Monday, July 5, 2010

A Day in Jerusalem

I was fortunate enough to have a day to visit Jerusalem.

I completely underestimated the city. It was so much larger and extensive than I'd pictured in my mind.

There weren't as many tourists as I'd expected, either.

The other interesting thing is that I never encountered ANY visitors from the US on my entire trip - all the tourists were from Europe. Weird.

I didn't realize that the old city is still a "working" city - I'd always pictured it as a sort of museum... but all of its people live, work, and spend their entire lives within the walls.

The shops were fun to see - like this spice shop. The shops that catered to the locals... food, clothing, etc. were layed back and nice to visit with. The tourist-oriented shops were pretty high-pressure and annoying!

The best part of the entire day was visiting the Garden Tomb (
I went back 3 times during the day to enjoy the peace and experience here. Few places on earth feel like this.
The staff here was very nice and went out of their way to let visitors enjoy the place and spend whatever time they needed.

I hadn't realized that Golgotha was also in the same small park.
Calvary's Hill is only about 40 yards from the garden tomb. And right above a bus station!
It took me a while to find the tomb's park - I took a slightly wrong turn out of Damascus Gate, and no one in the area had heard of it!
It was easy to find once I found it the first time... LOL.
This day in the big city was also the first time I saw soldiers on patrol, too. Again, things were pretty lowkey - much more relaxed than I expected.
An interesting experience - while sitting outside of the Damascus gate, waiting for the garden tomb to reopen, a BIG firecracker went off - it sounded like a bomb to me and the others by us. What was interesting is that no one really reacted. We looked at eachother nervously, but the soldiers and police (and there were a bunch) just continued joking and laughing. The feeling and reaction was so different that what I'd have expected based on media reports of the area.
Back into the city - it is a crazy maze of buildings and alleys.
I was lost many times, but there is always a "friendly" merchant to help you figure it out. Their next line is "come in and look - its free to look!" Good luck getting out of there, though!
Here is a sweets shop. Wow.

The day was hot but not uncomfortable.
Visiting the Western Wall was also very different than expected. For being a holy site, there sure were alot of armed soldiers goofing around, taking pictures, and acting much more irreverent than I would have guessed.
Everyone was ok with it, so it didn't seem to be a problem.

Here is where so many different cultures, lifestyles, and backgrounds came together.
This is definitely a place to find some shade and watch the people.

Besides the Garden Tomb, the other "must see" site is the Garden of Gethsemany.
Again, I had pictured it being much farther from the city, and much larger in size!
Less than 0.5 miles separate the two gardens - where events took place that affect all mankind. An easy walk of 20 minutes a tourist... and a difficult one for the Savior.

Alot of miles of walking and taxi rides, but well worth it. The Malha Train station is about 4 miles from the old city - and I DON'T recommend walking it! I made it half way and got lost. I suggest walking a few hundred yards from the train station to the Mall - a great place for lunch and cooling off! Catch a taxi from the Mall to the Jaffa gate (should be about 40 NIS but you'll be lucky to pay less than 80 - I had to endure 20 minutes of ridicule before finally getting the ride at a 40 NIS price.
The train only runs every few hours between Tel Aviv, depending on the day. Check with the station before making the trip! The return trains on Thur left at 7:40, 8:40, and 9:40. It was nice to doze on the way back.
A great day and definitely the highlight of an awesome trip.