A Travellerspoint blog

O Jerusalem, Oy Jerusalem!

Surprises and Joys in Israel!

I enjoy having a massage twice a month. My massage therapist, Jona, also immigrated to Haifa Israel from Colorado. She and her husband, David are in my age range. They immigrated to Haifa six months ago. We love to share stories about our views, experiences and yes, adventures as new immigrants to the land of Canaan.This is a post about their first visit to Jerusalem and mine.

My favorite trip is to Israel's capital, Jerusalem to visit the Tower of David, where King David composed the 23rd psalm. When I finish my tour in the Tower of David, I dine at my beloved Arab restaurant, where I enjoy the cuisine of traditional Arab cooking accompanied by a Miller Light. Then, I cross the street towards The Tomb of Jesus, where I am always inspired by the visit. It still amazes me that the distance between The Tower of David, my favorite traditional Arab restaurant and the Tomb of Jesus is less than one hundred meters.

I visit The Western Wall,or Kotel. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the ancient Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future. I wrote about my first visit to this incredible city in my blog. I am pleased to share David and Jonas first visit to Jerusalem with the readers.

After being in Israel for nearly three months, we finally left Haifa and took a day-trip to Jerusalem. David’s nephew — heretofore called Zach since he didn’t give us permission to use his real name — is studying at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem for six months. A Yeshiva is an Orthodox Jewish college or seminary It is always a delight to spend time with Zach. He gave us a walking tour of Jerusalem.

We travelled from Haifa to Jerusalem by train. The trip normally is about an hour. The train ride from Haifa to Jerusalem was delayed at Beit Shemesh for about 30 minutes. This is the town where the incident occurred where a member of the Haredi spit on Jewish girl for not dressing modestly enough. Although my arms and legs were covered, I was a bit nervous about my modern dress and liberal approach to Judaism. It is a sad commentary on life in Israel that conflicts about religious ideology are common. These conflicts are both among and between followers of faiths.

When we arrived in Jerusalem, it was well past lunch time. We met Zach at the mall, and instead of partaking in some of Jerusalem’s better food offerings, we ate in the food court in the mall. Zach opted for McDonald’s since it was one of the 30% that are kosher in the city. While we were eating, a nice old woman came by with a plastic cup. I didn't quite understand what she wanted, but Zach gave her a few shekels and she went away.

First of all, there are two Jerusalem’s, so to speak. Modern Jerusalem is equivalent to cities in the United States, complete with malls of grandeur, high rise apartments a modern transportation system and fabulous malls.. You can find almost any products here that are sold in America. Many of the stores are the same. We can shop at Ace Hardware and eat at McDonald's. The Jerusalem mall where we met Zach could have been Any Mall in the USA. English is widely spoken. The mall like much of the architectural in this glorious city is picturesque, Many of the houses, apartments and other buildings are built on and along the winding hills of this beautiful and ancient city In fact, Jerusalem is one of the most beautiful cities that I ever visited. The physical beauty and spiritual glory of Jerusalem make it a wonderful place to visit. Zach asked me how many cities that I have visited. That’s hard to say, but most are in the states. I would gage the number to be at least thirty.

Zach said he was helping the needy, or giving tzadakah, David called the old woman a schnorer, although he admitted she was nice about it. Then, or as they say in Hebrew, ah-har-chok (I’m not going to tell you how I remember that word) another schnorer came by wanting money. She even had a little brochure. When we didn't give her any money, she took her brochure back with a huff.

The night before going to Jerusalem I was kind of worried about riding the city bus — with the potential for bombings and other security issues. Nevertheless, once there, I got onto buses and trains without a second thought. Two days later, David read me a news story about how a female Israeli soldier was stabbed by a Palestinian on the same train-line we rode.

In Haifa, we have a bus pass that is good for buses within the city. In other words, we wouldn’t be able to use the pass to take a bus from Haifa to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, it can only be used in Haifa. Well, the same bus system is used throughout Israel, and so we tried to use our pass on the Jerusalem city bus It worked! We were given a transfer, and on the city-train a transit official was checking for passes.

