Jerusalem

Trip Start Sep 07, 2007
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Trip End Sep 21, 2007


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Where I stayed
Kibbutz Sdot Yam

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

We marked a whole day out for Jerusalem, and got an early start (10:30 or so) with my cousin who lived there for two years.  We drove around Mt. Scopus and Mt. of Olives to the Dung Gate (one of the six gates around the walled old city of Jerusalem) and parked the car in metered parking for 2 hours.  We walked to the gate, which is the closest to the western wall and smelled like urine and sweat which amplified under the sun. 

We went to the wailing wall (last remnant of King Solomon's Temple, stationed on Mt. Moriah where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac and Jacob's dream about the angels going up and down on a ladder took place), took some pictures and were on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Since we didn't know how to get there we asked a monk who told us there are two ways to get to it, around the walled city or through the Muslim quarter (Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian).  We chose to walk through the Muslim quarter for a bit, following the Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Way of Grief", believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion).. 

The Muslim quarter is tight with merchants, on every side of the cobblestone streets; each one is very aggressive wanting you to go into his store with the best merchandise and best prices ("It's $80, but today is $60 ... for you $20" all in the same breath).  We managed to avoid most of them and got to Via Dolorosa with little problems.  Once there one of the "tour guides" haunted us all the way up offering his services and badgering my cousin.

<ANECDOTE>
My cousin is a short, skinny woman with a large heart and very left wing ideology; even though not as left wing as it once was (she does not get arrested at peace rallies anymore).  Even though she lived in Jerusalem for two years, she was shaken up by the badgering, close confines and aggressiveness of the vendors (we didn't think they were "that" aggressive).  By the end of the Via Dolorosa, she was visibly shaken with tears in her eyes, which made my wife more nervous then she already was.  Afterwards she admitted to us that this was the first time in her life that she was glad to see Israeli soldiers patrolling.
 
That case proved my theory that one's morals are in direct correlation from one's distance from the problem.   The further your distance, the higher your morals.
</ANECDOTE>

Via Dolorosa is nice, full with stores and history.  It is a tight cobblestone street with arches above your head, the smell is of old stones and spices..  We followed it all the way up, but didn't know where to go from there, so we trailed a Polish tour group through the crowded Arab market (while being pushed and cursed at for being too slow).  We got to a monastery and asked them if they know where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is?

They didn't but their tour guide simply told us to follow the group.  We stopped at an old monastery (from around 300 BC) and didn't want to listen to the long winded explanations in Polish (nor did we understand Polish - which made it twice as boring) and were contemplating going back and through the Jaffa gate.  Luckily and Israeli Rastafarian walked by and we asked where the church is, he said it was close by, through narrow corridor and down some stairs.  He even volunteered to show it to us, which he did.
We were literally a few steps away.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is where Jesus was prepared for burial and buried, it is very ornate with huge carved stone columns, gold placements and paintings.  Cheri lit a candle for her mother as we walked around.  We stood in line to view the tomb, a very nice monk let several people in at a time so it took us 20 min. or so to get in.     The wait was made entertaining by a Polish girl with a snotty attitude behind us.  At one point we got confused and asked who was in the tomb, she answered "Christ" and asked "if you don't know, why are we standing in the queue "?
At this point my cousin walked away in disgust, and we were laughing, especially after she asked me to remove my hat which I put on to take a picture.

Once we viewed the tomb we started racing back since our time limit has expired on our parking and we were hoping our car wouldn't get towed.
It didn't.

We went to eat lunch at a restaurant called Eldad Vezehoo (31 Yaffo St.), a good French fusion restaurant but a bit expensive (220 NIS for 3 with drinks), but they didn't have the "meurav yerushalmi (mixed meat, Jerusalem style)" I was craving..  We walked around the artisan area of Jerusalem and ate dessert and coffee in "Tmol Shilshom" (5 Yoel Salomon St.), a coffee house / restaurant which doubles as a used book store.  Dessert cost 140 NIS with tip for three, but it was good.

After walking a whole day on cobblestone we decided to pack it in, went to a scenic overlook to take some pictures and went home.

Overall a good day, a bit stressful but full of history.
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