Walking and Wailing at the Western Wall

Nicholas Quirke was flying home on 11th May 2019 and the late night, delayed flight gave him time to ruminate on his stay in Israel; where his thoughts strayed and concentrated on some the negative aspects of the visit, prompted by an incident that morning. He had woken early and busied himself with posting the latest podcast cast episode, 11th May 1981. Their day was going to involve a lot of walking around Jerusalem seeing the City of David, the Wailing Wall, the Garden of Gethsemene and walking the ramparts. Most importantly he needed to get a stamp to post a Postcard to his friend Anna who was in need of some cheer from abroad. Of course, he hadn’t counted on Shabbat and the closure of the post office on a Saturday. As he and Cole stood outside the closed establishment at Jaffa Gate, lost in reverie on opening times, an insidious voice broke their concentration. “Come to my shop”. They had immediately bristled at the demand, one that they had heard over and over in the streets of the Souk which had been their home for the previous 3 days. “No thanks. Can we buy a stamp anywhere else?” “I can sell you a stamp. Follow me to my shop.” This they were lured into an inevitable wild goose chase. Sure enough, once they were in the the apparently residential side streets and staring into a small room filled with cheap jewelry where they were introduced to the ‘vendors’ teenage son, who would go and get a stamp, they were invited to purchase goods. Nicholas was adamant that he only wanted a stamp, that they would not wait in the shop for the boy to go and get them a stamp, just tell them where. The boy insisted on taking them to an establishment and then demanded money from them for the privilege. It was another moment that soured Nicholas’s experience of the market place. Of course nowhere sold stamps, only the post office. He was aware that this feeling of being cheated and conned; a sentiment that had started with their altercation with the restaurant owner, that everyone was trying to rob them, had made him reluctant to buy anything in the shops. The cries of “come look at what I have to sell”, on one occasion “Everything is a dollar, my father died and I have to sell everything” and once lured inside the stall “ I will give you a good price”! “Oh, I thought your stock, which is shit, everything was a dollar”. No one was going to get a gift from this trip as he had lost the desire to haggle, bargain, fight for the best deal. These were the emotions he was wrestling with as the made their way to the ancient and holy site of the western wall, and as it was Shabbat The wailing was in full force as they arrived. The Hasidic and orthodox traditions were being given complete and passionate voice, a moving and profound spectacle. On their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, a site of Christian significance deep in valley of the Mount of Olives, Nicholas was able to indulge his fondness for a Necropolis, mausoleums and crypts. The ruins of David’s city were closed but clearly visible from the road as they made their way back up the steep steps and inclines of the Old City. Their experience of Jerusalem had been of fairly cold city but on their last day the temperature had soared and by late afternoon after another walk in the sudden heat, around the ramparts and despite a rest and sustenance at the comfortable Vegan Imbala restaurant they were exhausted and not looking forward to the complexities of getting to the airport on a day of no public transport. At Damascus gate problem was solved and they shared a shuttle bus with some other travelers. Naturally the flight was delayed and they did not get in the air till gone 11pm. It was going to be a long night. The action packed trip was coming to an end. The fun and photography was over and their appetite for Israel and Palestine had been well and truly whetted. After 24 hours from having woken at 6 am in Jerusalem at 5 am he walked through the door of his home in Brighton and into bed.

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