Why You Should Not Buy Teak Products From China | The Truth part 8: Walking the Streets of the Bible
Before I return to The Truth—(The embarrassing at times true story of how Teak Culture and I became what we are today)—I want to issue a warning…
Do Not Buy Teak Products Made in China
I wrote about this evil before (read it here).
Here’s the backstory…
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has vast teak forests—in fact, half the country is forested with exotic hardwoods.
These forests are cash cows for the Myanmar government, a brutally repressive military dictatorship
Without regard to conservation, sustainability or any other ecological stewardship, Myanmar has been cutting down their old growth teak forests as fast as they can—to sell their prized national heritage—in order to fill the pockets of its military leaders.
Rampant deforestation, which actually began before the military takeover, has led to the loss of nearly 29,000 square miles of forest, amounting to 19% of the nation’s forest cover or an area larger than Ireland.
At last report, the Myanmar military is sitting on a 200,000-ton stockpile of illegally harvested teak
The US, Canada, the UK and EU have placed economic sanctions on the Myanmar regime, and have made the importation of Myanmar teak illegal.
Nevertheless, reports of Burmese teak smuggled into the above-named countries occasionally hits the headlines.
China, which does not grow teak, but shares a border with Myanmar, has no prohibitions against the importation of Burmese teak.
It willingly and gladly imports Burmese teak—thereby not only contributing to the unholy decimation of Burma’s natural resources, but also the enriching of a barbaric military dictatorship.
Ok, end of my rant.
Now, on to our continuing, ever-popular saga…The Truth, part 8…
BTW, if you’re new to this not yet Pulitzer Prize-nominated story—read it from the beginning, here.
Or, wait for the movie to premier on Netflix, starring Brad Pitt as me.
Walking the Streets of the Bible
I left you hanging at the end of Part 7, when I wrote…
He pulls it out of his pocket, but just barely, a thick finger of hashish wrapped in tin foil.
“Give me money.” The kid was agitated, which was getting us nervous.
My friend takes the money from his pocket.
In a sudden panic, the kid yells. “Police! Here, take!” He shoves the finger of hash into my friend’s hand and snatches the money.
“Go! run!” he screams. He turns and runs deeper into Jerusalem’s Old City.
We immediately run in the opposite direction back towards Herod's Gate.
We quickly exited the Old City through Herod’s Gate.
Back at the hostel, flush with excitement from escaping arrest, we peeled back the tin foil from the finger of hash.
And what did we find inside?
The next day Rolf, took us all back into the Old City for our first tour of discovery and amazement.
We walked down narrow alleyways paved with stone, as were, too, the walls of the buildings on either side.
Untold centuries of building, rebuilding and adding-to these buildings had created a layered patchwork of stones of different shapes, sizes and hues.
At one point, Rolf pointed up to an enclosed bridge connecting two buildings.
“From up there Pontius Pilate watched Christ carrying the Cross,” said Rolf.
Then again, maybe…maybe not.
Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, is filled with many ancient sites claiming the same historical or biblical provenance.
For example, we soon saw many more such enclosed bridges.
So, in the end, you believe what you want to believe.
Still, we were duly impressed, and reflected for a moment on what we were seeing.
A plaque on the wall read: Via Dolorosa.
Continuing on, we walked through a number of Arab souks, or markets.
The Arab Souk
In the souk, you could literally find and buy almost anything you want. From clothing, jewelry, housewares to food.
But there are no fixed prices. Price haggling over price is expected and welcomed.
And when you thought your final purchase price was the result of your superior negotiating skills – it wasn’t. You got gypped.
Because you soon found the same thing for far less further down the street.
These merchants smell a tourist from a mile away.
The Arab butcher shops
These were a sight to see—depending on how strong a stomach you have.
Slaughtered lambs, goats, sheep—some still with their heads and skin—were hanging from hooks in the open air.
The flies were feasting.
And we were grossed out. Quickly continuing on…
Rolf had us climb a series of stone steps to where we had no idea.
The steps though were difficult to traverse.
Though they were wide and high the center of each step was extremely concave, worn down apparently by tens of thousands of feet climbing these same steps over the millennia.
At the top we entered a small room covered in graffiti.
And in the far wall there were three openings—windows—side by side.
“This is where Christ and his disciples ate the last supper,” said Rolf.
The Room of the Last Supper
The room was eerily reminiscent of the room in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting.
However, the “accepted” real room of the last supper, which we also visited, didn’t look anything like Da Vinci’s interpretation.
