Friday, January 17, 2014

16th January 2014 – Exploring old Jerusalem and Sidebar - Jewish Diaspora

 As we were driving into Jerusalem Effie warned us that we will not understand the complexity of this melting pot holy city on a single visit. It takes at least 3 visits, he said. We are scheduled to visit Temple Mount in the old city. It is the site of the original King Solomon temple and now a defined Muslim temple, managed by a committee, but in essence off limits for Jews to worship at despite this place being the holiest of places for the Jews. Effie was not keen for us to visit for a number of reasons, but mostly I think it was the unpredictability of what can happen. It can take more than 2 hours to line up and get in. Your time there is at the whim of the Muslim keepers and can change at any time, he told us. We were all committed to go though as this is meant to me the highlight for Jerusalem. Julie checked Trip Advisor which did nothing to ease our concerns as there was a comment from a Melbourne couple who had only visited a couple of weeks ago and had stones thrown at them by children and were yelled at and asked to leave for no discernable reason.

We expected that Effie would drop us at the gate and not come in with us to Temple Mount. But the next morning he took us in and we found the line quite short. In the line he met a fellow guide who was being allowed in for the first time in weeks, but had to have a police guard. He also indicated to some fellow Jews that they would not be let in as they were carrying prayer mats. We did get in the security gates quickly and without incident. Once inside we could hear a group of woman worshippers chanting. Another smaller male group appeared to be chanting in opposition. Effie indicated that the place was like a tinderbox that didn’t take much to erupt and something like this could do it. In the end we had time to have a good look around and take photos in an uncrowded space. We did decide to leave however when we saw some Police looking to eject someone for nothing obvious …. It was time to leave and be thankful we got in and out without incident.

Muslim temple at Temple Mount

Add caption
The rest of the Old Jerusalem tour was relaxing in comparison. The tunnels under the Western wall were amazing. Its still hard to get used to the idea of cities being built on top of previous cities. We recall Troy having 9 layers. There may have only been 3 or 4 here but they are still excavating. 

Jews praying in the tunnel at the closest point to Temple Mount

Western wall ... closest point for Jews to worship
I didn’t appreciate the significance of the Western Wailing Wall being the closet point where the Jews can reach and pray at their holy site on Temple Mount. We see Jews praying at the exact point in the tunnels (as well as above the ground on the Western Wall).

What's old is new!

Side-Bar 1 – Social Network Analysis and Jewish Diaspora

While walking around this holy city; a complex fusion of religions, nationalities, cultures and histories I thought about whether network scientists had studied and contributed to resolving the complex issues that exist here. From a building communities perspective, I had previously commented that a common language is the strongest of ‘bonding agents’. Religion would have to be a close second. A quick Google search uncovered this article:

“Re-thinking Jewish ethnicity through social network analysis” – by Anna Collar

In Network Analysis in Archaeology : New Approaches to Regional Interaction
Edited by Carl Knappett

Basically Collar found that looking at the Jewish Diaspora as a small world network provides a deeper insight into how religious innovations diffuse across large networks over time. She does identify that only strong ties can influence change, the weak ties can prepare communities for change via information sharing transmissions. Where weak ties do not exist, the communities become inward looking and parochial.

As we have discovered in other contexts, the more a community are connected by dense strong ties, the less likely that the community will be open to change. The religious denominations are strong tie networks. One does not find people who are both Muslims and Christians. There are however people who are happy to be open to the views of multiple religions, but these ‘weak tie’ people are not in a position to influence change. Perhaps it requires the religious leaders to look for points of commonality, rather than points of differences if we are to achieve a more peaceful co-existence between the religious denominations. Interestingly co-existence of religious denominations was the stated objective of the Jews for Temple Mount. Weak ties can still be useful for information dissemination between the denominations, but the denominations have to be open receptors. Our Jewish guide Effie may have had his prejudices, but to do his job well he had to become well informed about other religious denominations. Perhaps weak tie linkers educated like Effie could play an important role in brokering at least a tolerance of religious differences. Perhaps the network scientists can contribute something here.

Back to the Jewish Diaspora …. arguably the largest network of its type, network science definitely has a role to play in sustaining and improving its connectedness.  We have already had discussions with the CEO of an Australian Diaspora network on this very topic. …. more on this tomorrow.

Side-Bar 2 – How do a group of engineers entertain themselves while their wives are shopping?

The initial context is browsing archaeological artefacts in a shop in Old Jerusalem. We sit in on the pitch to our wives on the ‘must have’ artefacts for their display cabinets. First the coins come out and here is the half shekel coin that it cost to enter the Temple in the time of Jesus. Selling for the bargain price of $300 or say 1,000 Shekels. So is this an unreasonably high price? Well not if you apply compounding interest calculations amortized over 2,000 years …. 219,643,102.52 Shekels, so one would suggest that 1,000 shekels is a real bargain. But in reality its just a coin, rather than a piece of legal tender. Its value is intangible (or that is at least what one of the wives argued). So obviously using a compounding interest formula is not realistic. We need to look at the equivalent buying power. In the time of Jesus a half shekel could buy a cow. So how much does a cow sell for today? Well according to Yahoo Answers about $2,000 or say 6,200 Shekels … so still a bargain … well maybe not …but we did use up a good hour discussing this. Julie purchased a 2,000 year old oil lamp for much less than a cow!

Someone else's attempt at calculating the
Shekel's appreciated value over 2,000 years
Geoff in our group uses computer simulations to assess things like coal loading facility capacities, which include waiting times. I decided to challenge him to predict how long we would need to wait when 4 women enter a shop together? Now if it is just one woman, say my wife, I can take an average time over a series of shops of different types…pretty straight forward. But what happens when four women enter a shop together? It unlikely to be 4 times the average waiting time for one….you do get some economy of scale efficiencies. But Geoff baulked at estimating the interaction effects. Group buying decisions can actually negate these efficiencies, especially if all parties are not in agreement. As a network scientist I know that the larger the community the longer it will take to gain a consensus, but this can be significantly impacted by the level of trust and reciprocity in the group….which we believe exists in this case, so we are hopeful that the group wait time may be at the lower end of the range. So tentatively we come up with

Wt = N*T1/F

Where Wt = Predicted Wait Time
N = number of women in group
T = mean time for a single one woman visit
F = Fudge Factor for Group Trust

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