauty of a starlit night. And so we leave it, Capital of three great Faiths, in the peace of even tide-the Holy City still.