Joe Zanotti: A Tourist in Israel

Every Friday night in Jerusalem, thousands of Jewish citizens gather in one place. For Pittsburgh native Joe Zanotti, it is among the most amazing things he’s ever seen.

Israel may seem like a long way from Pittsburgh, but Joe Zanotti’s work can take him all over the world. During a side trip to Jerusalem, Joe Zanotti was awed by the Old City. The walls surrounding the Walled City are more than 5,000 years old, Joe Zanotti says, and there are several large gates for entry. “This is where Jesus walked the Stations of the Cross, and you can walk the same path today,” Joe Zanotti relates. “King David’s castle is here, as are Roman temples and many other churches and shrines.”

According to Joe Zanotti, more than 37,000 people live in the Old City.  Pittsburgh native Joe Zanotti estimates the streets to be 10-12 feet wide, at best, with people living above the multitude of small shops and street vendors. People live in loosely defined densely populated areas defined as quarters, Joe Zanotti says, defined as Jewish, Armenian, Arab, and Catholic Quarters. Joe Zanotti is still unsure how anyone knows where the lines are between each quarter!

It was on a late Friday afternoon that Pittsburgh resident Joe Zanotti witnessed one of the most amazing sights.  As it was nearing Friday’s sundown, the beginning of Shabbat in Israel, Joe Zanotti was standing on a plaza overlooking the Wailing Wall. He began to notice thousands of Jewish people, Children, parents, grandparents all walking toward the Wailing Wall plaza, all holding hands and singing as they walked.  The progression ended at the Wailing Wall plaza, where everyone began dancing in circles and singing. As Joe Zanotti watched, even the soldiers put down their guns and began dancing and singing along with the crowd.

Looking beyond the plaza, Joe Zanotti could see the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.  The sky was blue and darkening with the moon rising. To the right was the minaret of the Muslim Mosque. Suddenly, Joe Zanotti heard the Muslim cleric calling the Muslims to prayer and the sound echoed in the valley. In front of him were many Jewish people in celebration. Joe Zanotti felt a chill run down his spine. “These people have been doing this same thing for thousands of years and will continue doing it for thousands more,” Pittsburgh resident Joe Zanotti muses. “I realized that this is where it “all” happened. This is perhaps truly the center of the world.”

About Joe Zanotti

For Joe Zanotti, family heritage has always been important. Growing up in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Joe Zanotti was always aware of his Italian and Slovak heritage enjoying the culture, foods and curtoms. In fact, he spent many weekends and long summer weeks at his grandparents’ house in the nearby mill town of Braeburn.

Joe Zanotti has lived in Pennsylvania most of his life, mostly near Pittsburgh. After graduating from Burrell Senior High School, Joe Zanotti attended the Pennsylvania State University, where he majored in civil engineering. During college, he was an invited member of both the Chi Epsilon Honorary Society and Tau Beta Pi Honorary Society, both national engineering societies for honors students. Joe Zanotti attended graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied structural engineering.

An experienced structural engineer with more than 31 years in the field, Joe Zanotti often travels throughout the USA and overseas for work. Joe Zanotti is currently employed by Camp, Dresser, & McKee, Inc., a worldwide engineering firm based in Pittsburgh. Joe Zanotti’s work often stations him in many Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and in Middle-East countries such as Israel.  He considers working overseas, such as when he helped rebuild a Catholic church in tsunami-damaged Banda Aceh, Indonesia, an experience that has been life changing.

Prior to Camp, Dresser, & McKee, Joe Zanotti was project design manager for MPS Corporation in Leetsdale. He worked as a structural engineer for Sargent & Lundy Engineers in Chicago, as well as Dravo Engineers in Pittsburgh. His professional associations include the American Society of Civil Engineers, International Concrete Repair Institute, for which he serves on the board of directors, and American Concrete Institute, for which he is a subcommittee member on the national level.

An avid golfer, Joe Zanotti has had the privilege of golfing everywhere from overseas in Asia to many top courses in the USA. Joe Zanotti began golfing at the age of fifteen, at a tiny 9-hole course near his house where greens fees were only $3-$4 a day.  For years, he was part of an annual golf retreat comprised mostly of former Pennsylvania State graduates. Joe Zanotti is an avid cook and would maybe enjoy attending chef school when retired. He is a lover of great wine and while he wouldn’t consider himself a connoisseur, Joe Zanotti keeps 40-50 bottles of wine in his basement at all times.

Born in 1958, Joe Zanotti currently resides in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, where he has lived since 1988. Joe Zanotti is registered as a professional engineer in eleven states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Indiana, and the District of Columbia. He is single, with no children, has a brother, sister, nieces and a nephew and both of his parents are still alive.

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