Friday rolled around this week and I was so excited, I couldn’t WAIT to get out of Tel Aviv and go just about anywhere. Anywhere, of course, turned out to be Jerusalem. None of my friends were available to go camping with me in the Golan or in the desert (work, birthdays, work, out of the country etc) so I inevitably turned to Jerusalem again and luckily, a German friend of mine working with disabled children in the settlement of Gilo was free and decided that, as he likes showing people around, he’d take me and the new volunteers at his organization on a little tour of Jerusalem.
I arrived in the city around noon, much earlier than the “tour”, to meet a Palestinian friend of mine in the Old City. He kept me waiting two hours, but when we finally met up he took me to Helen’s Cistern, a hidden place in a cave under a church by the Holy Sepulcher. My friend told the priests I was married to his cousin to avoid having to pay the 20 shekel fee and we walked down the slippery steps into a huge cavern with lots of water in it. It was magnificent. He then took me to his school where I watched some young kids practice their gymnastics. It was lovely, until a four year old threw a nail at my head and got yelled at by the teacher. However, that tiny incident aside, everyone was as lovely as usual. No one but my friend spoke English, but everyone smiled and made gestures and offered me water and made sure I was happy.
Following that, I met with my German friend and the volunteers where he works – also all German – and we walked through Shuk Mahane Yehuda right before the beginning of Shabbat. We then ambled down to the Western Wall in the Old City and watched the people come in to pray, accompanied by their singing and dancing to welcome Shabbat. It was quite a sight, something I haven’t seen before and would definitely like to see again (and would recommend others see).
We ate falafels from a cheap stall outside Damascus Gate (6 shekels outside, 15-25 inside) and the new volunteers left us so my German friend, an Israeli friend from Tel Aviv, a Palestinian friend from the Old City (not the same one as earlier that day) and I headed to the often mentioned Asgard for a drink. After some time, my friend from the Old City and I went for a walk through the park before heading to meet some of his friends. It was lovely, we had a short discussion about Abu Mazen’s speech and the Palestinian application for statehood at the UN, but we kept it brief because not everybody likes politics at 1am.
My Israeli friend then joined us and we went to a club he wanted very much to see called Bass. To say it was not my scene would be an understatement, but for people who like that kind of thing, I guess it was good.
Finally, at 3:30am, my Israeli friend and I went home with my German friend – it took us an hour walking to get there. I was so exhausted, I was falling asleep on my feet and sat down in the middle of the street. Next thing I know, I was waking up with the boys laughing and taking photos of me sleeping on the road. One of them had to carry me back a fair bit of the way.
The following morning, bright and early at about 1pm, we walked from my friend’s house up to the Peace Forest, about a two hour walk during which, amazingly, it rained! At the top, we saw the Park and Monument of Tolerance. The irony of its location was not lost on us, an Israeli Monument to Peace and Tolerance built in East Jerusalem above the Arab village of Jabel al-Mukaber.
We ambled down and had a picnic at a table with a view of the Old City, new Jerusalem, the West Bank, the mountains of Jordan and the Dead Sea. It was magnificent. Following that, we walked along a beautiful promenade and down to Talpiot before walking back to the Old City, where we briefly visited the Dormition Abbey and the room of the Last Supper, both outside the city walls. The Abbey and the area was particularly beautiful and I was happy to have visited a part of the city I had never seen before.
Perhaps, you have noticed by now that there are no photos in this post. That is because, at the end of the day I met again with a friend and we headed to Gan Hatzmaut park where I was subsequently robbed. The thief made off with my wallet, my iPod, my cellphone and – to add insult to injury – my cheap Balinese sunglasses and my deodorant. We only realized when we heard the splash of him throwing my bag and my camera in the river. The camera is no longer working, therefore, there are no photos in this post. Oh, and the thief wasn’t caught; there isn’t much the cops can do.