Our guide in Jerusalem took us into the Muslim Quarter—through the Lions gate—into the Old Walled City. He took 49 pilgrims down a narrow stone street and told us to walk into a bread shop to look and see where they baked the bread. We saw big bread ovens with hot sweaty Arab men tossing big sheet pans of bread in and out of stone ovens. It was a rainy day and the warm bakery seemed dark and a long way from the Kroger bakery that was familiar.
Then he passed around loaves of hot fresh sesame bread which he called Kai. He told us it was the best bread in the old city. We stood around the alley eating warm bread.
He referred to his home as the entire area in the old walled city. All of it. The shops and the stores and the churches. He gestures above us. More than once he reminded us that this was a living city. He showed us antennae and laundry and children on their way to school. We ate bread in the rain, awkward tourists, communion.
Later that day as we stood outside a street that marked where he lived as a child he talked more about the bread. Our tour guide, said, “Remember the bread I gave you? Anywhere you go in the old city you would get bread as good as the bread I gave you, but outside the city the bread is the same but not as good to eat. Why is that?”
He always asked us rhetorical questions, so we squirmed uncomfortably not sure of the right answer, and then he answered his own question, “Perhaps they are just better bakers in the city, or perhaps it is the spices and dust from ancient days in the air that mingles with the bread and gives it a special flavor, or perhaps it is the spirituality in the old walls–the religion of two millennia that gets baked into the bread. Whatever the reason, the bread, made by bakers in the old city is the best bread. Don’t you agree? “
And we did.
Amy for the PGM