12 Gates to the City

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a pedestrian street downtown

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and the grass is growing, and the birds are chirping. It is a taste of summer at it’s best, and I’m just about to go off for a weekend in the country with two of my sons, and their rather large families, and some friends too. The perfect way to start enjoying the summer.

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the lawn on Rachmilevitch

While still contemplating the images of my last series, ‘blood behind stones’, of the back streets of my neighborhood, I feel the need to add that those pictures just represented one of the many paths that I take on my daily walk. On a day like this, I enjoy walking along Rachmilevitch Str, with it’s beautiful lawn that runs along one side of the street for more than a kilometer, with it’s shady trees, and lush shrubbery. I trade ‘good morning’ with others out for their morning walk. See people running to catch the bus, on their way to work. Occasionally, there are young people who’ve gone out to the lawn to have a smoke. I assume they refrain from smoking at home.

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street musicians

Thinking of the many different sides of the neighborhood, I thought I should show some of the more typical sights, which would give a bit of perspective, and a balance to the last series. And while thinking about it, I remembered a song that I heard played when I was in the US, many years ago. It was called 12 Gates to the City, a ‘spiritual’ about Jerusalem. I loved it. It was unlike the songs I knew in praise of Jerusalem, but it’s lyrics reminded me of the wide variety of people who are at home in our city. Not only are there many different religious beliefs, but also different cultural heritages and customs. You can observe different styles of dress from one side of our neighborhood to the other… and sometimes great differences in behavior too. Historically, Jerusalem was once a walled city, and the wall still stands, though we have been building outside the wall, and adding neighborhoods to our town for the last 100 years.

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a peek at a modernistic building in town

I suppose that every big city is a world in itself. As much as I might try to share with you the nature of our city, I know I could never tell the full story. What I write is from my personal subjective viewpoint. And though I myself belong to one of the many different subcultures that together make the weave of our collective home, I hope that you can sense the great affection I have for all of the many different styles of life that are represented here. In my photography, I try to capture it all… all the many nuances of our life here. But there is no way I could get it all into one series. It’s a story that goes on and on.

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one of the newer neighborhoods of Jerusalem

Trying to choose pictures, it seems the only way to go is random choices of scenes I particularly love, with the hope that the reader will be able to connect. And as often happens, I was thinking of a particular picture… from years back. I was driving to work, and I saw a scene… one of the smaller gates of the old city… a gate in the wall, and while sitting behind the wheel, waiting for the light to change, I shot the picture with a little toy camera I had in my breast pocket. I know I could find it, if I gave it a little time. But right now I don’t have the time, and it might take me hours to find.

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the sign welcomes visitors to the old city on a holiday

And then there are archives of photographs shot in B&W, and others shot in color. I don’t like to mix between them, because I see black & white, and color as two different languages. So I have to make a choice. But the process of picking out photos of Jerusalem brings the though that I should do this more often. There are so many different scenes I would like to share with you.

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a mural painted on a building, depicting a fantasy of the city

I will close with a picture of the main street of our neighborhood. It’s named after a man who was a great hero in my youth, a legend in his own time… Moshe Dayan. But you know, we Israelis are iconoclasts. Usually, we tear apart our heroes. And he had his weaknesses and his faults. And so, though he was loved and lauded for years, he was also berated and insulted while he was still alive. I walk along this street almost every day, and I often think of him. He was quite a character. But he’s been gone for a while now, and I wonder if the young people on the street know who he was at all. I think, after I finish writing this, I’ll have a drink in his memory.

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Moshe Dayan Blvd

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62 responses to “12 Gates to the City

  1. I never feel like a tourist when taking in the sights of your home through your blog, even though I’m seeing and hearing about customs and lifestyles very different to my own, you make it all sound so comforting and welcoming, even the musicians look familiar…Your family weekend sounds like a lot of fun, summer will always be my favourite season.

