Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shabbat Shalom.

(Disclaimer: I typed this post last night but only had time to upload it just now. Today's adventures will come at a time when there is not a line of people at the hostel waiting to use the one computer!)

Waking up in Israel is wonderful.

This morning my eyes popped open wide awake at 7:30 am (jet lag, anyone?) to the whizzing and honking of cars passing by the Jerusalem street right outside the window. I spent the next hour and a half leisurely reading Chaim Potok’s book “The Gift of Asher Lev,” while waiting for Cyndi’s shower water to get warm (it’s run on solar power and takes a while to heat up. This is Israel, after all). Finally at 9 o’clock I grew restless from waiting and braved the cold water. This was…exhilarating. At least I was awake!

Not long after 10 am, I left the apartment and headed down Hebron Road toward Jaffa
Gate and Barrett’s hostel. Only one word can be used to describe the feeling: contentment. I reveled in the warmth and sunlight and the fact that I know where to go and how to get around in Jerusalem! Barrett has already been here for two weeks and was remarking to me on the phone the other day how strange it is that things here are familiar. I find this to be true, as well. Rather than exuberant wonder and amazement around every corner, it feels more like quiet peace. And like being home.

The first thing Barrett and I did was go up on the roof of his hostel with Brian, his friend and hostel roommate, and drink Arabic tea in the sunshine while looking out on the city. We also planned our tentative schedule for this trip, which includes several desert hikes and camping expeditions (one hike 15 miles!), a day at the Mediterranean, and 5 days camping in Galilee. To name a few. After this leisurely start to the day, Brian left to write a paper, and Barrett and I went to walk around the Old City. Again I was immersed in the vibrancy of Old City Jerusalem: the colors, the fragrances, the languages. Every stone corridor a delight to the senses. We visited some of our favorite locales: the fresh bread shop in the Christian quarter; the falafel stand at Damascus gate; “Shorashim,” the Jewish shop owned by Dov and Moshe, two Zionist Canadian brothers who always have time to talk and Jewish lessons to share. It was only Moshe there today, and Barrett and I spent several minutes with him discussing items in the shop and our traveling agenda. Moshe gave us the welcome advice to build a fire when we camp in the desert (to keep away the scorpions, of course). Also, apparently if you get bitten, you can use half a tomato to suck out the venom. “And then you should seek help,” Moshe added, “just in case.” Of course, I found out later that fires attract Camel Spiders, which, unlike scorpions, are actually poisoness. Hm…bring on the scorpions??

Later, Brian and Josh joined us and we went into the City of David. One VERY cool thing is that recently they have excavated what they believe to be the palace of David. This area wasn’t available to see when I was last here, but now you can see a good bit of it! I may or may not have climbed over the gate to sit on one of the walls of the palace and get my picture taken.

However, by far the highlight of the day was Shabbat dinner. Barrett, Brian, Josh, and I bought food (challah bread, pita, hummus, oranges, meat, cheese) and wine (a red Merlot from Galilee) and spread a blanket out on the grass next to the old city wall. Dusk was falling and Shabbat was settling over the city. On the other side of the wall, vendors were closing up shop, and Hasidic Jews in tallit, kippas, and headcoverings were preparing to go dance the night away at the Western Wall. We took the Greek Orthodox candles Barrett had purchased earlier in the day and pushed them into the earth around our blanket. As is Shabbat custom, the woman must light the candles. Well…I tried. However, a wind was blowing, and after 5 used matches and no lighted candles, we decided the effort had been sufficient. Candle fail.

Barrett read to us from Psalm 112, we recited the Hebrew blessing over the bread and wine, and then toasted the wine in our plastic cups (“La Cha’im! To Life!”). We then enjoyed a lovely dinner as the sun set and the lights began to pop from the hill on the other side of the Hinnom Valley. After eating, Barrett lit his pipe and he and I puffed on that for awhile as we all discussed theology. Then the boys laid down on the blanket and I read to them from a chapter of Lauren Winner’s book “Girl Meets God.” When that was done, I laid down on the blanket too, and we gazed up at the stars, discussing different faith traditions and the speeds of satellite orbits.

Barrett and I ended the day with one of my favorite Jerusalem pastimes: walking around the city looking at the lights, and remarking to each other with happy sighs, “Hey, we’re in Jerusalem.”

Did I mention it’s wonderful to be back?

And now for some pictures:

(Drinking tea on the roof of the hostel)

(near the Western Wall)

(walking in the Old City)

(with David's palace!)

(Shabbat dinner)


  1. Jess, I'm so happy for you! I love reading the stories. :) -Beki

  2. Ah! I love it!! I'm so glad that you're there and the pictures rock! Excessive use of exclamation points? Yes. Necessary? Hells yes. -Liz

  3. Wow; reading your post about your first day in Jerusalem was wonderful...and painful! I miss it so much!! It sounds like y'all are having a wonderful time though. For crying out loud, be safe, and have fun! Tell Barrett I said hi...
    -Matt Semler