Well, maybe he saw something on the transfer that indicated Haifa instead of Jerusalem, and he demanded to see David’s ID. He took the ID and kept it for almost the entire ride. While he had the ID, it was kind of scary because we had no idea what was going on or even why he wanted it in the first place. Were we going to be thrown off the train? Arrested? Forced to pay 6.60 shekels (around $1.75) for the fare? The trip took maybe 15 minutes, and the security official held onto the ID almost the entire time. After making several phone calls, presumably to verify David’s veracity, the ID was returned and we proceeded toward Old Jerusalem.

Old Jerusalem is a walled city, a citadel. The outer wall was destroyed and later rebuilt by the Ottomans so is only 500 years old, young compared to many of the inner walls of which might be 2000 years or older. There are parts of Old J. that are drivable, as in one-way only and be prepared to go about 5mph. Most of Old J. must be walked as the streets are too narrow and since Jerusalem is built on hills, steps to go up and down. All the roads in Old Jerusalem. are paved with rectangular tiles, the same off-white/light-tan materials of which the buildings are constructed. The tiled streets are smooth and well-worn: a lot of traffic goes through the city. Throughout Old Jerusalem are plenty of shops, street vendors, and small food markets.

There are four quarters in Old Jerusalem: Armenian, Jewish, Arab and Christian, although Armenians are Christians too (Eastern Orthodox).

As we entered the archway of Old J., there were a couple of people begging or schnoring. We found ourselves in the Armenian sector, and I was amazed at how much of a tourist trap Old Jerusalem can be. I mean it is a tourist trap to the max. We wandered through the Armenian sector down alleyways and side streets into the Jewish Quarter and went to the Western Wall. Where else?

Going down the steps to the Wall we came upon even more schnorers. One guy came up to David and started praying in his ear, all in Hebrew of course. I watched the man as he was whispering his prayer to David. It seemed to me it was all a big scam to rip-off tourists. For all we know instead of prayers, the guy was hurling insults and saying vulgarities. Finished with the prayer, he expected payment. David gave him a few shekels and the fellow was not pleased,

When we were in the Arab Quarter a little boy saw Zach and ran up to him and went, “R-rr-ow!” I thought he was being a cute, a rambunctious kid. Neither Zach nor the boy’s father thought it was cute. Then I realized that the reason the boy did that may have been because he is Palestinian. He may have been taught that Jews are bad, evil, and even need to be killed. David told me that same kid threw a rock at us but missed. Perhaps he was just a kid acting silly, I hope that is the case. I was so entranced with the Old City that I didn’t notice any tensions at all in the Arab section. But David said that he did and felt uncomfortable there.

I had seen pictures of the Wall It looked pretty much like the photographs. We had to go through a security check and found ourselves in a huge courtyard. I went to the female side and David and Zach went to the male side. The female side was really crowded and there were hundreds of orthodox women praying and reading at the Wall.

I’m sorry to say, the are around the Wall didn’t feel like a Holy Place to me. It also felt like a tourist trap. When I was at the wall, I looked up hoping to see G-d, and I saw a beautiful blue sky. I didn’t feel closer to G-d at the wall of course, feeling close or connected to G-d is something I never feel and have never felt. I’m so jealous of those people who have that connection. I classify myself as a hiloni or non- religious. Sixty per cent of Israelis are "hilonim"

So after leaving the wall, we walked around "The Old City". This ancient city is so exciting. There are tunnels and interesting paths…it’s hard to describe. Individual quarters are not marked, so you don’t know when you’re leaving the Armenian Quarter and entered the Jewish Quarter. Nevertheless, we visited all the Quarters, including the Arab Quarter.

Here’s what David didn’t like about Jerusalem: the schnoring.

Here’s what I didn’t like about Jerusalem: nothing. Yes, it does snow and can get very cold in Jerusalem, and I don’t like that, but the weather was fine the day we came. I liked everything about the city. The city has it all! If Israel is the center of religious/political controversy and global unrest, Jerusalem is the hub.

Zach, if you’re reading this, here are some of the cities I’ve been in: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, London, Edinburgh, New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Denver, Phoenix, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Tijuana, Belize City, Matamoros, Dallas, Houston, Amarillo, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Mazatlan, Nashville, Cleveland, Vancouver, Baltimore, and your home town of Louisville to name a few.

Posted by eshugerman 09:53 Tagged king western wall israel david haifa jerusalem 23rd psalm

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