A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015

Shabbat in Jerusalem

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.

Prepping Shabbat Dinner

Prepping Shabbat Dinner


Snow all gone

Snow all gone


Shuk

Shuk


Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock


Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate


Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb


St. George Cathedral

St. George Cathedral


Museum of the Seam

Museum of the Seam


Russian Building

Russian Building

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

SNOW!!! in Jerusalem

Snow. In Israel, this is a relatively rare occurrence outside of the high mountains like the Golan. But, every few years, Jerusalem gets some as well.

I was planning on coming to Jerusalem anyway, but the threat/promise of snow made me want to come even more. Yesterday, they were closing the roads and then reopening them and then closing them again, so I had ot take the train in, in order to guarantee an arrival. When I got here, there was a light dusting (1 cm maybe) of snow on the ground and sticking. VERY COOL. However, that meant that most Israelis were (smartly) not driving. They don't know how to drive in the snow, so it's smart not to. There were very few cabs available at the train station and everybody was trying to see if somebody was going in their direction so they could split one, trying to see if the cab drivers had cab-driving friends who they could call to come pick people up, and trying to convince the drivers to come back after their dropoffs. Despite the cab shortage, people were generally behaving themselves and not pushing or fighting over the cabs. I got one (shared) and we got on the way to my cousin's house. There was virtually nobody else on the highway, but as soon as we got near somebody, they switched over 3 lanes and cut us off in the process. WTJ? Why would anybody on a big empty road intentionally drive near somebody else when they don't have to? And cutting somebody off in the snow? Seriously, if you can't drive in the snow, stay off the road.

I slept at my cousin's house and got up nice and early to go participate in the Women of the Wall prayer session. It was quite a trudge through the snow. About 5 inches had already built up on the ground and nobody had cleared anything. The sidewalks were no good, so the few people who were out in the street were literally walking down the middle of the street where the car tire paths were. A few streets looked as if they had been plowed, but very few. I passed a couple of people making snowmen, snow angels, or having snowball fights. It was so fun to see. When I got to the Kotel, some people had already built a snowwoman in the plaza, but it was pretty empty. I have never seen it that empty before. Also, there were more women praying than men, which is something I've never seen before. When I joined, some of the boys on the men's side shouted their standard "shut up" in Hebrew to us, but then started throwing snowballs over the dividing wall at us. I have also never had snowballs thrown at me at the Kotel before. After the first few though, one of the guards and some of the husbands made the boys stop. The service continued and there was a Bat-Mitzvah. This was the first time I had ever been snowed on during a bat-mitzvah ceremony. It also hailed a little, but the winter weather just made everything more special and unique. I am willing to bet that the number of people who can say it snowed during their bat-mitzvah at the Kotel is countable on 1 hand.

Afterwards, most of the nearby shops were still closed. I think a lot of people decided that opening late for an early close was not worth it and just stayed closed all day. I ate at the one falafel place that was open, and it was the best falafel I've ever had, probably mostly because I was so hungry from the hike through the snow.

I then wandered around the old city and towards the old train station. Just seeing the city covered in snow was gorgeous. It looks like a completely different place. I also got to see so many kids who were clearly playing in the snow for the first time. And, I got to see what passes for boots in Israel. Israeli snow boots are just regular shoes with plastic grocery bags over them. I saw so many people with grocery bags on their feet- people of all ages, ultra-orthodox and not. I can't help but wonder what kind of traction that gives them and whether it really keeps the water out or not. Plus, how do the bags not tear? Or maybe they do. In any case, it was quite the fashion.

As the sun came out, I started to notice that the sky was no longer leaking, but that the trees were. The snow was melting almost as quickly as it built up. By the time I had moved to the hostel, the streets were mini-rivers and the sidewalks were mini-rivers flowing under a pile of slush. I love the snow, but not the slush so much. I had plans for dinner, but I did want to make sure that I was good for lunch tomorrow, so I headed over to Mahane Yehuda market. Most of the stalls had clearly not even been open today, just like most of the stuff in old city. A few stalls were open, though, and I got some good deals because it was close to the end of the day. Towards the end of the day, people just want to go home, and since the bread won't be good on Sunday when they reopen, they're willing to sell it for anything. I got some reasonable deals when I first got there, but on my way out, people were shouting "1 shekel. Everything 1 shekel." I got a bag of about 10 fresh pitas for a shekel (about a US quarter). I also got some cheese from about the only place open that had it, some olives from about the only place open that had olives, and debated getting produce from one of the two produce stands that were open, but decided against it. Despite almost all of the shops being closed or close to it, there was a bar that had quite a lively business going. They were blasting music and people were dancing in the street, basically in a big shallow pool at this point. I got back to the hostel, got a little more settled, and got ready to go back to the Kotel. I had heard that there are tons of people there at sundown on Friday nights, like a big party. But ,it was pouring rain when I got to the door. I have no issues with tromping around in the snow, sliding a bit through the slush, but just being wet to be wet is not my thing. I turned right back around, ditched my wet clothes and boots, and changed into dry, warm pants and regular sneakers.

I'm here at the hostel, meeting interesting new people and waiting for Shabbat dinner. I had seen it advertised last time I was here, and was curious, so I made plans to do it tonight.

Snowman

Snowman


Kotel and Dome of the Rock

Kotel and Dome of the Rock


Old City Jerusalem

Old City Jerusalem


Old City Walls

Old City Walls


Sultans Pool

Sultans Pool


Snowman

Snowman


Israeli snowboots

Israeli snowboots


Kotel Plaza

Kotel Plaza

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)