Shalom everyone! I have used this word little to none since I have been in Jerusalem along with the rest of my oh-so expansive vocabulary. There are so many Americans living in Jerusalem, as well as tourists that you hear much less hebrew than the rest of Israel.
Sunday afternoon I took the bus into Jerusalem to be welcomed by some cold, cold rain. When the bus abruptly stopped at central station, I knew it was time to get out my coat and prepare for the worst. I took a taxi as far as it could go, which was the parking lot of the old city. Raining and windy, I dragged my suitcase and huge carry on and started moving. I obviously took the street with three sets of stairs as opposed to the one with zero. I finally got to the hostel and stayed in for the night, lucky to have Karyiot in my bag. For those of you who have not been introduced to the delicious “cereal” of kariot, prepare to be addicted. They look like little pillows and are filled with chocolate. Having them for breakfast sounds bizarre, so while in Israel a handful here and there has been a nice treat, especially after coming back in the early hours of the morning. I guess it can count as a breakfast then. Monday was bright and sunny, but I was not fooled-it was pretty cold (by Israel standards) in the 50s. I went to take some classes at Aish HaTorah which is a center for Jewish learning that many people go to in Jerusalem because the classes are free. Another girl and I decided to venture out to the shuk. The shuk in Jerusalem is the most sanitary outdoor market in the WORLD, according to my friend Rayna. Those are some pretty high standards. We walked around, I got my first schwarma in 18 months and some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. Schwarma is with a large pita looking thing called laffa with chicken and other goodies all wrapped inside. It was delicious and I’m happy I waited so long to get in in Israel. The juice was good but so concentrated that I had to mix in water. It was also the last night of Hanukkah so places like Marzipan were full of sufganyot.
That night I met my friend from school at the kotel, the remaining wall of the second temple. Since it was the last night of Hanukkah it was swarming with people watching the menorahs be lit. We walked around and went for dinner in a different part of town. While there I saw someone from high school I didn’t even know was in Israel. The traffic in Jerusalem was crazy that night so my friend took me to the bus station to get back to the old city. As soon as I walked out of the car I saw a friend from camp who made aliyah and lives in Israel. It’s amazing how small this country is and how often you see the same people. It would be hard to get away from someone you don’t want to see!
Tuesday morning I decided to go back to Aish and I am so happy I did. I saw on the schedule that Danny Ayalon, the Deputy Foreign Minster of Israel and Ambassador to the US was going to be speaking in the afternoon. That was something I did not want to miss and made sure to stay in classes until he came. I did take one little break though to check my emails. Lots of places in Jerusalem charge for wifi, so you have to scope out where the free spots. Right before you walk into the kotel there is a little archway, and you can find many people sitting on their laptops and phones because that spot has free wifi!
As I predicted it was packed and there were probably six different Israel advocacy trips all in the same room to see him speak. He took many questions from the audience ranging from Iran to the elections in Egpyt. It was a great speech and my friend and I were happy we stayed all day. While I was leaving I ran into one friend I knew would be in Israel and at the same time a sorority sister I didn’t know was in Israel.
Before we left Aish, I looked outside to the incredible view of the Kotel to see some soldiers doing some type of ceremony. It was so great watching them even from way above, I thought I would share.
Wednesday morning I woke up knowing for two weeks I would finally be able to put my stuff somewhere and not move it. I have loved visiting my friends all over the country, but schlepping my 50+ lbs bag from planes to train and buses, it is time for my bag to call a place home for two weeks. I met my friend at our hotel and went to her cousins to hang out and brought a few groceries for the days we have lunch on our own. A few hours later we headed back to the hotel to meet everyone and start out program! Since everyone had just come off a 10 hour flight we heard from Caroline Glick a leading journalist and former advisor to Netenyahu during his first time as prime minister, and then had a welcome dinner.
Thursday we started out at Haas Promenade to see the city of Jerusalem from an excellent view and start our tour from the beginning of time. We made our way to Ammunition Hill where we learned about the 1967 war. Finally we did a tour of the old city, which would make it my third time seeing most of those sites. Along the way we ran into a friend from FAU. You don’t need phones in Jerusalem because you see everyone anyway!
As I get older I learn more and can understand more of the history that I have learned for such a long time. We went to the kotel around 4 pm and watched the rehearsal of the swearing in ceremony for soldiers in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Earlier in the day we met two Lone Soliders, which are soldiers who come to the army and are not from Israel, and happened to see them at the ceremony. It was nice for us to watch them because everyone else had their parents there, so we got to be their family.
Our last session of the day was with Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch who talked about the incitement and Anti-American and Anti-Israel hate that is being taught to children in Gaza and the West Bank. We were on our own once we got back to the hotel so we grabbed a quick sandwich from Aroma cafe, similar to Starbucks but much better food, and headed out to Ben-Yehuda Street. We started off at Nadine’s and made our way over to King’s, a place my friend’s cousin manages. What did that mean for us? Free shots for all. It was really great and they had just opened a new section of the bar, so there was a lot cool new features. Birthright trips are going on right now so it was full of Americans and we all got to play some good ol’ Jewish geography.
Today we went to the Menachem Begin museum and learned about the life of Prime Minister Begin. Before 12 we were free until 4 pm, so we went to the shuk for some free squeezed juice. My friend asked for straight up lemon juice, and that is exactly what she got. A little weird, but she likes it.I ordered a pear and apple juice, a much sweeter, easier juice to drink than pomegranate. We went back to the hotel and took a much longer nap than anticipated. With 15 minutes to spare we ran down to join our group walk to the Kotel (yes three times in one week) to bring in Shabbat. The Kotel on Shabbat is definitely something everyone should see; everyone dances and sings in a circle of hundreds of people. We walked back to enjoy a shabbat dinner at the hotel and some group discussion. I’m now at my friend’s cousin’s apartment again to do some laundry and update this with great internet! Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and I’m planning on going to Tel-Aviv to ring in 2012. Happy New Year to everyone!! I leave you with a picture of this man from the shuk holding a bunny on his shoulder like a parrot.