It looked like an elaborate church banquet hall.
Hardly the type of venue for a secret gathering of spiritual leaders.
Anyway, I’d like to believe the real room of the last supper was the one covered in graffiti.
But, each to his own. You believe what you want to believe.
Next up, but just outside the Old City walls…
King David’s Tomb
I was expecting to see a grand edifice. Not exactly the Taj Mahal, but close.
Instead we entered an ancient, nondescript stone building.
It contained a number of rooms that in turn led to a small room where, against a far wall, was a large stone sarcophagus or cenotaph on top of which was an embroidered and worn red velvet cover.
Nothing royal or majestic about it.
Whether David is actually entombed there…who knows.
Because there are other sites claiming to be his final resting place.
Regardless, I have to admit, I was disappointed by the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding the tomb of one of the greatest kings of antiquity.
Another disappointment followed...
Christ’s tomb was even less regal
But it’s housed in the ornate Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The tomb itself stands in the center of a church, or basilica, containing many smaller churches, chapels, and shrines built, reconstructed and added-to over the centuries.
For example, also within the basilica is the reputed site of Christ’s crucifixion, Calvary, and the last four stations of the Cross.
Not surprisingly, there are those who believe these revered places are not there but located elsewhere in Jerusalem.
In the end, you just believe what you want to believe.
The church is administered by numerous Christian denominations, from Roman Catholic to Ethiopian Orthodox.
And none of them get along with the other.
In fact, fisticuffs often break-out over who has control over what area and when.
To enter the tomb you literally have to crawl through a small hole in one of its walls.
Inside, lit only by candles, is a tiny, very low-ceiling room that could only fit one or two people at a time.
At one end sat a smiling cleric of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
He dutifully pointed to one end of what was presumably Christ’s actual stone crypt.
“Head” he said.
I assumed he was indicating in which direction Christ was lying inside it.
And then we crawled out. Others were waiting.
From there we walked to…
The Wailing Wall
Also known as the Western Wall, the holiest place in Judaism.
The wall is actually one of the retaining walls that buttressed the site of the first and second Temples, which no longer exist.
The massive stones, or ashlars, that comprise the imposing structure made me wonder how they could’ve been set in place.
Just as we all still wonder how the Egyptian pyramids were built.
But other than wondering about construction techniques there was nothing more to do at the wall, except pray, which I’m not naturally predisposed to do.
We then ascended a walkway, at the far end of the wall, that led us up to the Temple Mount, where once stood the two Israelite temples of antiquity.
The first built by King Solomon and the second by Herod the Great.
Standing there now are two mosques, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.
In simple terms it’s a very large, carpeted and colonnaded prayer hall.
Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad miraculously flew from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to Al-Aqsa on his white horse during the fabled “Night Journey,” and from there to heaven.
However, the Al-Aqsa mosque was actually built after Muhammad’s death.
So go figure.
Nonetheless, some Muslim scholars believe that he wasn’t magically transported to the Al-Aqsa mosque itself but somewhere in the general area.
There is also the belief that he flew to heaven from the massive rock inside the Dome of the Rock, which we visited next.
But before we did, I marveled at…
Between the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock is a broad stone-paved area that some believe was where King Solomon stabled his horses.
Rolf pointed to the rows of holes in the stones. “This is where the [hitching] posts were placed.”
I thought that was fascinating—don’t know why, but I did.
Of course others believe the actual stable was beneath this esplanade, which is now an underground mosque.
You believe what you want to believe.
Our last stop before heading back to Uncle Moustache’s for hummus and chicken schnitzel was…
The Dome of the Rock
This iconic structure, originally built in 691 CE, (and reconstructed many times thereafter) with it gold-plated dome and mosaic tiled walls is what you see in almost every photo if you Google Jerusalem.
Beneath its rotunda is the massive limestone rock from which, depending on your beliefs, Mohammad either ascended to heaven on his horse…
Or where Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac…
And where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, in a cave beneath the rock, when the Temples still stood.
All I know is that this massive rock was covered with centuries of dust.
I presume it was because touching it was forbidden.
What a day it was
With so many beliefs and swirling legends surrounding the multitude of holy and historical places within the walls of Old City of Jerusalem, my mind—my imagination—was captivated and entranced.
And that led me to yet another fateful and momentous decision…
In next month’s The Teakster: The Truth, part 9, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
In the meantime, please let me know in the comments section below which part you enjoyed the most in this month’s Part 8 of The Truth.
Until next month...
Stay teak strong!