Israel: Day 68

Today was such a nice day.

The German girl and I went out for lunch to get falafel, and I, special as I am, ended up dropping food on both my top and my jeans…Smooth.We then went to a bakery, I bought a mini challah and some other stuff and later we moved on to the Hadar mall.

When I got home, I realised I got sunburnt again, I don’t even know how it is actually still physically possibly. We chatted for a while and in the evening we went to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue for the evening Shabbat service. It is such a beautiful place! There are beautiful stained-glass windows, amazing choir and the place is huge, it has capacity of 1,500 people. In this synagogue men sit on the ground floor and women sit on the balcony. FYI, among other things, it is also a place where the Chief Rabbis of Israel are inaugurated, in the presence of the Prime Minister and President of Israel. The synagogue is dedicated to the memory of Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Although we attended the service last week, we had troubles following the service despite having a prayer book that was English on one side and Hebrew on the other, but as the rabbi didn’t announce the page number and there was no transliteration, we had troubles following where we were. The service was amazing though, really emotional and magical and the choir did a fantastic job, they were absolutely amazing!!

 

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Israel: Day 67

Exactly in one week I will be packing and getting ready for my departure from Israel! Although I really love it here, at this point I am exhausted and need to go home! Last night is a great example. I fell asleep after midnight, roasting in my own sweat. Around 3 am I heard some noise, it sounded like a smaller explosion, so I jumped out from my bed. The “explosion” turned out to be just toilet making funny noise again! I “fixed” it (i.e. flushed it and water then stopped running and exploding), went back to bed and there was some sort of little bug on my bed, I quickly killed it but being insectophobic, I couldn’t fall asleep again as I kept turning and tossing, worried there may be more of them. So yes, I would say I am pretty exhausted.

As I mentioned yesterday, today I went to the city centre to prove to myself that no threats will keep me at home and restrain my freedom. I went to the post office, and that was interesting, I had to get a ticket from a self-service machine, I started panicking so I asked one man to help me and he kindly did. Once it was my turn, the post office lady asked me to stick the stamp on the postcard and I got really confused and asked her if I had to lick it, she started laughing and said yes. Well, in my defence, I never had to lick stamps in the UK??

Back in the apartment, I talked to my family, the love of my life – aka my dachshund Bella got her summer haircut today and now she looks like a soft toy. I love my baby more than my own life! I miss her so much and I cannot wait to see her again, I cannot wait to see her waiting for me at the airport next Friday morning, barking and crying!

In the afternoon, I was prepared to leave the apartment in one second, and had my passport and other essential things packed, as in the afternoon the German girl texted me if I was safe as there was a fire in Jerusalem Forest. I got really worried because as the crow flies it’s only  cca 3.5 km away, and since the country is so dry as it hasn’t rained here for months, I was worried it could spread quickly. I was trying to keep up with latest news, but Haaretz completely disappointed me (at least the English version didn’t mention the fire at all), Jerusalem Post posted one paragraph, but then I managed to stay in the loop thanks to the Times of Israel and Twitter! Some neighbourhoods had to be evacuated, and videos and photos showed how scary and huge the fire was!! I could also hear sirens and someone announcing stuff on megaphone in the distance. I thought I could smell some smoke too. Interestingly enough, the German girl whose workplace is even further away said there was a lot of smoke over there! I have to say that the Israeli firefighters are amazing! This is such a dry country, with limited water supply, the fire was huge and after one hour I read that those people who were evacuated could be moved back in, and the firefighters managed to put the fire under control! Simply amazing!

Israel: Day 66

Today I made a trip to the First Station. It’s a historic railway station and it got restored a few years ago to serve as a culture and entertainment centre. Unfortunately, I failed to remember to take any photos (I know!!). It’s a really nice place, there are many restaurants and some shops, and there’s plenty of space for some entertainment events. The combination of remains of old tracks and new, modern shops looked really interesting.

Let’s move on to other news. So two days ago I wrote a post, wondering about my experience at the Lion’s gate, where I saw many women praying/chanting. Well, it seems that I failed to keep up with news, because following the deadly attack on the soldiers on Friday, metal detectors were installed at the Temple Mount complex and many Muslim people are protesting against them by praying outside the gates, so that explains the scene I saw. Also, apparently there was a big clash of protestors and soldiers yesterday and the US Embassy issued a travel warning and doesn’t recommend visits to the Old City because of increased terror threat level. I only know this because my German housemate told me, as she was told by her Israeli co-worker. Also, massive thanks to both Slovakian and the UK Embassy for not mentioning anything, that’s not really useful, is it?!

I feel so sad, I love the Old City, and now I feel terrified to visit it. I am also puzzled why metal detectors that are meant to prevent people wearing firearms are seen as a bad thing, they are there to keep people safe, and as long people have none, they should not be worried. Anyway, I was stupid enough to tell my family, and now they don’t want me to leave the flat at all. Well, I only have just over a week in Israel left, I think it would be a shame if I was stuck inside the flat the whole time. I am going to avoid the Old City for as long as it is necessary, but I need to live and go outside!