    • Glad to hear that you enjoy it. We’re an ancient people. And even when I write about the customs and life styles, I try to make it light… because it can get very complex and difficult for westerners to comprehend at times. Still there are parallel customs among other people, and both Christianity and Islam adopted some of the customs and values of our culture, so it isn’t completely alien. Thank you very much for coming by, Jack. And for your comment.

  2. Your city is beautiful, Shimon. I think it is appropriate and touching for you to choose pictures of places and things that you love. That makes it special for us, too.

  3. I’ve enjoyed going on your morning walk with you via your pictures. Your love for your city comes shining through in both your words and your photos.

    • I’m very glad it comes through. Strangely, this was one of the harder posts, because I felt it was getting long, and that there were too many pictures… and yet I kept adding, because there was so much I felt had to be included. Maybe I was too close to the picture. Thanks for your comment, Ruth.

  4. Thanks for sharing the beauty … and the mural is outstanding!

    • There’s actually a few such murals in town. There is one that was painted some years ago, in which the tram was painted before it existed. I get a kick out of them. Thanks for the comment, Frank.

  5. What a beautiful post! It’s clear that you love your city, Shimon; every photograph feels like a love poem…I really like the green median of lawn and the building with the mural, but every picture pulls me in and invites me to linger…I hope your family time will be joyful. Happy Summer!

    • Thank you very much, Kitty. I once did a series just of different shades of green, that I found in nature. That’s the sort of thing I usually do just for myself, because I doubt that there are many people out there that have the patience for such things. But I enjoy it. Family time is great.

  6. I loved your blood Behind Stones series and I love this post. Thank you for taking me back.

  7. It always puzzled me that Dayan never had a prosthetic eye fitted. Why do you think that was?

    • That’s a very interesting question, GB. Dayan was shot in the eye while looking through binoculars, and it made a mess of his eye socket as well as destroying his eye. There were those who saw his patch as a trademark, and thought that maybe he liked the bizarre effect. But he had it operated on a number of times, but they were unable to install a glass eye, and he eventually gave up on it. Thanks for coming by. Checked out your blog, and I enjoy your good humor.

  8. Wonderful post showing us where you live, that always makes the connection with your fellow bloggers so much more personal. I agree with you on mixing black and white photos with color in one post…just seems strange, I hadn’t thought of it as two different languages….I love that thought. Have fun with the kids and friends.

  9. Ha, I smiled at the end. Yes, I think a drink to Moshe Dayan is in order. I enjoyed the photos of your city. I especially like the contrast between the old city and the modern one. The Flickr photos are wonderful. I forget about my Flickr account and yours. The entire Blood Behind Stones series has been a joy to visit, Shimon. Such beautiful photography and such a perceptive, inclusive series too. Your love of Jerusalem infuses your photographs.

    Enjoy your weekend in the country with the family and friends. How many children and grandchildren are there in toto?

    • Yes, a man who likes a drink, will always find a very good reason to imbibe. As for Flickr, since they ‘improved’ the graphics, I find it hard to find some of my own pictures… it used to be built to serve the photographer, but I get the feeling now that they are trying to compete with other social networks, and it makes me feel my age. Very glad you enjoyed my photos of the city. Nowadays, there’s a lot of ‘eye candy’ around, but I’m a bit old fashioned about what I like to see and read. Thanks for the comment, George.

  10. Lol….that last line about having a drink in his memory made me laugh!!!!

    Some wonderful pics there showing the diversity of the people. I really love the mural, it really stands out.

    I think your fondness of the city and it’s people come across wonderfully.

