The Old City from the Haas Promenade
I STILL find it odd that I've wound up in Jerusalem. It's one of the rare cities in one of the rarer countries that I've never wanted to visit. Not that it isn't fascinating: as a historian, I could hardly ask for more to have happened in what is, after all, something of an outpost in terms of great geographic locations. It isn't on the coast, and nor is it on a major trade route. Yet it's been fought over more than most other cities in the world, changing hands some 26 or so times.
It's also beautiful, stunningly so, something a brief trip out to the hilly Ein Kerem suburbs yesterday underlined. Even the man made is easy on the eye thanks to British Mandate-era laws that prohibit building in anything other than limestone. How many new city centre shopping malls, such as Jerusalem's Mamilla arcade, which lies just feet away from the ancient city walls, chime in so well with the old ?
And yet Israel's contentious recent past has always put me off. It's been easier to avoid the country, then attempt to make sense of its domestic politics. We've still more than a month left but I know I'll go home more confused than ever about what to think. I'm fairly sure I won't succumb to the toddler-sized Israel Defense Force t-shirts on sale at the shuk but living here has killed any knee-jerk sympathies with the Palestinian cause. And I've yet to visit Yad Vashem, the country's Holocaust memorial museum.
I enjoy being here far more than I thought I would (and far more than I probably let on). We're spoilt with the location of our flat, bang in the middle of West Jerusalem. Which, incidentally, is politically incorrect - most Brits live in the East, in a show of Palestinian solidarity. But life is undeniably easier in the West, speaking as someone with kids in tow at least. There's a playground every few hundred yards, not to mention cafes a plenty and miles of beautiful promenades. Best of all is seeing the desert hills of Jordan from Louis's bedroom window, bearing in mind that just about every night since his birth I've sung him "Swing Low" in various ill-fated attempts to get him to sleep.
Even being on my own - if you can call looking after a three year old and a four month old being on your own - for two weeks isn't making me wish the time away. That said, Shabbat is looming, and another wet weekend. Perhaps we'll finally make it to the Israel Museum and nail some of that history.