Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Picture Perfect Jerusalem

You know those trips where everything turns out even better than you hoped? That sums up my trip to Israel and Jordan. It was everything I hoped it would be, and more! We did an eight-day self-guided tour of Israel and a 3-day guided tour of Jordan with our good friends Sarah and Kyle.

Arbel Cliffs (near Tiberius)

We flew out early on Valentine's day and the boys surprised us by smuggling in a fantastic breakfast of waffles and fruit. How Dan got the syrup through security is still a bit of a mystery.

Not that you'll be surprised, but the theme of our trip was food. Since Dan and I keep kosher, we rarely get to eat meat out. Israel was a haven for us. Almost every restaurant--especially in Jerusalem--was kosher! We wasted no time getting started. Our first stop after checking in to our apartment was BurgersBar for a fantastic meal.

First of many (many) burgers

The next day was Friday, which is a great day to be in Jerusalem. The Jewish Sabbath starts on Friday night and most stores and restaurants are closed on Saturday, so people rush around on Friday buying last minute goods. Mahane Yehudah, a large street-market with more than 250 vendors, was packed!

But, soldiers have got to buy their olives and rabbis have to buy their pastries.

Thinking we would eat dinner in our apartment that night, we bought ourselves a feast of deliciously fresh strawberries, a whole roasted chicken, chicken wings, an assortment of Israeli salads, hummus, fresh pitas, and, of course, pastries. Tragically, the meat was later lost in what we're calling "Chicken-Gate."*

Of all the incredible things we saw and did on this trip, this afternoon and evening were probably my favorite. Sarah summed it up best when she said "Awesome trip so far! Heard the call to prayer while walking Via Dolorosa before going to the Western Wall on Shabbat."

Pilgrims on Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa is the path that Jesus walked while carrying the cross on his way to the crucifixion. On Friday afternoons, Franciscan monks lead hundreds of people in a procession through the streets, stopping at each Station of the Cross to pray. It was very intense with so many people all chanting the same Latin prayers. The final stop is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We didn't have a lot of time to explore it that day, but managed to see it again on another day. The inside is really stunning. I especially loved the giant mosaics.

We rushed from Via Dolorosa to the Western Wall, where every Friday night huge crowds gather to welcome the Sabbath. It is an incredibly festive atmosphere with people singing and dancing. Soldiers, rabbis, little kids, old men...everyone joins together in festive harmony. It is one of my favorite things in the world.

Gathering before Sabbath; no photography is allowed on Sabbath

Before I left for Israel I tried to find us a host for dinner; it's very traditional for Jewish people to welcome others to their Sabbath meals. I thought it would be fantastic for my friends to experience a true Jerusalem Sabbath. I was given a name--Jeff--and told that he would be at the Wall helping people find meals. I did not have high hopes for this plan (hence why we bought our earlier feast). But then a young woman approached us and asked if we had seen Jeff. Confirmation that he exists!  We asked a few people if they knew of Jeff, and lo-and-behold, we found him (well, we found his replacement; Jeff was off for the night). But we met a very nice man who paired us with a very nice family for a Shabbat meal. It was definitely an experience!**

*We accidentally left the entire bag of uneaten chicken and chicken wings right next to our car and then drove away! I'm still mourning the loss.

**It turns out that our Shabbat experience is not unique. Jeff Seidel has been "working" the Western Wall for more than 20 years. Check out this article and this video. If you're ever in Jerusalem and need a Sabbath meal--go find Jeff!

Check out our other stops in Israel and Jordan:
Tel Aviv, Israel
Northern Israel
Ein Gedi; Masada; Dead Sea, Israel

Petra, Jordan
Wadi Rum, Jordan

1 comment:

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