Sep 7, 2009

Oh, King David

Jim FletcherBy Jim Fletcher

This week’s column is just for fun. That’s a change, isn’t it? Too often we sink and don’t look up from the troubles of this world to see the sun. I thought it might be good to take a stroll in the literal God’s Country, and get a taste of what Jerusalem has to offer. We might extend this written tour into next week!

I start with the King David Hotel. Located a stone’s throw from the Old City, on the western side, the hotel is one of the most famous in the world. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Israel (CAUTION: expensive suggestion dead-ahead), you simply must stay at the King David.

This multi-storied structure, on a tree-lined street filled with boutiques (and just a couple doors down from the newer-but-no-less-swank David Citadel), has been the hotel destination of choice for the rich and famous for decades. I stayed once, for three days. It remains one of the highlights of my life.

(For an idea on room rates, let’s just say you could stay in a Super 8 for five nights for what it will cost you per night at the King David.)

Entering a fairly small door, you walk into a reservations desk area and lobby that is famous for its Babylonian-style motif. Plenty of soft-cushion couches and chairs make for cozy meetings. One morning, I went down early and sat in a side room and just stared at it all for an hour.

Each wing contains rooms that make you think you are in a ‘40s film noir. Maybe Humphrey Bogart is standing near a window. I chose to stay in a room that looks out on the Old City, with its golden walls shining in the morning sun. Palm trees look over a grassy pool area.

Inside again, one can stroll down the hall corridors and see the signatures of famous guests in the floor. They’re all there: Churchill, Israeli prime ministers, Jimmy…Carter (sorry).

Exiting, you can hail a cab from a Jewish driver who can get you into Bethlehem. The way it works is, he drops you off at a village on the outskirts of the now-Palestinian city, and an Arab driver then takes you in. A day of shopping and a visit to the Church of the Nativity is topped off with an evening of elegant dining at the King David.

One last thing about this grand place: the breakfast buffet is unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere. Simply stunning. Much to Dianna’s chagrin, I gobbled up pickled herring, pastries, caviar, cheeses…well, the list is long.

Stay at the King David!

On the short walk to the Old City, you’ll pass pricey apartments mostly occupied by well-to-do Jews who have either made aliyah, or who spend part of their time in the fabled city, and part of the time in New York.

Nearby is the old community that gets my heart beating faster because it fulfilled Bible prophecy. In the mid-19th century, Moses Montefiore built dwellings outside the Old City walls — the first of their kind — to encourage people to populate outside the walls of the ancient city. This speaks to Zechariah 2:4, and so you can stand with a cup of coffee in the morning (as I once did at the nearby Mount Zion Hotel) and stare at fulfilled prophecy. It is my answer to kooky liberal scholars who mock the idea of Bible prophecy.

Upon entering the Old City, you immediately have all your senses heightened. The smells of food, animals, and odorous habitation in close quarters let you know you’ve never been anywhere like this before. An archaeological park at the base of the Temple Mount brings the ancient right up to the modern, as tourists snap pictures and stroll near giant blocks of stone pushed over the side by the 10th Roman Legion during the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

As a matter of fact, you can look at the Temple Mount from a higher elevation — say, the Jewish quarter — and see more fulfilled prophecy, in this case, Matthew 24. When Jesus said not one stone would be left upon another, that’s exactly what He meant. If you see the Temple Mount in the mind’s-eye of a first-century visitor (that is, minus the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aksa Mosque, and various outbuildings), you will see a Mount that is scraped clean and smooth. Those aforementioned stones start the mind clicking and you see that Jesus’ prediction happened exactly as He said it would.

In the Old City, you will see a teeming boil of cultures and religions: the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armenian Quarter. Once, I was strolling along and looked up to see a Coptic Christian — his black robes and hood flowing in the breeze. I pointed my camera and I could only see his eyes looking back at me. He slowly waved an index finger back and forth; don’t take my picture. The Copts — Egyptians who are Christian — are among the tiny minorities trying to survive in the Middle East cauldron.

I’ll finish today’s discussion with a view of East Jerusalem, in which the Old City unfortunately “rests.” In East Jerusalem, often called the Arab section of Jerusalem, patrols of Jewish soldiers and police keep the peace. Among the thousands of people walking the streets are Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives who blend in and look like everyone else. They might be shop keepers or whatever.

Everywhere you look is old stone. Sidewalks, streets, buildings. If the place was empty of modern conveniences like vehicles…it looks little changed from biblical times. The hills are dotted with shepherds and sheep. Ancient structures break up the split between the Judean Hills and the Samarian Hills, the former barren and the latter beginning to green as one looks north toward the lush country.

NEXT WEEK: Continuing the tour of Jerusalem