Israel: Day 65

I felt exhausted today. The apartment is clearly trying to get rid of me, as now it’s affecting another one of my senses (Mmm, why am I thinking about the Shining? Stephen King messed me up forever). So until now I slept in extremely hot room, and with the lights on. Last night there was an addition to the happy family – water in the toilet started running, and it was really loud and kept me awake. I tried making it stop several times since 3am, but I wasn’t successful until 6am, it was a miracle that I actually managed to make it stop!
Today, the German girl from my flat and I went to the Garden Tomb in the East Jerusalem.
The Garden Tomb site looks so beautiful! And it so quiet, like a small oasis of peace and quiet in the loud neighbourhood! I loved it!
Here comes the interesting part, the Garden Tomb is believed by some Christians to be the garden where Jesus was buried and resurrected. However, majority of Christians believe the place of burial and resurrection is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that I visited over 8 weeks ago (seems like ages ago!).
The tomb itself was small (I’m quite surprised that I didn’t panic because of the confined space), but there was actually plenty of space for body remains. The German girl explained to me that the tombs like these were usually for the entire families.
After leaving the Garden, we went to the Old City, entering via the Damascus Gate. We went to the Austrian hospice, which is a fascinating place! I walked around so many times but never noticed it, I thought it was just some sort of church. We wanted to visit the Austrian cafe, and to do that you have to be in on the secret – you have to ring the bell, they let you in, then there’s another gate (it kinda looks like a prison gate) and you walk until you see the cafe. We both ordered iced coffee and apple strudel, they were delicious!!
It was a really nice day, and I have to say that I am so glad that two of us became friends! I am certainly going to miss her when I leave!

Israel: Day 64

I woke up this morning tired as usually, and even though it was hot outside, I decided to go sightseeing! Today I wanted to visit the City of David, an archaeological site.

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I am not a huge fan of cats (especially stray cats), but when I saw this little cutie this morning, my heart just melted. It was so teeny tiny!

Apple Maps app doesn’t show streets in the Old City and for an unknown reason it doesn’t show exact addresses and sites in the East Jerusalem either, but I knew which Old City gate the site was located at, so I decided to walk through the Old City following  the signs. Well, I didn’t quite get it right, I got lost and ended up walking more than I should have (typical!). I finally got to the site and I was just buying a ticket, when the lady working at the ticket office asked me if I have my own flashlight or want theirs. I was puzzled, so I asked what would I need a flashlight for. She looked at me like I was insane, and said for the tunnel of course. I said I didn’t want to go to any tunnel, I just wanted to see the archaeological site. She explained to me that to get to the site I need to walk through a tunnel. I said that well maybe I could give it a go, thinking that even though I have claustrophobia, perhaps the tunnel wasn’t too bad? She said that in that case she didn’t recommend me to go there at all. Apparently you have to walk through the tunnel for 20 minutes and it’s very narrow and dark (hence the flashlight). I was really disappointed as I really wanted to see the site, but she was completely right, there’s no chance I could do this.

Therefore I decided to walk around the walls of the Old City. There was a magnificent view from the path!

Later, I entered the Old City via Lion’s Gate, and made sure to hurry up as I was passing through. After the attack on policemen on Friday, I felt a bit scared, there was a big group of people gathering around some local Arab news reporter, and people were praying/chanting, and there was a big group of policemen by the entrance.

Anyway, this gate is a starting point of the last walk of Jesus to crucifixion, which then continues on to the Via Dolorosa (a usual sight during Easter on TV is a procession and full streets of people undertaking the same journey).

As it was really hot today (34’C) and I was suffering, I went home to relax. When I got home I wasn’t pleased, I got so sweaty that my t-shirt and trousers were wet. I was so sad when I saw my trousers in particular – it looked like I peed myself (and many many people must have thought so too!!).

 

Israel: Day 63

I decided to take it easy today as temperature was quite high again and all that heath was rather exhausting. After checking the weather forecast, I definitely gave up my wish to visit Masada, as it’s over 40’C there every day, and tomorrow it’s going to be 44’C! I don’t think I would survive that! I’m already struggling with the Jerusalem temperatures!

Because of the unbearable heath, I spent the day in, apart from a short trip to a nearby corner shop to buy mineral water. As I was walking up four flights of stairs carrying six big bottles of water, I was questioning my dedication to proper drinking regime.

I wasn’t as productive as I originally planned today, mainly because I ended up taking a nap again and procrastinating a lot (on the bright side, now I know what kind of potato I am – thanks Buzzfeed, btw, it’s scalloped potatoes).

Israel: Day 62

The weekend’s over now but I would say this was a good one! This morning I was writing my thesis, and I was actually quite productive, I also managed to do laundry (how exciting!), in the afternoon I felt exhausted from the heat so I took a nap and in the evening the German girl and I went to the Haas promenade.

The Haas promenade isn’t too far away from the flat we are staying at, it takes cca 45 minutes on foot. I was so glad she suggested we go there, because the views are just SPECTACULAR. I’ve been in love with Jerusalem for a while now, and this only confirmed my love for the city. It was already twilight when we got there, and the city and its buildings were glittering in the dark. Together with the surroundings (my biology knowledge is really poor – I think those were pine trees?), the atmosphere was quite magical and I felt like I was a part of some biblical story. I later found on the Internet that according to Jewish legend, it was from the location of today’s promenade that God showed Abraham where one day his descendants would build their holy city.