    As usual, I loved this! ps I’d like to see the b&w pic of the gate in the wall if you do get time to find it. Have a wonderful time in the country.xxxx

    • Oh, it’s really a different pace out here in the country, Dina. And watching the animals browse around with the greatest of ease, appreciating nature, and comfortable, I’m really having a good time. I’m a real sucker for sheep and goats, but there are a lot of living creatures here to fascinate me… including a blue and yellow parrot. It’s the children that are a challenge, though. Though they’re very sweet, and make some beautiful music, but they’re just getting started when I begin to feel a little tired. I have to watch my step. I just saw three of them rolling down a hill at the speed of light. xxx

  11. Well, as you would expect, I’m curious to hear about Moshe Dyan

    • He was a character, Bob. Talked slowly. Had an ironic sense of humor. A fearless fighter, who saw his enemies as human beings too. But he had a great weakness for women, and when he found archeological treasures in the ground, he thought, ‘finders keepers’. He never seemed to recognize the authority of the state.

  12. To the outsider, like me, one never really appreciates the diversity that exists within Jerusalem in so many aspect of life. Through your photography, Shimon, I’m beginning to see those things.

    • Well, it pleases me no end, Andy, that you find interest in these posts. But believe me, though I talk about it, and show pictures… it’s really just a peek. There is so much here, and it’s hard to do it justice.

  13. Shimon, you’ve so awakened a desire in me to experience your beautiful Jerusalem! thank you…

    • Well, I’m very glad you enjoyed the post, Spree. One of these days, I’ll have to write about the food we have here. It’s both colorful and very tasty. And you’d probably find some of the dietary rules accepted by a large portion of our population, fascinating.

  14. Shalom Shimon, for you:

  15. there are many versions of “Twelve Gates to the City” – but I like especially the version of Pete Seeger: beginning hesitating alone with his banjo, but then the whole audience joins, singing, clapping hands!
    +
    יש גירסאות רבות של “Twelve גייטס לעיר” – אבל אני אוהב במיוחד את הגרסה של פיט סיגר: תחילת מהססת לבד עם בנג’ו, אבל אז כל הקהל מצטרף, לשיר, למחוא כפות!

    • Yes, Pete Seeger was always able to get his audience involved, and stir the hearts of people of all ages. We used to hear from him quite a bit in the 60s, and then later not so much. But I did hear that he was very active in projects for the protection of the environment. He is a great guy. And you are too, for taking the trouble to write me in Hebrew. You touch my heart, Frizz.

  16. Beautiful piece of writing. It really shows your love for the city. Thank you for the pictures to illustrate your points.

  17. Thanks Shimon for another wonderful post about Jerusalem. I too like Pete Seeger’s version of “Twelve Gates to the City.” Pete had a gift for getting his audience to sing and clap along with him. Shalom.

    • Yes, the little I’ve hear of Pete Seeger was very moving. He seems a man who really has feelings for his fellow human beings, and is authentic in his presentation. Thank you, dimlamp, for your good wishes. I too wish you peace and success in all your work.

  18. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Hi Shimon 🙂

    The sun is shining here too and we’re on the onset of winter. Brrrrr. Don’t like, but must accept.

    I’ve missed the back streets of your neighbourhood. I will definitely go seek that. I like what you titled it.

    Every city is its own world really, yes. I love the mural – beautiful.

    • Thank you very much, Noeleen. We’ve heard about a hard summer in your part of the world. I do hope that winter won’t be too cold or too harsh. Always very good to hear from you

  19. “A story that goes on and on…”, that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it?
    I am enjoying your words and images very much,

    • When I was young, I used to love those long books that I could just sink into, and know they’d go on for a long time. And I agree with you, Karen. There is great beauty in something that one can keep learning from and enjoying. Thank you very much for your comment.

  20. I think you should do more of this, too – it’s so interesting to see (and read about), the variety of buildings and people.

    • Okay, I’ll give some thought to that. I worry though, that too much of the same subject starts getting boring. Thanks for the feedback, Richard.

  21. Enjoy reading about your city – its people, buildings and scenery. Crossed my mind that even though I live in a small town perhaps people would like to know what life is like in the backroads of Ohio. Wouldn’t be as exciting as your beautiful town, but every place has its history. Hmm!

    • I like small towns, Bev. And I’ve picked up, that in small towns, there are a lot of stories that travel from mouth to ear. You could take a picture of a street or a house, and tell us of some of the things that happened there. It could be very interesting.

