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Published: March 15th 2016
To Jerusalem! We woke up early (as we do, since we get the sun in our face) to head off to the bus station today. Busses run about every 10 minutes from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so it wasn’t like we had to get there at any specific time. The ride is about 45 minutes, and drops you off near the city center.
We walked up to the central market, where Marie took me to her favorite restaurant. We got Beef Azura, which, as far as I can tell, is cinnamon-infused ground beef in a soupy mixture ladled onto a grilled eggplant. They love their grilled eggplant here. Regardless, delicious.
We then walked through the market, where we picked up challah bread, dates, and baklava, all of which were delicious. From there, on to the old city!
There’s a free tour that leaves from the Jaffa gate, so we hopped onto that. We started in the Armenian Quarter, where we learned about why the Armenians are the only nation that have their own quarter.
Basically, they’d gotten there during their conversion in the fourth century. After that, they basically just flew under the radar and realized if
they were quiet and private, no one would try to expel them. Other nations have been more public about their presence, which is why they were killed or cast out.
After that, we headed into the Jewish Quarter, where we talked about the Roman occupation millennia ago. The Romans, in an attempt to destroy the idea of Jerusalem, and therefore hopefully Judaism, destroyed most of the city and took extra care to destroy the temples. They then renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. It obviously did not take. We also walked by a viewing point for the Western Wall, which is way larger than I realized. The wall, also known as the Wailing War, is not in fact holy to Jews. It is rather the closest point to the Dome of the Rock, which is the most holy place in their faith. The wall is the last remaining remnant of one of many former Jewish temples. During the 600s, the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock mosque where the temples used to be and banned Jews from visiting. They have not had access to their holiest relic for millennia, so they pray as close to it as they can.
From there, we headed to the Muslim Quarter. This quarter, along with the Christian, has most of the markets and stores in the city. Their homes are usually around courtyards behind the stores. When each Muslim makes his pilgrimage to Mecca, he is greeted by a huge party when he gets home, and they decorate his door and entranceway so the whole area knows he’s made his pilgrimage. But nobody would ever think about taking the decorations down, so they remain up pretty much forever.
Finally, the Christian quarter. We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is always packed with people trying to see the tomb where Jesus was buried. One thing I didn’t know is that several different Christian denominations all want to claim it as their own. To prevent infighting, the keys to the temple are kept by two Muslim families, who always have a representative sit on the steps next to the front door and specifically act as mediators and moderators.
After the tour ended, we went for a bit of coffee, then back to the viewing point of the Western Wall. From there, we could watch the sunset and see the
influx of Orthodox Jews coming to pray at the wall before Shabbat. On the courtyard in front of the wall, many younger people danced and sang traditional songs.
We then walked through the quarters again before heading out of the Old City. All the public transportation in the majority of Israel shuts down Friday evenings for Shabbat, so we had to take a sherut (bus taxi) back to Tel Aviv, since the busses had stopped. Once there, we stopped for more shakshouka before heading home for an early bedtime. Quite an adventure today, and another tomorrow!
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