Worshippers and Whippersnappers,
My last week in Israel was pure magic. I was lucky enough to squeeze not one but three reunions in this brief time! First, uncle Andy (my father’s elder brother) came out to Jerusalem to spend the day with me, and we explored the very beautiful Museum of Psalms, the Mahane Yehuda markets, the many nooks and flower-covered crannies of the nearby neighbourhoods, and then we paid a sobering visit to the Holocaust memorial there, Yad Vashem. At night, my cousins Dovid and Tova, whom I hadn’t seen for years, came to join us for a lovely dinner together and we strolled around the Ben Yehuda pedestrian area afterwards, admiring street clowns and the occasional Hassidic Jew playing electric guitar.
And in case you didn’t believe in fate, you should know that a few days later, my cousin Jessica and I (both in Tel Aviv but unaware that the other one was there) ran into each other on one of the many beaches! We had a lovely mini-family Shabbat dinner together at one of the hippest restaurants in town, and even managed to snag a free dessert out of it from the very friendly waiters there.
So how did I pass the time, you ask, when I was not reuniting with my globally-scattered kin? Adventuring, of course. Or, well, in the case of Jerusalem, not-so-adventuring-but-definitely-low-budget-group-touring. Sometimes — and especially in a city where there is as much to see and do as Jerusalem, and in the case where you may or may not have cheaped out at the airport (see: may) and decided not to spend your money on a guidebook — a traveller can use some sightseeing assistance.
So off I went — just me, the tourguide, and half the population of Florida — to hit up more sacred sites than you would think humanly possible to cram into a four-hour tour: the Via Dolorosa, the Armenian quarter, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where the Russian Orthodox tourists go to weep), the Dome of the Rock, theWailing Wall (locals doing some weeping of their own),and the Mount of Olives.
Particularly enjoyed the Arab souq, which was highly reminiscent of Morocco; the little shoots sprouting from people’s folded prayers in the Western Wall; and the extraordinary number of miserable high school students napping on each others’ laps between sites. Throw in some fantastic shakshuka (very rich, tomato-based dish with poached eggs), some perfect falafel, and the best damn babaganoush I’ve ever tasted, and you can perhaps begin to understand why I was finding it very hard to leave.
Canadaschmanada quiztime interjection! Remember the friend who went hiking with Jordan and me in the last post? Adam was his name. You should probably learn it, since this lovely gentleman had a few days free and heard that I was going to drop almost a hundred and fifty dollars on a day trip to Ein Gedi and and Dead Sea. He graciously intervened, and the two of us instead rented a car and went off into the wilderness ourselves for a bit of camping and hiking!
–Okay, if you know me at all, you either (a) probably do not believe this to be at all true or (b) are sputtering with laughter at the thought of me doing either of these things. But I did, I swear! Care for some photographic proof?
Do I even need to tell you how lovely it was? The air by the Dead Sea was warm and blustery when we arrived, and after setting up camp, we feasted on our dinner under the stars. In the morning, the sea was calm enough for a swim by the salt-sculpted shore, glittering like a colony of white sea urchins (or, to a Canadian gal missing home, balls of ice-spiked snow). We heaved our mineral-refreshed selves out in time to do a hike in Ein Gedi under the ferocious heat of the afternoon. I think I might have lost my own body weight in sweat, but it was worth it for the hidden caverns dripping with ferns, the surprise turquoise pools in the desert, and the fantastic view of the valley below from the canyon.
And then back to Tel Aviv! (Rental cars, sadly, do eventually need to be returned.) I spent a couple days with Tali (a friend that Sam and I met in Laos, in case you care to revisit the post: https://canadaschmanada.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/leaving-laos-and-the-voyage-into-vietnam/) lounging on the beach and swapping stories of what we’d been up to since our time together.
By the time I had to get to the airport, I felt that I hadn’t had nearly enough time in Israel, but future plans beckoned. As most of you know (and for those of you who don’t), there was another family reunion waiting for me at my next destination, France. But who was I supposed to be meeting? What will we be up to? You’ll just have to wait until the next blog post to find out.
From France with love,