Israel@60 Mission: The Mayor visits the Old City

It never gets old in the Old City. Saturday’s walking tour of Jerusalem’s Old City would have been amazing no matter who took part. But having Mayor Gavin Newsom, his fiancée Jennifer Seibel and his staffers join us for the tour made it even more special. As anyone who has traveled here knows, there’s nothing like your first time in the Old City, and for Gavin Newsom, the day proved unforgettable. We were joined by Norm and Carole Traeger, Susan Borkin, Karen Bluestone, Ariel Chasnoff, Robert Blum and several other missionites. After a short walk to the Jaffa Gate, we plunged into the magic world of the Old City. With tourism flourishing, the narrow cobblestone alleys were jammed with people from all over the planet. The scent of zatar, incense and body sweat filled the air as we slowly made our way through the main shuq. Our guide, Iddo, is an archeologist by training, so he knew everything about every stone and archway, even those layered below ground. Up on the rooftops we surveyed the vista that stretches across the city to the west and off to Jordan in the east. Then, once in the Jewish Quarter, we looked out onto the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock beyond. It was clear the mayor was moved by the panorama and the weight of history. He told me he couldn’t help but also marvel at the successful governance of this complicated city. “I have it easy in San Francisco,” he said, laughing. We only spent a few short minutes at the Kotel before moving on to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. The Dome in the church is a towering stone structure, bathed in natural light. It has to be one of the most glorious sights in an Old City full of glories. As beautiful and awesome as it was to us Jews, it seemed all the more meaningful to the mayor, who is Irish Catholic, He paused at the 13th Station of the Cross, thought to be the site of the Crucifixion, to say a prayer. Once back at the hotel, the Mayor reflected on what he saw, saying what impressed him most were “the layers and layers of history and spirituality. I didn't realize that 20,000 people lived together there across every conceivable difference, and if that's not cause for hope, what is? That you can be in the heart of the Middle East, literally and figuratively, in the middle of the Old City, and there's no strife or issue of significance, that's a pretty extraordinary thing.” Moreover, the Mayor told me when he gets home he intends to bring up this unique Jerusalem brand of tolerance ”every chance I get.” After the tour, the mayor embarked on a private security briefing, while the rest of us went off to relish Shabbat in Yerushalayim shel zahav. But there was no rest for the many IDF soldiers in and around our hotel, the David Citadel, because Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is in town for talks with the tottering Olmert government. None of us caught a glimpse of Rice, which was too bad. We surely would have asked her to join us for dinner. Blog b’Omer (Dan Pine)

Categories: Israel


May 03, 2008


The Federation