First Monday
The outside noise and light wake me up at around seven in the morning. When I go out to buy some breakfast, there is only one shop open. The street does not look the same without its shops. On the square next to the wall gate there are more cars than I remember that were yesterday. There is a little man with a trolley, selling bread.

I buy my breakfast and then I try the Christian Information Centre, which is closed today too. Reading the table with masses and services in the different places and languages, I observe that there is only one service in English in the whole of Jerusalem.

The attentive sir who wanted to be my tourist guide yesterday spots me and asks where I am going. I say I am going to Mass and he starts to come with me, asking “You know the way?” I say I do, thank you very much, I turn round and I go on walking. I hear him say, “Ok, when you come back, we’ll do something today”. His English is not perfect so I kind of guess that what he means is that when I come back he will be my tourist guide. I turn to him briefly, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and I unwittingly make a strange face in disgust. I do not have the time to send him to hell politely so I just move my head and I leave. I thought that he had understood that I want to be on my own.

I go back to the hostel for breakfast after Mass and, luckily, the attentive sir is no longer there. The shop keepers who insisted that I must come to their shops yesterday no longer tell me anything; it looks like they have realised I have not come here to spend my dosh.

Once in the hostel I ask around the other guests where they buy their food, as there is a communal kitchen where we can cook, and they mention a fruit and vegetable market outside Damascus Gate. They also recommend me to walk there, using the pedestrian streets in the Old City, inside the wall, as a way of sightseeing the city while getting there.

I then go to the Muslim Quarter through the Old City as a full-time tourist. I buy a cake/bread with spices, which are not spices but a kind of dust that tastes like aromatic herbs, although the powder looks like the dusty stuff that is fed to cows. It was this kind of bread that the attentive sir wanted me to buy yesterday. Of course he wanted to convince me – two normal pieces of pita bread (which look more like normal bread from Spain than like the pita bread you get in London) cost one shekel, and just one of these costs four. But the mix of herbs and fodder-like dust also has some olive oil and they heat it for you, so it fills the stomach and it seems to be healthy.

I eat it as I walk and I end up in Via Dolorosa which has also lots of shops, and from there to a street that, according to my map, in theory goes straight to Damascus Gate. I walk along this street, approaching Damascus Gate. I see more and more men wearing the Palestinian handkerchief on their heads, like Arafat used to wear. And also more and more women wearing dark tunics from head to toe. Some have their faces covered.

As I walk, this kind of crowd becomes more like a multitude with little space between one person and the next, but suddenly a boy in western clothes stands out, at least to my eyes.

He is not wearing anything on his head, does not have a beard, and wears a white western shirt and western trousers. He clearly stands out of the crowd. I am not sure if it is the clothes that have made me look at him for a fraction of a second longer than I have stared at any one else.

He is carrying something hanging form his shoulder, and he is grabbing it with his hand. It may be a machine gun; at least I know it is a weapon, black and very modern – in any case it is a much sophisticated weapon than anything else I have seen in films or news bulletins. Time has stopped between this boy and me as I stare at the weapon as he passes besides me. The guy has his finger on the trigger.

No one has stopped or even noticed; we all continue walking.

I try to follow the map in order to get to Damascus Gate and the market there. However at the end of the street there are a few turnings, I end up in streets that go up and down all the time, all made of stone stairs, all quite solitary, and I realise I am lost.

As I turn round a corner I see four soldiers dressed in green camouflage and carrying machine guns talking to an Arabic-looking boy.

The soldiers have machine guns hanging from their shoulders. The boy is unarmed. Four armed soldiers, one unarmed boy, a deserted street. As I walk away, I wonder if, for a split second, I didn’t see a ray of desperation in the boy’s eyes. I go on walking the unpaved streets and climbing up and down stairs as I go along.

