I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying this new series, and I’m only on my second guest! Today, Miriam Drori is ‘taking us’ around Jerusalem. Over to you, Miriam…
The Tower of David, situated close to Jaffa Gate, is an important landmark of Jerusalem. The current structure dates from 1310, when it was rebuilt by the Mamluks. Between 1537 and 1541, it was expanded by the Ottomans, who also erected the minaret between 1635 and 1655.
But the name Tower of David was used much earlier than that – from the beginning of the 5th century. And all due to a mistake. The Byzantine Christians thought it was on the site of King David’s palace. It isn’t, but the name stuck.
In the past, the citadel was used for military purposes, but it now houses a unique and fascinating museum that depicts 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. There’s also a sound and light show, which was fabulous when I saw it in 1971, and probably still is.
Not far away but outside the city walls lies the Scottish Church of St Andrew. Built between 1927 and 1930, the church and accompanying hospice were frequented by the sizeable Scottish population of Jerusalem during the years of the British Mandate (1917 – 1948).
From its website, “An Israeli lady who arrived in Jerusalem in 1933 remembers the hospice as the place to stay and as being very upmarket; The Lady Warden at that time, Mrs Macrae, ruled the hospice with a firm but kindly hand. Dress had to be formal in the dining room and was compatible with military life. Ties and long trousers were compulsory, regardless of temperature. In the vestry there is a splendidly evocative photograph of the 2nd Battalion, the Cameron Highlanders, on church parade, kilts, pipes and drums and pith helmets which give us some understanding as to the lifestyle presided over by the lady wardens of pre-Second World War days.”
The War of Independence and subsequent division of Jerusalem meant that the Scottish Church was cut off from most of Jerusalem’s Christian community and the holy sites. Apparently, the only contact was the ringing of the bell at a fixed time each day. Visitors were few and far between, and the hospice turned into a mess.
Reunification of Jerusalem also reunified the Christian community and the church and guest house flourished, catering more for pilgrims than for residents.
In my contemporary novel, Neither Here Nor There, Mark takes in the wonderful view from Yemin Moshe, including the old city walls to the left, the Scottish Church of St Andrew to the right and the Valley of Hinnom that spreads out between them. He sees the Tower of David, which stands proudly above the wall – the highest of all the buildings there. But his mind is only partly on this magnificent view in his adopted city. By his side is Esty and this is his first date with her. Why did she want to meet him at this place? What does she need to tell him that’s easier to explain here? Most importantly, who is Esty?
Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London, and now lives in Jerusalem. She is married and has three grown-up children. With a degree in Maths, she worked as a computer programmer and a technical writer before turning her attention to creative writing.
Miriam’s debut novel, Neither Here Nor There, was published by Crooked Cat in 2014. Set in Jerusalem, it is a romance in which the main character has just escaped from the closed, ultra-orthodox community in which she was raised.
The Women Friends, written together with author Emma Rose Millar, is a series of historical novellas based on the famous painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first novella in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.