Enjoyed my first full day in Jerusalem today. Started the day by visiting Mt Zion, where the Last Supper was held, and visited the tomb of King David. Viewed the ruins of his palace, as well as other excavations along the way. There are still more archaeological digs happening around the Old City Wall, as more historical sites are discovered.
Zion Gate riddled with bullet holes from past conflicts
King David’s Tomb
Part of the Wall of the Old City of David
We continued on, exploring part of the City of David, including seeing remnants of his palace, and walking through the Canaanite Tunnel, which was dug in biblical times to bring water to Jerusalem, and through which David entered the city of Jebusites when he conquered the city. The tunnel was barely one person wide, and was hand chisled–quite an amazing feat.
One of the pools that held water
Walking through the tunnel
We then went to experience the Machne Yehuda Market, with lots of shops, restaurants, and of course food, as we saw people preparing for Shabbat. We had a food tour, and had samples of various foods in the market, literally eating our way through! One of my all time favorite lunches! We sampled foods from Georgia (the country), Tunisia (where we had a sample of 40 proof alcohol–a tiny bit can clear your sinuses!), some of the best humus I’ve ever had, coffees from all over the world, and various fruit drinks, to name a few foods I tried. Even saw some challah, and since I make it myself, was eager to see what Israeli challah was like. Will be sharing it with my fellow travelers on our tour bus tomorrow, and will let you know how it measures up. I have high standards!
Produce at the market
My challah purchase. Will see how it measures up to mine!
Came back to the hotel, to rest up for the evening’s activities. Started hearing a VERY loud band playing outside. It was almost like they were right next to my room, even though I couldn’t see them from my window, and I am on the 10th floor! I think my daughter may have enjoyed them–was definitely some snyth pop going on! Would have been fun to join them, but was preparing for the evening. I was informed they would have to stop by 6pm.
In the evening, we went to the Western Wall. The Wall was built in 3 parts. The lower part was built with stone from Herod’s time, the middle section during Roman occupation, and the top part when the Ottoman Empire ruled. Unfortunately, since the Orthodox really rules the roost, men and women cannot pray together—there is a partition in the middle dividing the sections. I learned that after you pray at the Wall, you’re not supposed to turn around, but instead back away gradually before you turn around, like you would do if we’re leaving royalty. After writing a prayer on a piece of paper, I waited for a space to pray, and once one opened up, approached the wall, and looked for a place to put my prayer (which was more easily said than done). The wall is literally stuffed with petitions and prayers in every nook and cranny. I stayed for a few minutes, praying, composing my thoughts, and then slowly backed away so another could take her turn. Heard many men singing quite loudly from the other side, and several of us climbed on a step next to the mechitzah to watch. Too bad we couldn’t join them. Once we moved away from the wall, we saw so many others coming to pray there–Orthodox, families, many young people from Birthright trips, and others. It had a bustling, joyous feeling to it, as everyone was there to celebrate the beginning of Shabbat.
Women’s section of the wall. You can see the partition on the left hand side
We then came back, and had a lovely Shabbat dinner together in the hotel restaurant, including kiddish and motzi (their challah was ok, but not up to my standards–I’m a tough sell!). Had some of the best gefilte fish I’ve ever had. It was quite sweet, and not fishy tasting at all. Yes, it’s all about the food!! We did blessings after the meal, and sang a few other songs as well.
Tomorrow will be experiencing more of Shabbat in Jerusalem–a special time indeed