Suddenly at the top of some stairs I need to stop to give way to a row of school girls, with their teacher behind them. I look for the teacher in front of them but there is none; instead there is a man with a weapon hanging from his shoulder too. Then I remember some piece of news talking some time ago about the need to protect Jewish school girls so that they can go to school. We are in the Muslim Quarter.

At last I begin to hear traffic noise – that means I am very near a gate, but I suspect it is not Damascus Gate. I go out through this gate and there is a corridor formed by mobile fruit shops. I do my shopping and I ask what gate this is. This is Herod’s Gate. Damascus Gate is the next one down the street. I walk in the direction that the stall keeper has told me, get to Damascus Gate, walk through it back into the Old City and I realise how I got lost and why: there is no indication, not even the name of the streets to look them up on the map.

In any case, the market consists, as at Herod’s Gate, of two rows of mobile shops, making a kind of corridor that ends up on the gate; only this one is a lot longer than the one at Herod’s Gate and the stalls are also bigger. And of course the crowd is now as dense as when I was approaching Damascus Gate from the other side.

Near the street where I got lost there are some toilets. The gents toilets are at street level, besides some shops. The ladies are next to the wall, on the hight of it, after climbing about 50 steps. Just outside the ladies toilets there is a stone sitting space. The view is very pretty: you can see the roofs of the houses, and the wall of the city from the inside.

There are some loopholes in the stone where I would imagine ancient soldiers would sit with their arches and arrows defending the city.

The one over the gate is bigger than the rest. It is almost as big as a door. There is a soldier with a machine gun looking out to the outside part of the gate; some times he rests.

While I take some pictures of the roofs another soldier must have come to keep the first one company, for there are now two soldiers standing there with machine guns.

I go down to the street and out through Damascus Gate again. Right on top of the gate is the loophole where the soldiers are – from where they are they can see the whole esplanade, where there is a crowd and a festive and very colourful atmosphere.

I enter the gate again and it is a lot more crowded now. Then I continue walking, trying to find the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but I can only manage to realise that I am going round in too many circles . A group of Italians are praying the Via Crucis with their priest, stopping at each station and praying and singing. They are almost a tourist attraction themselves. I decide to follow them because I know that the Via Crucis will end up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is where I am going.

Once they reach the church and finish praying, they stop being traditional pilgrims to become very modern tourists. I get ready to take some pictures myself. I look into my bag and I realise that my photo camera has been stolen. I continue “working” with the video camera trying not to think too much of the stolen one.

Once I get out of the church I realise that A. has sent me a text message: he is here in Jerusalem, and he is now at his hostel having a rest. I get out of the small street system in a hurry to go and see him.

A man stops me and I make the mistake of offering him the benefit of the doubt – maybe he wants to tell me something important plus I am not sure he is a shop keeper, as he was not next to any shop in particular. So I stop, turn round and wait for him to speak. He asks me in English where I come from. I tell him I am in a hurry. He says he doesn’t mean business or sales. I stop again waiting for whatever he has to tell me. He says nothing. I tell him again that I am in a hurry, and “what do you need from me”. “Nothing”, he says. “OK”, I respond, and I turn round and leave without saying goodbye. I am getting tired of this game.

I arrive in A.’s hostel. This one is a lot busier than mine. A. is actually on his way out when I arrive, and we are just two of the many people going up and down the stairs to or from the street. He introduces me to a couple of people as his friends and they leave for beers, allowing me to stay inside waiting for them. I grab a book from a shelf about “Jesus the human”, or something like that. It is about the Dead Sea scrolls. I had heard about them in school but all this is quite new to me. When they come back they don’t pay me too much attention because they are busy themselves, so I just continue reading until some Spanish guy comes and talks to me. He is a volunteer working in a village and he is here just having a rest from it all.

All these people are here just having a rest. A. wants to go back to Ramallah tomorrow and suggests I go with him. I ask him questions about the kind of things I would need there and it turns into the group’s conversation. They say it will be very difficult to travel tomorrow due to recent events.