The First Day – Old City Jewish Quarter (Jerusalem)

After lunch, we walked through the Armenian quarter into the Jewish quarter.

Map - Wall

They’ve been excavating a lot.

01 - Main Street

This used to be the main street. Here’s an artists impression:

02 - Artist's Impression

This is a Byzantine-era mosaic of Jerusalem (a copy of the original):

03 - Byzantine Mosaic

And some more (flooded) excavated ruins:

04 - Flooded Ruins

We were heading for the Wailing Wall. I kept seeing Ultra-Orthodox men wandering around with what appeared to be plastic bags tied over the broad-brimmed hats. As we walked down to the Wailing Wall, we could hear the Call to Prayer playing loudly from the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Temple Mount is actually an artificially-constructed box, so the Wailing (or Western) Wall is the western side of that box.

As you come down the steps to the Wailing Wall, you have to go through a metal detector.

05 - Wailing Wall

pick the non-Jew

Men and women pray separately – you can just see the barrier in the left corner of this picture. Even though it’s a “wailing” wall (because of the apparent sadness of the Jews at being unable to go into the actual Temple), there were men dancing in the men’s section when we passed.

I forgot to walk backwards when I finished praying. I hope I didn’t upset or offend anyone there.

On the way out is the biggest mezuzah in the world (I think. It might be the second-biggest. It wasn’t entirely clear).

06 - Biggest Mezuzah

I have yet to work out why all mezuzot seem to be crooked.

On the right of this wall is the Wailing Wall; on the left is a street. We hurried down the street (it was raining again/still) and out the Dung Gate (which would have been funny under drier circumstances). We came out somewhere on the south-east corner and headed up the Eastern Wall to wait for the bus.

07 - Eastern Wall

Then we drove home.

Map - Home

I headed down to the sauna with the ladies, and then had a steaming hot shower. Neither has seemed to have done much good, because three hours later, I’m shivering and freezing again. I can’t seem to get the air-con to be more effective, and I have the vague feeling a window somewhere in here might be open. Or perhaps it’s just because I’m right on the end that we’re not as warm as the rooms in the middle (like penguins, perhaps).

There was a large group of youths at dinner wearing jumpers which read “CLJI-Tech – Trip to the Start-Up Country”.

I’ve become fascinated with kippot. Two old men in the dining room had matched theirs to their shirts, which I thought was pretty cool. I wonder if they have a huge stockpile to choose from. Some of the American Jews here seem otherwise very liberal in the way they dress (women have no headcoverings, boys in t-shirts, et c.) and I’ve seen some of them wearing the same kippah every time.

Plain black, usually velvet or satin, seems to be the most popular – I suppose it matches with everything! But it’s also the colour of choice for the Ultra-Orthodox (who wear black suits and long black jackets and wear side-locks, curled presumably with some sort of electronic curling device). There are a couple of young men I’ve seen in the dining room who are wearing the tiniest little kippot I’ve seen – I think they must have bought them in the babies’ kippot section or something!

The more conservative of the American Jewish women seem to prefer sort of overlarge cloth caps for their headcoverings, while the local women all seem to wear tichels. I’ve seen a few just tied on, but mostly they’re the ornate wrapped tichels I’ve seen in some online shops and always thought were oh-so-slightly impractical.

I’m so ready for the day off tomorrow. Some of the group have plans to head back into the Old City tomorrow, but I plan to stick around the hotel. It seems like a waste of time, but I so need to take things easy and rest for a day. Besides which, my shoes are soaked; it will take at least a day for them to dry wearably.

So I plan to sleep in tomorrow. There’s a souvenir shop in the lobby, so I might have a look in there, and there’s a public piano, too, so I’ll try to get that at some point.


4 thoughts on “The First Day – Old City Jewish Quarter (Jerusalem)

  1. Ruth Hay says:

    maybe you could buy some more shoes as well. It doesn’t matter if you leave a pair there. Have a nice restful day. It would be good if you could play the piano as that helps you relax!

    • Rachel says:

      I checked at the desk and it turns out that we’re not allowed to play the piano. But I ordered some more blankets (which arrived) anyway. I started out with both blankets last night, but then my roommate came back and she was so cold we took one blanket each, and then we were both cold.

  2. Jo Creek says:

    I had the same thought as your mother: buy some more shoes.
    I have appreciated the maps with your route clearly marked on them; firstly, the map of Israel and now the map of Jerusalem.

  3. Rachel says:

    I have two pairs of shoes, so I’m wearing one pair only inside the hotel to keep them dry! They’re not really walking shoes, either. The sneakers dry out reasonable well over night (although still slightly damp, depending on how wet they got during the day) – enough that with two pairs of socks, I won’t feel the dampness. Unless they get wet again. Realistically, the shoes aren’t going to stay dry for more than a block in this weather.

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