Long Standing Communities

1) Weirds: Apparently the new must have item for the well appointed tourist is the selfie-stick. We were approached by not one or two vendors of same along our route to the Coliseum yesterday but literally dozens of hucksters all with variations of the same. Unlike some of the other tourist gear- it seems that anyone not with one in their hand was fair game.
There I am, with my Canon 5D Mark III. It is not a small camera. Obviously I am not taking pictures with my phone. They STILL try to sell me one. After saying NO in several different languages I quit saying anything at all. When approached, as his mouth opens I just raise my camera and an eyebrow or two, then shake my head. They back off. Not completely stupid…

After stoping at the Pantheon (which I kept mispronouncing, adding an “r’ or so and ignoring the response of “not here, that is Athens” and in any case doesn’t have anything more to do with gods/goddesses since being taken over by the Catholics ?14? Centuries ago…) George and I walked toward the old Jewish Ghetto area. Clearly labeled (mostly by all the Restaurants with various versions of Kosher, Ghetto etc in their names). As it turns out, once the restrictions on where Jews could live were lifted, most moved out. Today, given the location in the city, only the extremely poor who couldn’t afford to leave and the very wealthy who can afford to move back are in the area.

The main Synagogue is here along with an extremely well presented museum. Current estimates (most likely formed from the rolls of those who have paid membership in the Jewish Community of Rome) is that the population is ~ 13,500 about 4,000 are from Libya. The community itself is one of the oldest of the diaspora and dates back more than two thousand years. The history is long and complicated depending on the Romans/Christians/governments/Popes/Crusades/etc of the time. For example: 1492 when the Inquisition hit Spain, Jews fled and were welcomed in Rome where the Spanish origin Pope….

None of it makes sense, but then issues of prejudice, persecution and fear never do. The community survived WWII in spite of the Nazis taking over the Italian government in Sept 1943 although not without serious deportations and deaths in concentration camps. Like everywhere else, there were heroes and villains. The main synagogue is still here (minhaq is Italian and old). There are also numerous other synagogues so you can find the liturgy of your interest (Sephardic, Libyan, Askenazik, plus others). Most are still constructed along orthodox lines with separate women’s sections.

We headed toward the river and walked along it. Since we were so close we detoured to St Peters Square and the Basilica. I looked in the shops (rosaries, books, icons, statues, paintings…). The Church is not dumb – any tourist can pay for the privilege avoiding the 2-3 hour line for the cheaper Basilica entrance. So not my thing, we returned to the river, crossed back to our side and headed back to the hotel (20,601 according to the FitBit).

I now need to get logged in for my flight tomorrow. It is a long way to San Francisco via Zurich…

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