Glorious Jerusalem, Holy Bethlehem

Jerusalem, glorious Jerusalem. By the time we got to Jerusalem, on the 23rd of December, it had been two weeks since I’d been in the city and boy, did I miss it! I had been driving my family nuts talking about all the wonderful things we could do there during our nine days in Jordan. Getting back to Jerusalem was like returning home.

We arrived late in the evening on Friday night and missed the welcoming of Shabbat at the Western Wall. Instead, we grabbed 7-shekel falafel at a stand across from the Damascus Gate and wandered through the Old City at night. My mother was amazed by the cleaning job that had been recently done on the walls and buildings, and my brother and father were astounded by the beauty of this living and breathing Old City. Continue reading

Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, immigration and border scrabbles, and Jerash

It has been a while since I updated my travel/life-in-the-crazy-Middle-East blog because we’ve been moving about so much and I’ve barely had a second to myself. So now, sitting in a kibbutz in the Negev in Israel, I finally have time to look back at what we did in Jordan two weeks ago and write a much-less detailed account.

Our trip to Jordan was cut rather short by some immigration issues I was having with Israel. I had applied for a visa extension a few months prior to leaving the country and I was still waiting for approval. The Ministry of the Interior assured me that, as I was in the system, I was still legally in the country. However, when I left to go to Amman on the 15th of December, the woman at immigration told me that I would need to visit the Israeli Consulate in Amman to get documents allowing my re-entry into the country. It seems the various computer systems are not well integrated. Frustrated by this bit of bureaucracy, we left Wadi Rum and drove back to Amman on Wednesday, knowing Thursday would be spent in offices in the city. Continue reading

Madaba and our first day in Petra

Due to the short amount of time we have to explore Jordan (nine days), and due to the fact that I have to get to the Israeli consulate before we return to Israel, our days have rarely had more than an hour free (not including time spent sleeping).

On our first day in Madaba, we visited numerous churches and archaeological sites. We began by visiting St. George’s Church, in which the oldest existing map of Palestine can be found – all done in mosaic. As the place names were written in what seemed to be Greek, we had a look at the life-sized copy outside that pointed us to the important points on the site: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Mount Sinai, Jericho and the tombs of various prophets. It was wonderful once we knew what we were looking at, and even more magnificent considering the age of the mosaic: made in 560 A.D. Continue reading

Jerusalem by night, Bethlehem by day.

Jerusalem by night is a magical place if you know where to go. On Thursday nights, Jaffa street is full of drunk revellers including – and this is the most fascinating for me as, until I came here, my experience with religious folk had been limited to the Muslim community – orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jewish youth. However, it isn’t Jaffa street that is magical but the surrounding small, quiet streets housing small bars and where you might stumble upon the occasional fountain. Even more magical, however, and a place I didn’t get to experience by night until recently, is the Old City.

This past Thursday, four friends and I attended the Jerusalem Knights in the Old City festival. What a trip! We arrived to people in costume above the Mamilla and, upon entering Jaffa Gate, two acrobats dressed in medieval armor staging a mock climb up the city walls. We weren’t allowed, for five minutes, to get into the Old City because an area in front of the performance had been cordoned off while police held people at bay and thoroughly checked a bag that had been left alone there. First time I’d ever seen anything like that!  Continue reading

Yom Kippur in Jerusalem and Eizariya

The weekend that just passed was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement and traditionally, by the end of it, one can consider themselves absolved of their sins by God. Ironic really, since my flatmate seemed to see fit to behave like a super-bitch right around this time. I guess she does not take her religious obligations seriously (and it is ironic, because she claims to be religious).

Out of respect for my roommate on Yom Kippur, my friend did not come to visit me that weekend. Instead, I went back to Jerusalem and met with a close friend there. As usual, we began the evening at Asgards and ended it in a park with some of his friends before heading out to Katamon (Gonen) to get some shut-eye.  Continue reading

Ushering in the New Year

Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As it fell on Wednesday and Thursday, we had a four day weekend which my boss very kindly extended to a five day weekend for me as I wanted to attend Taybeh’s Oktoberfest which fell on Saturday and Sunday. What better way to usher in the new year than with a weekend of wonderful nights and incredible days? Unfortunately, due to the fact that my camera cannot be fixed after the thief so carelessly tossed it in the river, I do not have any photos. Perhaps friends will upload some which I can then plug into the blog.

On Thursday at 9am my couchsurfer for the weekend – a lovely American girl from Hawaii – and I headed to Jerusalem for a tour of some of its Christian history with my German friend living there. We started with an exhausting walk up to the top of the Mount of Olives. Though I complained most of the way up, it was worth it for the view from the top from which we could see all of Jerusalem. We then visited the Mosque of the Ascension (which becomes  a church once a year on the Day of the Ascension) and saw the alleged footprint of Jesus from where he ascended to heaven. Continue reading

An eventful weekend

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. Continue reading