Friday, February 10, 2012

Conquered 38 Times

How does one explain the history of a place that goes back 6,000 years?

over the rooftops of Jerusalem's Old City
One of the things I noticed during our day in Jerusalem’s Old City is that there are as many different ways to tell the story, the history of Jerusalem as there are people, or perhaps even more than that. You’ve probably heard the joke about the group of 5 Jews (or scholars, or whatever) where you will find 6 opinions. The same can be said for teaching or storytelling methods, and in one day in Jerusalem’s Old City we experienced quite a variety of ways to tell the story of Jerusalem.

We hired a guide to the Old City and met her early in the morning. She got out some maps and a whiteboard and explained the story of the city in terms of geography. Then several hours later while sipping tea outside a teashop she explained the story with her arm span as a timeline, her elbows and shoulders were the major shifts and the life of Jesus was her left ear. After she left us we toured an old stone fortress and watched the introductory video (which happened to be the story of Jerusalem) then toured the exhibit halls (the story as told by objects.) and later than night came back for a laser and light show (yet another version of the story of Jerusalem.) Before our arrival I had read up on the story in guidebooks and magazines, and when we got home we got to tell our friends and families our own version of the story.

Jerusalem is a complex place, full of diverse people. Maybe more complex than the history of the US or most other places we might visit, but I think the lessons apply. Be on the lookout for other versions of the story, other ways to tell a tale or teach a lesson. Even if you think you know the story, you never know what new details might stick.

Model of Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple at the Israel Museum


  1. Very good points. There are often a lot of ways that the history of any place/time/thing can be conveyed, but this SO true of particularly active (or old) historical places.

    Additionally, not everyone is interested in the same things about history. Presenting different aspects of history, as well as in different formats (audio, tactile, visual, etc) is key to engaging as many people as possible.

  2. I love that little model of Second Temple-era Jerusalem. Is that the one that's at the Holy Land Hotel?

    1. Actually that is at the Israel Museum, not too far from where they keep the dead sea scrolls. We also saw one in the Citadel, it appears that making big models of Jerusalem at around this time is a well established pastime.