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“We’re just delighted that in 1948, an effort [was made] to sort of liberate and free the Jewish people,” Mayor Marion Barry proclaimed in his own inimitable fashion last week while announcing financing for his airfare to Israel this week. The invitation to participate in a sister cities conference in conjunction with Israel’s 50th anniversary came from none other than the Israeli government, which also offered to pay for the mayor’s lodging. But it was up to the mayor to get his own self to the Holy Land, and community activists balked at Barry’s decision to use municipal funds to international ends. Lawyer/doctor-suer Jack H. Olender eventually ponied up $2,000 for Barry’s economy-class ticket, a gesture that the first class-coveting Barry originally deemed a “sacrifice.” We feel your pain, Your Honor. In hopes that this particular junket will be as successful as your hug across the Atlantic with the brutal dictators of Nigeria, we provide this cultural guide to the Holy Land. Shalom!
Travel restrictions The good news: You should avoid traveling on public buses; your usual MO of a siren-blaring motorcade is much safer. The bad news: Despite your natural instincts, the State Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid large crowds and political demonstrations at all times.
Colloquialisms When someone says that people are “getting stoned” at Meah She’arim, please note: They mean that ultra-Orthodox zealots are throwing rocks at Reform Jews, not passing the pipe.
R & D Wondering how to get those freeloading suburbanites to fork over their fair share? Ponder this: For security reasons, 45,000 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank need magnetic-striped ID cards to cross into Israel proper.
Revitalization The city of Ariel, in the Golan Heights, was born in 1978 on a barren hill of craggy rocks and is now alive with commerce, residential neighborhoods, high-quality education, and thriving industry. Could the same be done on the Southwest waterfront?
Local flavor Homesick? Be sure to check out the intense squalor of Gaza and the West Bank.
Religious experiences Apropos your own persecution at the hands of the FBI, visit the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem to stop at each of Jesus’ 13 stations of the cross on the way to his crucifixion.
Personal epiphany Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall is all that remains of the once-powerful kingdom of Solomon, a poignant reminder (and hint) that all fiefdoms must end eventually.
Common ground Remember that Jerusalem is no stranger to foreign interlopers seizing control: Sennacherib and the Assyrians, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, Alexander the Great and the Greeks, the Emperor Constantine and the Byzantines… Be thankful that Brimmer and Co. didn’t round up the locals and behead them.
Compare and contrast Marvel at the “holy stones” paving the road through the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. How is it that these public works paved by the ancient Romans last centuries while the Department of Public Works’ fixes on Florida Avenue degrade in a matter of days?
Scenic views The Temple Mount is where Jesus is said to have returned after his resurrection. As a man who knows a thing or two about resurrection, feel free to take in the vista.CP