Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Jerusalem, Day Two

I awoke in Jerusalem to a bright clear morning. The clouds of the previous day were gone, as was my slightly gloomy disposition. The night before Natan and I had gone to a shawarma stand a few blocks from the hotel, an experience that unfortunately ended my shawarma consumption for the duration of the trip. A brief aside into the cuisine: There were two things I was instructed to try by Natan, falafel and shawarma. The shawarma had similarities to a gyro in that the meat was cooked on a giant cone and shaved off. I tried shawarma twice, the last time leading to gastrointestinal distress. However I will not denigrate the shawarma since I believe it all has to do with the purveyor, just the same as a gyro. The falafel is delicious (though apparently of disputed provenance - they fight over everything). The only Hebrew that I really "learned" (read: repeatedly said incorrectly) was how to order falafel. I could really go for one right now. Natan has assured me that I cannot get a decent falafel in the States but I do believe I'll test that theory.

Back to the trip. Natan and I spent the first night in Jerusalem at the hotel playing cribbage using a cheap deck of cards. Natan did not know how to play the game at first, so I gave him a quick tutorial. Unfortunately for me Natan is a quick study and was soon besting me, leading me to feign fatigue to cover my irritation. It was late Monday night in Israel but we were watching the Bears/Vikings Sunday football game on ESPN. Natan went to sleep and I stayed up to watch a bit of the snooker on Eurosport. Here comes another brief aside. Every night at the kibbutz David watched the UK Championship on TV, and Natan and I both watched with him. I'd never heard of the game before this, but after David explained the rules I started to really enjoy watching the matches. Ronnie O'Sullivan was David's favorite player and also became mine as the tournament progressed. O'Sullivan ended up winning the tournament to everyone's delight. If I could eat a falafel right now while watching a snooker match right now, I would be a very happy individual.

Back to the trip. We woke up early as it would be a full day of sightseeing. I insisted that we stop at Holy Bagel so that I could experience an "authentic" Israeli bagel, mostly so that I could make Natan repeatedly state that there was nothing Israeli about bagels. Regardless, it was pretty damn good. Suitably fortified, we went back to the Old City. We intended to tour the museum at the Tower of David but we arrived around 45 minutes before it opened. Therefore we walked down a nearby street to peruse the souvenir shops. Natan was looking for Armenian ceramics for his mother, and he went in the first shop he saw and got a great deal on two plates from the elderly shopkeeper. I, on the other hand, went in to a nearby shop and was subjected to the hardest hard sell I've ever experienced. I'm not much good at haggling over prices, and once the shopkeeper figured out I couldn't speak Hebrew he could probably tell I was an easy mark. I ended up with a small Armenian ceramic plate depicting the Loaves & Fishes scene. I pretty much got taken for a ride, but all in all I paid about $15 for a $5 plate. Natan put it in perspective, saying that it was something that I couldn't get in the States, and also that shopkeeper probably needed the money more than I did. My mother pointed out later that the story alone was easily worth the price I paid. We entered the museum right after it opened and virtually had the place to ourselves. The weather was perfect. The Tower of David has been used as a fortess and redoubt on the southern city walls for centuries, and the interior consists of archaeological dig sites festooned with colorful sculptures. The museum detailed the history of Jerusalem, from the first beginnings 3,000 years ago to the annexation following the Six-Day War. From the top of the Tower of Phasael the views were astounding. Here is the view east, including the King David Hotel.Here is the view west, of the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.Just to the northwest of the Dome and Western Wall is the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at Golgotha where the New Testament states Jesus Christ was crucified. Here's the view toward the church domes.Following our tour of the Tower, we made our way east. Our intention was to walk over to the Israel Museum, a trip that looked quite short on our map. This didn't prove to be the case, but several miles later we did arrive at our destination. We walked past the King David Hotel and took a quick look around the lobby. No $96 nights in that place. We walked across the street to the Jerusalem YMCA, pictured to the right. Not your average Y. We kept going, past the Prime Minister's residence and the King Solomon Hotel (not as impressive as the King David). We walked south of the museum and around, coming up the back of the hill the museum sits on. When we finally reached the musuem we learned that half of the exhibits were currently closed for renovations. Undeterred, we paid our admission and got a light lunch in the cafeteria. We hadn't walked all that way to turn back. We first went to the Shrine of the Book, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept. The exhibit was located underneath this white dome in a tubular passageway that lead into the dome itself. Following this we went through two modern exhibits, one detailing water resources in Israel and another focusing on modern Asian art. After the Israel Museum we tried to walk over to the Knesset, but we couldn't seem to figure out the way. On our walk through a city park at the base of the hill we saw a group of Orthodox men playing softball, a slightly incongruous sight. We made it up to a dog run before having to turn around. As we came up another way we settled for walking up to the Israeli Supreme Court building, which was closed by this time. Evening was starting to come on, so we made our way back to the hotel to prepare for the next day in Haifa and more cribbage and snooker, stopping to devour some falafel on the way. But before we left the Supreme Court I took what turns out to be my favorite picture of the entire trip.


Blogger over my head said...

I hope you didn't have the goat shawarma!!! :)

8:32 AM  
Blogger wallrock said...

I'm not 100% sure on exactly what kind of shawarma it was. Probably for the best, like hot dogs.

8:54 AM  

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