Monday, January 12, 2015

almost there.....

I was going back to Jerusalem again today but to a different area.  It really is the most fascinating of cities and I really enjoyed seeing so many different sides to it.

I had stayed at Shoshi's the previous night, and was going to be going off with Linda today. Again, we had never met, but became friends on Facebook, and we seemed to hit it off so I was looking forward to meeting her.

Shoshi dropped me off at Airport City where Linda was waiting for us, and we made plans to meet that night for dinner. I climb into Linda's car, and I think we talked the entire way there as if we had known each other for ever. We had a wonderful journey entering Jerusalem through the Jerusalem Forest, a great contrast between the pines and the white stone. We were going to Ein Kerem.

This was the Russian Orthodox church with gold domes

Ein Kerem is known as the Artist's Quarter as there are many artists who live and work in that area, but it is also better known perhaps as the birthplace of St John the Baptist. And it was to the Church of John the Baptist that we were heading.

It was in a house on this site that John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth. We walked up a small alley lined with shops and entered the courtyard of the church which was an oasis of calm. Before we went into the church itself, we studied the walls outside which had a prayer in every language, Hebrew, English, Arabic, Thai, Latin, South Korean, the Baltic languages, you name it and it was on the wall in tile. It was a very beautiful prayer and looked lovely in so many different languages, there were several tour groups so Linda and I went into the church, it was very quiet and there was a monk silently praying in one of the pews. The church is decorated in blue and white tiles and is very lovely. Some people came in behind us talking loudly and were quickly shushed - not that they took any notice.

We spent quite a time looking here and then we left and started to explore the town. We walked a little further up the hill and came across a lovely gallery, they had an exhibition of some beautiful work and again we spent some time looking at it all. I was almost very tempted to buy a piece, but had to think about my luggage, but there was a small piece........... oh well, I didn't get it but never mind.

Linda has a huge interest in art and artists, so I enjoyed being with her and discussing the subject. I am sure she will be horrified to see I included this photo of her but it is more for the sculpture she is looking at. The town is very old, and it was lovely to wander the backstreets and see some lovely houses tucked away, and a Boutique hotel.

We also visited a lovely Monastery or Convent where you could actually stay on retreat. The church there was very modern and there was a group who were going to hold a service so we stayed and joined it for a little while. The gardens were very beautiful and we spent some time looking around them and the surrounding countryside. We then thought we should have lunch and found a lovely restaurant, and although it was very sunny, it was quite chilly in the shade as there was quite a breeze. We were going to walk up to the Russian church after lunch, but they were re-laying the roadway to it, and it would have been a bit of a sticky walk. 

I think it will wait for the next trip as will a tour of all the artists studios. We decided that we would head back to Linda's apartment in Modi'in, and rest until we met up with Shoshi. It was a lovely relaxed day.

We went to a lovely Kosher restaurant, Caffit, and had a lovely meal, a selection of small dishes with Bulgarian bread. It was a very busy place and lots of families came in to eat. I looked across the room and saw a young Jewish family who were having a meal, father, mother and a little girl. The father had a bohemian look in the way he was dressed but had very long ringlets.... and an Uzi slung over his shoulder. I am guessing he was from a settlement on the West Bank.

All to soon, it was time to leave and say goodbye to Linda and head back to Shoshi's so that I could do my packing. Needless to say, I ended up sending a parcel home to myself as I was overweight and it's a $100 surcharge on Air Canada, so although I hadn't bought much, I had a lot of paper in the form of leaflets, catalogues and a book, although not huge, on the Israel Museum, oh and yes, I also had ten catalogues, again not huge on Linda Bar-On's show but it all adds up.

It was a late night, but finally it was done. The next morning Shoshi drove me to the airport and came through Security with me, this is just one check before you even get to the check-in desk, then once you get through that, your luggage is checked. If they see something odd, you are then sent to a line and have to wait to have your luggage searched. I waited patiently and then was called forward, put my suitcase on the table, and opened it for yet another lovely young man. He was looking at a screen and knew exactly where to go inside my case to pull out what had caused them to send me into this line, so, out came a jar of olive oil and a jar of olives and my Ahava body wash and lotion. 

I am pleased to say that once I could say who gave me the olives and oil I was allowed to repack them in my luggage and pass on to check in. I would have been disappointed to have had those confiscated as they were very much enjoyed, the olives went quickly once I got home as the husband loves them, and I am eking out the oil. I also got to put my body care back too.

I checked in with out any trouble and actually got a window seat, so Shoshi and I went off and had a coffee. Once she left me, I went through security at the departure entrance and made my way to Duty Free. I was looking for one particular store, Michal Negrin. I found it, as it happened to be on the way to my gate, and I had a little time to look around, again, I was shopping for a gift and found a beautiful belt which has been very much appreciated. I went to my gate and it wasn't too long before we were boarding. I made myself comfy and settled in for the 12 hour flight home, making a mental note that I would upgrade - no, not business, but there is a level in between - for a little more room on the next journey, I don't mind on a transatlantic, but a long haul like that needs a little more comfort.

The flight was delayed as there was a problem with the luggage hatch, indeed there was as I was seated in that area, the problem was they were still loading it. Oh well, I would get home when I got there, it looked as if the flight would be delayed by over an hour.

All of a sudden, it was all systems go and we found ourselves pushing back from the gate and then heading out to the runway. I looked out of the window, it's always my favourite part of the flight and listened to the roar of the engines and then the lift as we left the ground, I grabbed my camera as we flew over Tel Aviv.

That's when the tears started to flow.

I cannot stress what a wonderful experience this was. As I sit here finishing this, I am teary all over again. 

Up until now, you have heard what is basically, my travelogue. But, what did I think of Israel, it's people and the many places I visited? I really should give you my five cents worth.

It is an incredibly complex country, it is so vital and alive, I don't think I have ever been anywhere where the people themselves live life to the full, the hustle and bustle of the cities, the noise, the colours, so much colour, they really know how to live for the moment,  Watching the young doing their National Service, carrying their guns, boarding buses either going home or going to base, buying lunch, when Niza, Eti  and I went to brunch, we took a back road which passed a large base, parents parked on the sides of the roads waiting to collect their children as it was Shabbat.

Arabs and Jews living side by side and working together, as Bella told me, when we visited Salman and Hassan in Buq'ata, they had both worked in the quarry for her husband and held them in very high regard, its why they are such good friends. Walking through many different parts of Jerusalem and seeing so many different facets to that amazing city - and I have barely scratched the surface of it-but I have seen more than a normal tourist would do. 

All the different Jews, Hassidic, Lithuanian,  Habbad, so much to learn there, all the different nuances in a very complex city.  Arabs selling Christian artifacts, they have to make a living.

The warmth of the people, Jewish or Arab, and their gratitude that you made the effort to go, staying in their homes, trying to help and being told to sit!

Driving through the West Bank, trying to understand the borders, going to the mall, theatre or cinema and having your bag searched and passing through security. Seeing children on a kibbutz school with an armed guard while they play. I heard about Israel and Palestine, I am not going to repeat it as there were many private conversations except to say the gist of all of them is that they all want peace, things don't have to be this way. 

Will I go back? Try and stop me, it is too important to make it just one trip, all the people I met, the new friends I made, how could I not want to go? I have too much to learn.............

I hope I haven't bored you with this tale, I enjoyed writing it, it is a trip that will remain with me forever. I have tried to write every day, but it is still so clear in my mind, I took over two thousand photographs - the husband has sat through every one of them - and they are a wonderful record of a wonderful trip.

Until the next time............

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