I’m not quite sure where to start. It’s 2am and, of course, I’m wide awake after four hours of sleeping. My mind is in a whirl about the past 24 hours.
Our flight was fantastic, of course. Who wouldn’t love a surprise upgrade to first class to Israel? In fact, I could have stayed there for fourteen days (kidding). Upon our arrival, we were greeted at the gate by a lovely young woman who was our VIP escort (another surprise). She whisked us away into a private car, drove us around the airport to a separate customs area. So far, I’m loving Israel and raising an eyebrow at my husband over such spoiled treatment (no, I will not get used to it…but I sure would like to).
We drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I’m transfixed to the window, staring at the magical land of Jesus and thinking…wow. That’s it. Just “wow”. It’s not a very pretty land, at least not near Tel Aviv. The closer we get to Jerusalem, it does get a bit prettier with hills, trees, and interesting plants. My husband compared it to New Mexico…to which I reply that it’s NOTHING like New Mexico (we had a really bad adventure in New Mexico so it will always be known as the land of tumbleweeds and pressed ham sandwiches to me…but that’s another blog…maybe).
One thing that I’ll compliment is the flowers. There are flowers everywhere and I find that amazing because…it’s HOT. As in REALLY HOT. I notice that they have an intricate drip irrigation system through the crops in the fields and near their landscaping.
Mental note: Try to configure that at home. I’m not a big fan of the time spent watering…
After unpacking, my husband and I decide to venture out for a long walk. I need the exercise. Sleep, at this point, is not an option. We find Old Jerusalem and my husband takes me toward the Arab Quarters outside of the wall. It’s a really cool, long alleyways between two buildings with arches and ceilings. It’s like walking through a tunnel that goes down, down, down. Along the way, there are little shops with not very happy looking Arabs selling their goods. One man says “Hola” to me. I’m too tired to respond in English or Spanish but I do ask my husband if I look Spanish. He laughs.
My husband directs me down another alley way and suddenly we are whisked through security and are standing at the top of some stairs, staring at the Western Wall. My husband explains some of the history about the wailing wall as we approach. I notice that men are segregated from the women but both are allowed to pray at the wall. I see some people touching the wall, others are rocking back and forth. Women must dress modestly and have covered shoulders to be allowed near it. I’ll do that tomorrow.
Next to this area is the Temple Mount. It’s the place where Adam was created, where the Arc of the Covenant was rested, and where Abraham, Issac, and God had a serious discussion. Apparently, Torah Law forbids Jewish people from entering that most holy of sites. I find that interesting because I’m more than eager to trot right through. Clearly, I’m too curious to ever be Jewish. How could you live right here…next to THE PLACE where creation began (Biblically speaking) and not be the least bit inclined to peek? I know where I’ll be this afternoon when the gates open…
After that adventure, my husband wants to introduce me to falafel…Israeli style. We leave the Old City through an archway. I’m too eager to take photos and absorb the 2000+ wall to notice where we are going. I trust my husband. After all, he lived here many years ago.When I stop admiring the wall, I realize that my husband is taking me down (and I mean down) a very winding road. We are in pursuit of falafels and that’s quite the mission…
Forty-five minutes (and about 10 lbs. of sweat) later, no falafel and we are deep into what I could only describe as an Arab ghetto. Graffiti, garbage, not very safe looking roads. I’m trying to be a good sport and no complain. I’m working on no sleep here. But when he looks around and says, “I think we need to go back,” my first reaction is “NO WAY!” It’s super hot, I sweating to death, and he wants me to walk BACK UP THAT WINDING ROAD???? Not happening. So we continue down, down, down. Finally, we realize it’s a problem. We are getting further and further away from what I would consider civilization (i.e. bottled water) and we make a decision…we will walk back but take the left fork in the road.
It’s long. It’s winding. It’s hot. There’s a lovely old looking rock wall up one side. I choose that side and, as my calves begin to burn, start chanting the Little Engine that Could motto: I think I can, I think I can. But, about fifteen minutes into it, this little engine poops out. “Man down. Man down. Go on without me,” I call out to my husband with a weary wave of my now sunburned arm. “It’s OK to leave a man behind. It was nice knowing you.”
Luckily, at that very moment, a white van appears. In my dehydrated, delusional state, it could have been an angel on a white horse for all I know. It might as well have been. The man had mercy on my slumped body, draped over the old rock wall and my husband just standing there, shaking his head at my theatrical rendition of my final moments. The man says something in Arabic. My husband answers. At this point, I don’t care who he is. He has wheels and shelter from sweltering sun: I’m getting in that van.
The man turned out to be quite nice. He drove us back to the hotel. I poured myself out of the door and let my husband figure out how much our salvation was worth (100 shekels, apparently, to which nice white van man said it was too much…).
Well, that was part one from day one. Yes, there is a part two but now I’m tired and think I might try to catch a few winks before day two starts in about four hours.