Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two Days in Jerusalem

A photojournal of our two days in Jerusalem. 

Before coming to Israel I was a little skittish about taking public transportation. But taxis are prohibitively expensive, and renting a car is fine, as long as you don't need a parking space (practically nonexistent). 

So, we decided to go with the flow. Our first day to and from Jerusalem we used collective cabs called Monit Sheruts. They don't have a schedule. The depart from their starting point when they fill up, follow a specific route, and are just a hair more expensive than larger buses. We paid 6 shekels each (@ $2US) from our apt. to the central bus station, then 23 shekels each (@ $8US) between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The sherut let us off walking distance from the Old City, just off Jaffa Street.

My son's friend Meira, one of his Birthright staffers, met us and accompanied us to the Old City. She recently made aliya to Israel (became a citizen here). In fact, she's the one who took this photo of us on the approach to the Old City.

The streets in the Old City are narrow. Nevertheless, most of them still have cars and minivans driving down them. 

Just before the Kotel (Western Wall of the Temple) there are people instructing male visitors in the specifics of laying Tfillin. You can see them on people's left arms. I'm pretty sure Dan took this photo because of the basketball jerseys.

Men and women are not allowed together at the Kotel. So we parted ways. My camera went with the men -- happily so -- otherwise I would not have this photo (taken by Dan) to post here. I believe it captures the aura of the Kotel, one of the world's greatest religious sites.

And another, less emotional photo.

Now for my men at the wall. First Avi, then Dan.

One last photo before we wend our way elsewhere.

After a wonderful lunch of Israeli street food (Chicken shwarma with all sorts of other things, including french fries, wrapped in a huge pita), we headed off to Makhane Yehuda, Jerusalem's market of mostly food. It reminded us a great deal of other food markets around the world. Avi spent a lot of time ogling the mangoes. We finally got one at a nearby Tel Aviv market this evening. I think we're getting many more before we leave!

Before ending our first day in Jerusalem, we passed this building with an interesting sundial. 

We also learned one should never leave anything unattended on the sidewalk. It will cause the street to be cordoned off. The suspicious item will be wired up, covered with a concrete barrier, and detonated on the spot. I have the highest respect for the people in charge of security in Israel! We had a four block detour to reach our Sherut back to Tel Aviv.

Our second day in Jerusalem was going to be spent visiting both Yad Vashem and the Military Cemetery in a different part of the city. Since it would be easier to go through Jerusalem's Central Bus Terminal, we opted to take the larger Egged Co. bus from the Tel Aviv station. After the sherut to the Tel Aviv station, the large bus cost $35 shekels each (@$11US) round trip.

Outside Jerusalem there are beautiful communities built on the tops of hills.

After the bus station, it was one more bus to Yad Vashem. After a short walk up Mt. Herzl (Har Herzl), we arrived.

We were not allowed to carry our backpacks beyond the visitor center, and photos are forbidden in the museums. Let me urge you to visit the museum; it is extremely well curated and incredibly informative. Avi stopped in and looked up his grandparents, who were all murdered in the Holocaust. 

We also visited the Holocaust Art Museum. To me, art speaks even louder than photographs in conveying people's feelings and perceptions. I was sad to see many people not stopping at this great collection of art.

After leaving Yad Vashem, we walked through some of the Jerusalem Forest to the Military Cemetery. Our first stop was the Last of Kin Memorial, dedicated to Holocaust survivors who subsequently died during military service to Eretz Israel.

We also visited the graves of Israel's leaders, including Yitzchak Rabin (and Leah, his wife).

The cemetery is in an incredibly beautiful setting. Of course, birds always catch our eyes. Dan was the first to find a group of Chukar Partridges, a new life bird for our trip. 

On our way out of the cemetery, we stopped at Theodore Herzl's grave. 

We returned to Tel Aviv hungry. Dinner was at the great restaurant on Sheinkin St. where we had lunch on our first day (I really should get the name). Avi had Falafel (AMAZING again), 

and I had something called Beets Cuba. I think it's a bastardization of "Kibbe". It's a Kurdish dish which I thinkwas semolina stuffed with delicately spiced ground beef. It was covered in a light gravy and topped with some golden beets. Of course, the salad was extremely fresh.  

In addition to our son Dan and our daughter Alana, we were also joined by Alana's friend Nahum, a soldier with the Israeli Defense Forces. He was on his way to his sister's for the weekend (Friday and Saturday in Israel).  

We also went to Carmel market to pick up some fruit. Many of the stands were closed or closing, but we managed to pick up some dates, a few peaches, and a huge mango. I took a photo of what a busy market looks like at the end of the day. I wonder who cleans it up?

I'm going to close with an observation. My greatest joy in Israel is not in seeing the sights. It's in experiencing life here. We're staying in a rented apt., not a hotel, so I understand Tel Aviv's tiny kitchens, manual water heaters, open showers, and street cats. We've been using public transportation, so I understand the ease with which people travel in spite of metal detectors and bag inspections. I also know how willing Israelis are to help you when you need directions, even if you don't ask. I've also enjoyed walking the streets, with all its casual encounters and annoyances.

In the shwarma restaurant in Jerusalem a man had half a bottle of soda left after he finished eating. He offered it to us. When we refused, he became more adamant. Then he practically forced us to take it, telling us it was delicious and cold as he poured it into glasses for us. At this point it was impossible to refuse. When we thanked him he gave us a huge smile and said "enjoy!".

1 comment:

  1. The inspiration for the photos of the two guys wearing jersey shirts at the Kotel (one of which I believe is a hockey player) is the recent trend of "hoopsters" that has come to light in America. While jersey shirts or Kevin Durant may not fall into the "hoopster" catagory, it was fresh in my mind nonetheless. I felt this may be important documentation of the vast spread of this new category of hipster.

    For more information, see: