September 10th, 2016
Saturday, with our packs on our shoulders we walked to the Tel Aviv Central Station in hopes to catch a
bus ( buses don’t run on Sabbath), ok, a sherut (shared taxi van) to Jerusalem. NOTE to anyone taking a sherut, they are located OUTSIDE the Station on Tzemach David Street. Not inside the Station. This would become clear to us only after we had entered via the metal detector and security screening/ bag inspection. through a ghost town of closed steel pull-down gates. Down to a floor of entirely vacant store fronts. Like pin balls we bounced around the maze-like station. Passing locked mall exits. I had heard in a podcast that there was a bat colony living in this mall! Up to a sixth floor closed bus station. Eventually back out the same way we came. Around the corner we found Tzemach David St.
Private taxi’s eagerly offered us rides to Jerusalem for 300 shekels ($85USD). As we kept walking it went down to 250. Fortunately the shared taxis were in sight and, once filled with ten occupants, we were on our way at only 33 shekels each (less than $20 for the two of us!)
Our new routine: Arrive. Drop off the backpacks. Run outside and play. I am a grown ass child.
Doing just that we entered the Old City through the Damascus Gate. Explored one night, a walking tour the next day. Each time we came out and ate shawarmas from the same stand operated by a father and son. Each night, live music at the hostel.
As we walked through the Old City market, these little cut outs and tunnels leading to who-knows-where always piqued my interest. Though being a tourist and not a guest kept this grown kid from ever exploring them.
Hastily jotted down notes from our walking tour, again take my sloppy notes with a grain of salt.
- David’s tomb until 150 yr ago was thought since Byzantine times to be Davids Palace. Which is actually a few miles away. But here traditions are stronger than fact.
- Armenian quarter here because 3rd century Roman era when Christianity was still illegal. The Armenian King converted to Christianity, and therefore so did his kingdom. Being the first kingdom to do so. A lot of these people came to Jerusalem. So they have been here the longest.
- The Jewish quarter is newly rebuilt in 1970’s
- 1948 Jerusalem became divided between Israel & Jordan and much controversy has surrounded the city since. Today, Israel is the only country that recognizes it’s claim over Jerusalem.
- Security in the Old City is the police not the army
- According to tradition the rock under the golden dome is considered the holiest place though not allowed in, so closest we can get is the western wall
- Temple Mount is where Mohammad went up to heaven and came back.
- Protestants and Christians have two different places for where Jesus was crucified and resurrected
- Because of the crusaders, Catholics were not allowed to buy property until 1900s
Inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of where Jesus was crucified.
This night happened to be a Muslim holiday, most likely Eid Al-Fitr (celebrating the end of Ramadan) or Eid Al-Adha (according to wikipedia: the “Sacrifice Feast” honoring the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of obedience to God’s command. God ended up providing a goat to sacrifice instead.)
The celebrations flooded the vendor-filled block through out the night. Packed. Some of the most dense sidewalks we’ve walked through. It was almost comical to see an extra wide flat push cart vendor selling pastries pivot his way through, like a mom at Disneyland withe a triple wide child’s stroller.
Unfortunately or not, I’m not sure, I have no photos of this. Maybe because there were no decorations to photograph. No christmas lights. No menorahs. No easter bunny. No-one performing a dragon dance. No fish with feet decals. It was just a few sidewalks swelling with enthusiasm. Couples, families, groups of young men, women in hijabs and niqabs, some in burkas. Somehow to have photographed, or perhaps more so to be the only one photographing, seemed intrusive or rude. It felt like it would have taken away from or ruin the moment. Instead we flowed with the celebration. And of course dined on pastries.
Strangely, maybe embarrassingly exhilerated from being immersed in another culture for a few hours we returned again to live music at the hostel. A wonderful way to end the day.
Jerusalem Sept 13th 2016 (The Machane Yehuda) Market.
Butcher selling fresh lungs. We had lamb kabobs & liver. Butcher said to cook lungs low and slow for 2hrs with oil n hot water.. find this back home and try it. off to guestimate how to get to the dead sea.
The YMCA building.
We took the Egged Bus 486 from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, platform 5, to a public beach at the Dead Sea. It might have been the Ein Bokek Beach however I can’t confirm this, seeing how we just got off where the majority of the occupants on the bus also got off and proceeded to followed them to a beach.
The few tents, brown or blue, you see in this photo are permanent fixtures and are shared amongst beach goers. We placed our towels in the shade of one of the blue umbrellas. At first sharing it with another couple. Then a group of five middle aged Israelis. Tangent: you know that awkward situation where non white Americans, regardless of how many generations their family has lived in the States, are asked where they are from. Even more so if they/ we speak any other language. The same kind of thing applies to Israelis. In this case, the Spanish speaking tent mates that had just camped down next to us. Turns out they had grown up in Spain. A brief stint in Los Angeles before permanently moving to Israel two decades ago. They were welcoming, friendly, and hospitable, yet wondered why why had chose to come to Israel. That was a sentiment we got a lot, “why here”. They shared their water, Sheron (persimmon-like) fruit, & mud, containing many minerals and believed to be medical and therapeutic. In the canopy adjacent to us was an extensive Arabic family. The grandmother ( I presumed) walked over twice offering us pastries and strong coffee in small dixie cups. No common language needed, just smiles and head nods and thank yous.
Israel you are a gem. And we shall see you sooner rather than later. Shalom!