Stockton’s Christy and Alan Lenzi tour Jerusalem

The Lenzis at the entrance to the "Tower of David," part of the citadel on the old outer wall.

Dinner at the Armenian Tavern, the Lenzi’s favorite place to eat in Jerusalem.
Responding to adhan, the call to prayer, residents of the Muslim Quarter hurry through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City toward the Dome of the Rock to perform maghrib, sunset prayers, which will break their daily fast during this first week of Ramadan.
A pile of colorful prayer rugs outside the Dome of the Rock.
Dome in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Praying at the Western Wall, considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount.

Prayer notes tucked into crevices in the Western Wall by pilgrims to the holy site.

The view of the tombs, and the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, from outside the Old City's Southeastern wall.

Stockton’s Christy and Alan Lenzi tour Jerusalem

In May, 2018, Christy and Alan Lenzi of Stockton toured Jerusalem. Christy is author of Stone Field, a young adult novel, and works/studies at University of Pacific. Husband Alan is chair of UOP’s Department of Religious Studies. In preparation for a class about Jerusalem, Alan was awarded a UOP grant to travel to the city for 10 days. This is their story; they did their tour self-guided, though employed for one day a local guide named Gilad found via the Internet  — a  good investment.

Throughout their visit, note the Lenzis, day-time temperatures were often in the 90s, with pleasant evenings and nights. Jerusalem is built on a series of hills, hence, each day of touring required plenty of energy. They did not anticipate the need for cash, a requirement for using taxis. Jerusalem, from the Damascus Gate to the farthest point, is about a 25 minute walk. Much of the surrounding city was built in the 19th century. The city’s population is large, with 882,000 residents; the metro area, 1.25 million. Demographics are approximately 64% Jewish, 35% Islam, one percent other; the town boasts an Israeli mayor and a Palestinian mayor.

Located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and holy to three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Both Israel and Palestine maintain their government institutions there; the US recently moved its embassy there, from Tel Aviv.

A UNESCO world heritage site since 1981, the city has been completely destroyed several times, besieged 23 times, attacked more than 50 times and captured and recaptured over 40 times. The part of Jerusalem called City of David was settled in the fourth millennium BCE; in 1538, city walls were rebuilt for the last time around Jerusalem, defining the Old City, divided into four quarters, known as the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters.

Despite being only roughly .35 of a square mile, the Old City is home to many sites of the highest religious importance, including the Temple Mount (with its Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, and al-Aqsa Mosque)  and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Just outside the Old City is the Garden Tomb and many other sites of religious importance. Many Jewish tombs from the Second Temple Period lie just outside the Old City, including the Tombs of the Sanhedrin, with 63 tombs cut into the red rock.

Just east of the old city in the Kidron Valley lie the Tomb of the Virgin, Absalom’s tomb, and Zacharias’ Tomb. Farther east at the foot of the Mount of Olives they toured the Garden of Gethsemane, with olive trees centuries old. The Mount of Olives itself is home to the Tomb of the Prophets, several churches, and thousands of graves.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher is open dawn to dusk, and an amazing place. The Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif, to Muslims) is sometimes open, but hours are sporadic. Arrive early. For visiting the Western Wall and Temple Mount, women need to wear head coverings, men a hat and slacks.

The ancient Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 CE, and has only one remaining wall, the Western Wall (avoid calling it the “Wailing Wall”). Generally, the Temple Mount is accessible to tourists, though only Muslims may enter the mosques. Modesty is paramount. Avoid public displays of affection. On Friday evening, thousands of Muslims streamed to the sacred site.

From Friday sunset to Saturday sunset is the Sabbath, when many Jewish-owned businesses are closed.

The Lenzis booked an apartment on AirBNB for the trip (nine nights, about $120 per night) up several flights of stairs, offering a pleasant terrace and nighttime views of city lights. With grocery stores located just outside the walls of the Old City, the Lenzis often bought food for a midday picnic. Other meals, enjoyable, were procured at local restaurants in walkable neighborhoods. To bone up for the trip, they read Dan Bahat’s ‘The Carta Jerusalem Atlas’.

Christy adds, “Museums of note include the Bible Lands Museum, which explains the archaeology of the ancient lands, and the Israel Museum, which includes a sculpture garden, the Book of the Shrine (Dead Sea Scrolls), and a huge outdoor re-creation of the Old City during the first century, focuses on Israeli and Jewish culture with noteworthy pieces from all over the world. Women should take a shawl, for the need to cover their head and shoulders. Men generally wear long pants, though male tourists sometimes wear shorts.” The Lenzis also visited the Islamic Art Museum and multiple houses of worship.

They flew San Francisco to Istanbul nonstop, then on to Tel Aviv and traveled the 40 miles to Jerusalem via shuttle – one cannot fly into Jerusalem. Language was not a challenge and for the phones, next time they would get a local Sim card. Israeli Defense Forces are numerous and frequently on patrol.

The Lenzis have lived in Stockton for 12 years, Missouri before. Alan received his doctorate from Brandeis in 2006. Christy is working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art at Pacific and published Stone Field in March, 2016. Her second book appears in fall 2019; she is writing a third.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow him, recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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