Day 24: To Jerusalem
Trip Start May 14, 2008
42Trip End Jun 17, 2008
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On this trip, we have been on a plane, taxi, private self drive, camel, jeep 4x4, train, our feet and now a bus! We have a reservation for the bus, but no tickets. There is only one ticket window open and a long line. Harvey gets in line as I guard the luggage in a nice comfortable bus station seat. He meets a young man who has extended his Birthright trip and is visiting family in Tel Aviv
Today's intention is to keep perspective, that all forms are transient. As the bus moves, the landscape zips by. Like life, you blink an eye and you miss something. We just zone out with our ipods, content for the opportunity to just quietly sit. As we approach Jerusalem, we set the ipods to Ofa Hazza, Jerusalem of Gold. It is a beautiful song and we are full of anticipation
The taxi driver at the Jerusalem bus station finds someone who can speak English. I find our papers with the address of the Mount Zion Hotel and we're set! Harvey and the driver speak a little Hebrew together, like, where are you from? Have you been to Jerusalem before?
We arrive at the hotel and the bellboy (why are they called bell boys?) immediately helps us with our luggage. We walk to the reception desk where we are not even greeted, just abruptly asked for our name. There are four men all rushing around. One helps us and just wants us to sign in and doesn't want to answer my query about our room and if it has the terrace we had requested. The lobby is filled with people and very noisy
The bellboy takes us to our room, and right outside our room in the hallway are dirty dishes. I'm thinking, I don't like this place. We walk into the room and it is clean and nicely decorated, with a king size bed, some nice tile details in the bathroom and a refrigerator that will be convenient. The positive clincher is the terrace overlooking the Old City, Mount Scopus and the City of David. It is weird that you can look to the left and see the walls of the old city, and look to the right and see the barrier dividing Jerusalem from the West Bank.
Harvey is uncomfortable, and doesn't like the vibes and wants to get out. Really I think he has had it and wants to go home. So we walk for about 10-15 minutes to the Jaffa Gate and the Old City. It is one of those singular moments that you recognize at the time...of stepping through the gates of this iconic city. We kiss. We take out our map to get our bearings, walk through some stalls selling all sorts of tourist souvenirs. Shopkeepers try to engage us in conversation by saying "welcome" and we say no thank you. We pass t-shirt shops, sandals, carvings, rugs, ceramics, religious items...eventually we find the Western Wall. We have arrived in Jerusalem! We find a quiet spot and watch the people go by. It's the eve of Shavuot and many people are about. We decide not to approach the Wall just now.
We consider switching hotels. We recognize this as a sign that we are tired and out of sorts, so we know that we need to let some time pass before taking any action. We walk to the Citadel to see what it is like. Too noisy, too fancy for us; it could be anywhere in the world. We walk to the Three Arches Restaurant at the YMCA that we figured would be open on a Jewish holiday, and find a quiet respite with pasta and salad. It is a perfect ambience to quiet us down.
We are now back on our terrace to watch our first sunset over the Old City walls. Magic. We give each other a big hug.
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