Last night's dinner was fun. First, the hostel people have some of the guests help with dinner preparation. It's like a free activity. Anybody who wants to participate is given a knife, cutting board, and something to cut. Then, we just all sat around a table, chopping and chatting away. When everything is done, they put it all together, set the tables, and call everybody in for dinner. One of the hostel workers lights shabbat candles, somebody says the grace over the bread and wine, and the buffet is opened. If you are looking to try the types of salads and foods that Israelis eat every day, this is a very accurate representation. If you have been here and are fed the same stuff at your work cafeteria every day, the food is less exciting, because it's exactly the same stuff you eat every day. Of course, the best part of dinner is the conversation with new friends. One of the reasons I really like to stay at big hostels with big common spaces is that I get to meet all sorts of interesting people. My roommates were all hikers who decided that their tents were insufficient in the snow. While cooking, I met a woman who appeared to be in her 60s or 70s, who was travelling on her own and had just spent 3 weeks in Morocco. I met a couple who were going to Ramallah on their own today. I met a Chinese guy who was planning trips to Iran and North Korea. And, I met a young couple who had been in the north for the past week and had met a whole bunch of people who I know. What a small world!
By the time we were done chatting, it was bedtime and I was definitely feeling all the walking I did. When I woke up this morning, I was also feeling it. My feet were not happy campers, but the roads were still full of flowing water, and in a few places, unmelted slush, so I put on my boots again. I was surprised though, because my coat was way too much. Yesterday it was snowing and I needed layers of gloves. Today, a sweatshirt was a little too warm in some places. My plan was to see the Israel Museum and Dome of the Rock, but since my bag broke, I needed a new one and the shuk was the place to go, because it was the only place open on Saturday. I entered the old city through Jaffa Gate and started looking for a cheap bag. I forgot all about negotiating and am pretty sure I insulted some guy with a price too low before finally getting something acceptable. I kept going, and eventually ended up on some empty back streets where there were almost no other tourists. It was a part of Jerusalem I hadn't been to before and was very peaceful. Eventually, I made it to some tunnel that led to Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately, it's really only open to tourists on Sundays through Thursdays, and today is Saturday. The guards told me and the other couple who had gone the same way that we couldn't go in. However, I could still get a decent view through the open door, and I didn't have to wait in a long line. It's even more beautiful up close and I can't wait until I have a weekday off so that I can visit and go inside the gates. (Non-Muslims can't go inside the building, but even inside the gates looks really cool.) Next, I saw on my map from the Hostel that there were a few sights nearby that I hadn't seen, so I decided to explore them next.
Right up the road from the Damascus Gate is the Garden of the Tomb. There are some people who believe that this is the Garden of Joseph of Aramea, meaning this is the tomb that Jesus was buried in. But, as the pamphlet they give you says, what's more important than whether this is the exact spot or not is the meaning and inspiration behind the story. The pamphlet does a good job of pointing out where things may have happened and why they think so, but recognizing that it's impossible to know for sure. Also, besides the religious significance, the gardens were pretty in the snow. Perhaps in the spring when there are flowers it would be even prettier. If you're into Jesus spots or have time to spare, this is worth seeing.
Next, up the same road, is the St. George Cathedral. It is an Anglican Cathedral, so it is much simpler than a Catholic one, but still quite pretty. The gates were open and it was very calm inside, as there was nobody there.I debated sitting down to read as it would have been a great reading spot (and my feet were tired), but kept going.
Next up the road on the map was the Tomb of the Kings. It wasn't open, and all I could learn about it is that it's French, for some reason.
From there, I passed the Museum on the Seam. It looks like a dilapidated building that's been torn apart, but the signage indicated that it was open, just not on Saturday. The building itself was an interesting piece of art, with olive trees (a symbol of peace) growing from the pavement. I'll add that to my list of things to see next time I'm around on a non-Saturday.
I walked back up Neviim street and passed a bunch of buildings that had signs on them indicating that they were something important. One was an old Children's hospital, one was something Russian, and one was Ethiopian. There was a small tour group that was stopping at each as the guide explained about them, but it was not in one of the languages I understand, so I didn't stay to listen. Finally, it started to drizzle a bit and I was by the hostel, so I went it and collapsed onto one of the couches. I wasn't quite ready to leave yet, after all, I still hadn't been to the Israel Museum. However, I also wasn't fully over the fever I had this week, had hiked over 12 hours in the past 2 days, my feet hurt, I needed a nap, and I didn't want to get back north too late. I decided that the smart thing to do would be to catch some sheiruts back instead of keeping going, and for once, didn't immediately reject the smart thing to do, but instead actually did it.