  22. Dear Shimon,
    This was a wonderful post. I love to hear your thoughts on your city, its history, and the world.

  23. I always enjoy the pictures you choose to share with us. Your love for the city is evident.

  24. Another nice morning walk with you, Shimon, listening to your words while seeing the sights….thank you for sharing your world. I hope you’ve had a nice weekend with your boys and their families.

    • Yes, Scott. It was very pleasant. And I’m always learning something new… or stimulated to new thoughts when in the company of my grandchildren. Thank you for joining me for a while.

      • That’s an excellent outlook, of course, and yes, our little ones can be a source of some very provoking thoughts, can’t they? It’s always a pleasure being here, Shimon…..

  25. Good morning Shimon…..A very interesting post, and it’s always of great interest to me to see where you walk and what the streets of your city are like.
    I remember Moshe Dyan very well from my childhood. I always thought he was a very romantic figure, especially with the eye patch:) These were my thoughts as a child…..

    May you enjoy a wonderful time with your family, with good summer weather. Janet. x

    • I see him as a romantic figure too, Janet. I think it’s a great mistake to ask our heroes to be perfect. As it is to ask that of ourselves. If we dedicate a lot of energy or commitment to one aspect of life, certainly we will be lacking in another. I’ve known a few perfect people… but they are few and seldom seen. It was a great time with family and friends, and amusing with grandchildren. Thanks. xxx

  26. You have captured a beautiful city in these pictures. I feel like being on a travel. Very nice, Shimon.

  27. I have pictures of the building with the trompe d’Oeille, from two visits to it. I love it! It tells wonderful stories of daily life of the building and the district. There are others in Jerusalem which are interesting to study, too. I must look them out again. It was a delight unexpectedly seeing some of the places I have walked in.

    Moshe Dayan with his eye patch cut a notable figure. His history as a war time leader (maybe not so much as a politician) is retained in the annals of our generation’s memory banks. When I spent time at Yad Vashem, there were a number of groups of new recruits on educational tours with guides. I guess your kids do learn something of their diaspora history and recent histories, especially when they can see the physically and psychologically wounded veterans around them. It must raise questions, or, do you think people are sensitised to what they see?

    • I see you’re quite familiar both with Jerusalem and with Israel, menhir. Glad you enjoyed seeing some familiar sights here. Moshe Dayan contribute much to the state, in a lifetime of service. But it seems to me the younger generation has just about forgotten him. As for Yad Vashem, almost everyone visits there, and I think that all citizens are sensitive to the subject. However, as you probably know, there was a long history of injustice and persecution before that, and it seems to me that the focus on the holocaust has diminished the understanding of a long term perspective. We do our best to educate our young, and then they go on where we’ve left off. Thanks for the comment.

  28. Shimon, it is so wonderful being given glimpses of a city which you obviously love and wish to share.

  29. Shimon Shalom,

    Thinking about your reply, is it just possible that the young generation of today may carry with them, internally, the earlier histories of injustices; aggressions, conquerings, pogroms and the reasons for the various diaspora and so forth? Admittedly, it may well be diluted with the generational shifts, however, I somehow feel that the inner knowledge, the inner sensitivity, would be handed down through the families and their stories of their family history, just as the Biblical stories are, at Pesach, for example. Perhaps, they remember while getting on with their daily lives. Curious minds generally want to find out more. There is no doubt that the present must be catered for, for the present and immediate future generations. This alone, will demand much ongoing attention.

    I grant you that there is a major focus on recent histories which, does have a place. Dreadful global events are subsumed into daily life to enable people to carry on living best they can. I hope that by reminding nations of the Shoa , it would go some major way to halting a repeat anywhere on this earth. My own instincts tell me this is rather naive; we have seen other populations decimated since then, (some soon after) on other continents where Europe has had a lot less sway. I believe we should never become sensitized to it.

    You stimulate thought Shimon.

  30. Awe-inspiring as always, Shimon…thank you

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