Tuesday, May 27, 2008
If you have never been to Jerusalem, there are a couple of things about the place that you might not know. First, it's located at 1000m altitude. It's pretty high, and every now and then it snows here in the Winter. Second, it's remarkably hilly. I have been doing a lot of walking around the city center and the Old City while I've been here, and I'm astonished at how much going up and coming down I do. And these are not minor rises like those that characterize Champaign, Illinois. No, sir. These are some serious hills.
One of the great advantages of having a hilly city is that there are some spectacular views to be had. For example, the area in which I'm staying -- Yemin Moshe -- is on the west side of the Valley of Hinnom, which is the valley running between the western edge of the Old City and the new (modern) city. In the evenings I hike up part of the hill toward King David Street to an observation terrace and sit and watch the Old City and the neighborhoods to the south of it as the sun goes down behind me and the moon comes up out of the Judean deseart.
This evening I had dinner with my former student, Amir Shavitzky, who did a JSD at Illinois and is now in private practice in Tel Aviv, which is about 45 minutes west-northwest of Jerusalem and is on the Mediterranean. Amir and I went to the observation terrace, and he pointed out to me the wall -- that is, the wall that Israel constructed to divide itself from the West Bank -- snaking up the Mount of Olives to the south of the Old City. That is not that far away, a reminder of how close the West Bank is. (I'll write some more about this soon.)
Another marvelous view is to be had from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Mount Scopus campus. (For reasons that I'll go into tomorrow, the Hebrew University has four campuses.) Mount Scopus is in the northeast of the city and is the highest point in Jerusalem. From the terraces in front of the university there is a spectacular view of the Old City to the south, with the golden Dome of the Rock gleaming in the sunlight.
One last thing that I've noticed is how incredibly bright the sunlight is here. If one has been inside and goes out into the daylight, it's almost painful on one's eyes. A hat or sunglasses are almost a necessity.
Tomorrow I'll talk more about the Hebrew University and its remarkable law faculty and about my class.