Winter Trip 2010: Post #3

I feel like I am settling in now to my trip.  It has now been one week since I arrived and I am enjoying myself.  I still find some of the uncertainties to be stressful, but I have been fortunate in that I have connected or reconnected with people who have certainly helped me out.

I was having a lot of trouble sleeping almost every night.  Last night, I finally slept well and hopefully that will continue from here on out.  I also had several days of bus troubles that I will share below.

I stood at The Heritage House, a Jewish youth hostel in the Old City (although, I was probably the youngest person there and several of the people had been there for months) Friday night and Saturday night.  It was a nice place, but loud at night (especially with the guy under me snoring extremely loudly.  Last night and tonight I am spending with the Romm’s in French Hill.  They are some of the nicest people I know and I have very lucky to have been invited to stay with them.

Tomorrow I head to Be’er Sheva.  I’ll be back in Jerusalem for Shabbat and then after Shabbat, I plan to head to Tel-Aviv for a few days until I fly to London.

Below is a summary of the past several days:

Friday

Friday I woke up at the Romm’s and was going to go to the Bible Lands Museum.  I was told to take a bus from a nearby stop, but the bus wasn’t available there so I asked around and found out from a nearby hotel that the bus didn’t come there so I would have to transfer buses.  I did not think I would have time to do so and visit the museum before heading back to get my bag and head to the hostel in the Old City for Jerusalem so I just went back to the Romms.  I thought I would leave and head to the Shuk before going to the hostel, but had to wait for the third bus (about an hour) because buses were full, did not stop, etc.

When I made it to the Old City, I checked into the hostel and got ready for Shabbat.  We lit Chanukah and Shabbat candles before heading to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat.  I prayed and danced (which was a lot of fun) there with a group from a yeshiva and a few soldiers.  Then I got set up for a dinner with a family in Mea Shearim (known as one of the most “traditional” super religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  I had dinner with a Breslav Hassidic family which was a lot of fun and quite the experience.

Saturday

I woke up later Saturday after having difficulty sleeping and went to the Kotel for a little bit.  I then got set up with a family for lunch.  We waited until it was time to go and then went to an apartment inside the Old City itself for lunch with a Rabbi and his family.  It was a good experience.  After lunch, I walked around the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel a bit before going back to The Heritage House for an early dinner and speaker.  We then lit Chanukah candles and I walked around the Jewish Quarter again to see all of the menorahs everywhere.  I also walked around Mamilla, a newly built upscale mall, right outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.  I met a guy from Brazil who joined me for the meals and we walked around together.  I also met people from Singapore, France, Argentina, England, etc.

Sunday

I got up super early (before 5:00 a.m.) and walked to the David Citadel Hotel to meet a tour group that I had signed up for to Beit She’an and the Golan Heights.  We got picked up late (typical Israeli) and taken to Tel-Aviv where we met another bus and our guide.  We went to Beit She’an a huge Roman city that had been excavated in Israel.  We then drove through the Galilee into the Golan Heights and went to an overlook of the Kineret (Sea of the Galilee).  Later we went to an overlook on a mountain of the Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders and talked about the area, its history, and its importance.  We ate lunch there.  We then went to Katzrin where we walked around an excavated city from Talmudic periods which was followed by a drive around the modern city of Katzrin, when of course, our bus started problems.  We went to an olive oil factory (very popular in the Golan) and learned about the process of making olive oil and other fun things.  I finally made it back (via rented bus) to Jerusalem around 9:30 p.m. and stayed with the Romm’s.  A good, although long, day.

Today/Monday

I finally slept last night!  I got up later and went to the Bible Lands Museum where I saw archeological objects from 4400+ years ago and newer objects!  It was really cool.  I wasn’t there for a full two hours, but definitely worth it.  I went then to the Old City for a Free Tour that was three hours long and covered all four quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  There was a lot I had not seen or learned about before (with a little repeat).  It was very good.  I also had my first frozen yogurt on this trip (frozen fruit with yogurt = tasty).  I then went to the Mahane Yehuda Market (shuk) and walked around and got shwarma for dinner (they also gave me a falafel).  I bought a pita with spices and pinapple and mint juice – an interesting mix that turned out to be very good.  After the Shuk, I went to the Fuschberg Center for Conservative Judaism where Rabbi Romm was teaching a class on Chanukah.  Now I am back at the Romms.  Another good day.

Winter Trip 2010: Post #2

Here is an update of the past few days:

Wednesday

I went to the Israel Museum.  It had been closed when I was in Israel in 2005 and 2008 and they just reopened it.  It’s amazing.  I was there for 4+ hours and could have stayed longer.  I went through the exhibits (Jewish Life, Fine Art, Dead Sea Scrolls, Map of Second Temple Jerusalem, etc.) and took a tour of the archeology exhibit before going back through to see a few parts.  From there I took a bus (and met the volunteer coordinator for the museum at the station who explained to me how bus transfers work) to the Central Bus Station to try to find out about some tours, with no luck.  I got my first falafel of the trip and then took a bus to the Old City to find out about possible tours.  I walked around a bit and went to the Western Wall for a quick prayer and to put a note in the wall.  I then got lost (of course) and followed some guys who were studying a Jewish text who said they were going to one place but went to another.  Eventually I made it back.  After navigating my way back to the apartment I was staying at, I got ready for the evening’s wedding.

I spend the night at Dvora (who I had met in 2008) and Yair’s (who I met last night) wedding.  It was amazing and beautiful.  It was held at Shoresh, a Moshav about 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem.  It was a great night.  There was a reception (with lots of food), candle lighting (it was the first night of Chanukah), the chupah (wedding ceremony), dinner, dancing, more food, dancing, desert, dancing, etc.  The chupah was outside and it was a great night for it.  There was more food than I could have imagined and the bride and groom looked beautiful.  Of course, I forgot my camera, but I am sure there will be pictures posted.

Today

I woke up a bit later since we went to bed so late after the wedding.  I met up with Rabbi Romm.  I had thought it would be just for a few hours, but I ended up spending the day with his family.  We went back to Shoresh to pick up Yair and Dvora who spent the night there.  I also got to admire the great views and scenery of the Jerusalem hills.  I spent the day catching up, hanging out, seeing the neighborhood, etc.  It went fast and has been a lot of fun.  I am spending the night here.

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Other notes:

  • There is a huge fire going on in Northern Israel with over 40 people who died when their bus caught on fire.  Read about it.
  • Tomorrow I may go to the Bible Lands Museum and perhaps look around the shuk (market) before going to the Old City (I will be staying in a hostel there for the next several nights) to get ready for Shabbat.
  • I like Chanukah in Israel.  There are candleabras on lightpoles all over the city.
  • I booked a tour for Sunday to Beit Shean and the Golan Heights.  I wanted to go and my time ability and plans have changed from my original idea.  This tour should be really good, it’s just expensive.