Our final day in Israel was magical. The first stop was Mt. Olive for an amazing overlook of the Old City of Jerusalem. Everything was layered, both in the sense of time, with each century erecting their monuments upon the previous, and in the sense of religion, with the most holy of sites for so many all converging on each other in this small area.
We drove down towards the Roman walls that surround the Old City. Walking up the steep hill towards the Lions Gate entrance, us dancers joined the pilgrims of all types: arabs in there long white robes, women in head scarves, jewish men in black suits, some with scarves covering their heads, some with yarmulkes. This area had passed through control by so many hands, from Persian to Roman to Arab to Jewish. It seemed like with each step you could be passing over the foundations of a forum, a monastery, a church and a pagan temple all at once.
The Old City was one giant bazaar with hundreds of shopkeepers hawking colorful scarves, jewelry, leather sandals, persian rugs, religious statues, fruit juices, candy. You couldn't help but stumble upon marker after marker of famous religious sites and shrines. I've never experienced such a feeling of "living history." I was amazed as I laid my hands on the sun-warmed stones of wailing wall: From afar, it looks made of rough, porous sandstone-like rock, but beneath my fingers it was smooth, I suppose from the many millions of hands that have been there before mine.
After, we headed to the Dead Sea, spotting herds of goats and even a few camels along the way. My ears popped as we started our descent towards the Sea, the lowest place on earth. We all were taken by surprise as we stepped off the prickly sand of the beach into the slick, oozing mud beneath the surface of the murky, hot water. It was incredibly difficult to walk without slipping, and every few feet you would plunge into a muddy sink hole up to your knee. Then we realized it was easier to float your way around. It took absolutely no effort to just lay back! It was the most bizarre feeling, almost as if this wasn't water at all but some other element entirely. We smoothed the mud all over our bodies to soak in the healing minerals. I tried to take in the significance of being as close to the center of the earth as I ever would be, right then. An incredible end to an incredible journey.
Nov. 29, 2001 07:00PM EST