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View from the top of the Austrian Hospice !
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Outdoor garden cafe at the Austrian Hospice
photo by Rhonda Spivak

View of Dome of the Rock from the Austrian Hospice
photo by Rhonda Spivak

View of the Pontifical Institute in the background of the photo taken from the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Reporting from the top of the Austrian Hospice

Editor's Report from the Old City of Jerusalem: Someone Rang Up Fraudulent Charges on My Credit Card

By Rhonda Spivak, December 1, 2014













[Editor's note: In the article below, I write about the historic Austrian Hospice. It is where King Abdullah of Jordan died in 1951, after being brought  there to be treated after he was shot in the head and chest by a Palestinian nationalist  in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The gunman was motivated by fears that Abdullah would make a separate peace agreement with Israel. Abdullah's grandson, Prince Hussein, was at his side but a medal that had been pinned to Hussein's chest at his grandfather's insistence deflected the bullet that hit Hussein and saved his life. Hussein later went on to become King of Jordan, and his son Abdullah, named after the grandfather who died at the Austrian Hospice, is now King  of Jordan.]







I was in the Austrian Hospice last January, in the Arab quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, lining up to pay for salad and apple strudel at the delightful garden cafe', when my cousin Aviva looked over to me. She said that she had heard the guy standing in front of me say that he was a Canadian police officer from Quebec who was in the region to train the PA police under President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.







It seemed like a good journalistic opportunity to speak to him, even though I had come to the Austrian Hospice (owned by the Roman Catholic Church) for gastronomic not journalistic reasons.







The hospice is the only place in the old city where you can sip latte and drink up history (which literally lies at your feet), in addition to ordering apple strudel (just like in Vienna).







"You should try to talk to him," my cousin said referring to the Canadian police man, telling me she'd go and sit down and wait for me in the outside area of the third floor cafe. The cafe, by the way, is an ideal spot to sit and overlook the raucous Arab market below, and see the house down the street with a menorah on top that Arik Sharon bought in 1987, to signify his intention for Israel to keep all of the Old City.  (Sharon had never actually lived there)






As my cousin said this, I was handing the cashier my Canadian VISA card.






I looked over and told the officer that I had overheard he was a Canadian policeman and asked him how long he'd been in Ramallah.








"About six months," he said.





“How's it going?” I asked. 




"Well let's just say that I've been here long enough to know that neither side-neither the PA nor the Israelis -are telling us everything," he answered. I got the sense from his facial expression that things were far more complicated on the ground than this naive Canadian had ever imagined.




He indicated he wanted to go sit down, and I didn't have any opportunity to follow up with him.






When he left, I began contemplating the fascinating Nazi related history of the Austrian Hospice. (On the very day that the British declared war on the Third Reich, the Hospice was seized by the British authorities and it served as an internment camp for priests and monks resident in Palestine from the German Empire.) 





After lunch at the Hospice, we went up to the roof top where there is a spectacular view—I have never seen one better. The Hospice is located near Station III of the Via Dolorosa, the route that  Christians believe was the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion.





There is such a commanding view from the Hospice that I began to wonder if the reason Ariel Sharon bought a home so nearby is because of its strategic location near the Hospice,with that commanding rooftop.  My cousin Aviva noted that the view was more spectacular than ever after pointing out a young couple on the rooftop, where the male had a serious case of plumber pants. (See photo #1)






While we were up there snapping photos of the breath-taking views, a group of Jewish Israelis came up to the roof top  and their guide ended his tour by asking them to sing Nomi Shemer's Jerusalem of Gold, just as the sun was about to set.







He pointed to the Pontifical Institute known as the Notre Dame Center Hotel, which is owned by the Papacy. He explained that the Pope chose the location for his Pontifical institute based on the fact that from the old city it was the highest elevation in the nearby area, and as such it was meant to symbolize the ascendency of Christianity over Judaism.  (Remember that according to the Papacy, the New Testament is to replace the Old Testament.)








I never thought much of my conversation with the Canadian officer or of the Pontifical Institute until two months later in March when I was back in Canada. That's when I noticed two charges on my VISA statement that I didn't recognize. One was for a roof top restauarant at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Center Hotel in Jerusalem for $90 U.S. and the other was for $172.86 Canadian for another Jerusalem restaurant . I was never at either of those places. (My husband was rather impressed that I noticed these suspicious charges, since he is generally suspicious of all charges on my VISA!).  





I have misplaced  my credit card before, but never had it stolen (It once fell out in the back seat of  a taxi in Israel. Thankfully, it was the taxi of my regular driver Eyal. I called him to see if the card could be retreived, but he didn't answer

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.