The Dead Sea
I examined my burnt shoulders in the mirror that evening before getting into a decidedly cold shower. They were redder than ever. I have to admit, it has been ages since I've been out in the sun let alone when its at least 42 degrees out.
The rocks beneath my feet we scorching hot and stuck together because of all the salt from teh water. I waded into the water that was rapidly rising, turned to face my back to the wide expanse of ocean before falling backwards only to be caught by the buoyancy that the salty water provides. The water was boiling, hotter than a bath. I floated between a lounging position and being upright, trying tot touch the cold water below with the tips of my toes. Not an easy feat I might add.
We washed our stinging skin off under the cool, fresh water showers and lay our towels out on the stones. We sat and talked for a few hours before heading for the change rooms and treating ourselves to ice creams at the canteen.
The bus was cool and the air conditioning soothing on my hot face, drying the sweat that had begun to form while we waited, rather impatiently for the bus to arrive. Not long after we got on the bus we both fell asleep watching as the desert whizzed past us and the sea turned into mountains.
Jerusalem: The Old City
The bustling shuk of the Arab Quarter never seemed to end, and we found ourselves getting lost in the winding alleyways, walking past the same shops over and over again. every so often we would find ourselves down a different street. F
irst we explored the Jewish Quarter and all the old buildings towering above us, the ruins that lay below in their natural state. The Kortel was full of people celebrating, praying and tourists being tourists. I always walk up to the wall and look up at its vast expanse. I see women dovening, tourists putting notes in the wall and families rejoicing from the "wrong" side of the machitza (separation).
There is a tradition of walking without facing your back to the wall after dovening. I always feel uncomfortable doing it, and I see the look in some women's eyes that I must have in mine as I perform this ancient ritual without the true understanding.
Today I walked away normally.
We carried on wondering through the shuk filled streets and found our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We entered the church along with many more Christian People making their pilgrmage to the place where Jesus was prepared for the cross, we watched as they bent down and rubbed oil on that very spot and prayed. Walking around the church this time was different than before. As well as lookign at all the historical and religious places we looked at all the artwork and how it changed form different time periods and spoke about the meanings behind all the paintings, Mitchel even throwing in some tidbits about ancient historians that thought the mural on the roof of the Sistine Chapel was a representation of Christianity being a dark religion, when in fact, it was jsut a bit dirty.
We sat down for lunch at "The Best Falafel" place and for ten sheckle it was pretty good.
Day Three: Tel Aviv/Yafo
We left mid morning on a Shirut to Tel Aviv and managed to find our way to the pier. We sat on the rocks talking for a while before deciding that it was about time for lunch. We walked for a while along the ocean, the air filled with the smell of people having family a Mangal (Barbeque/Braai) on the beach. Children were loudly playing around on the grass as we walked. I kept a rhythmic pattern of foot steps trying to keep up with Mitchels long legs. Four steps on each square of paving. Sometimes three. We walked for what seemed like forever in the heat of the day, almost dehydrating because we were sweating so much.
We stopped in yaffo for a well deserved, steaming hot pan of freshly made Shakahuka. We ate in silence, not taking breaks between each mouthful. The sweet and salty mingled taste of the tomato sauce was an unbelievbly good sensation to have in ones mouth. The bread was soft and we used every last crumb to soak up the sauce on the pan. The water dropplettes rolled down the side of the jug as we sat in a food coma.
Seeking salvation and an escape from the heat we sought a shop to sit in for a while, pretend to browse as it were. Thankfully there were quite a few Home Ware stoes and we spent about two hours sitting on all the different couches and beds and chairs, even stopping, removing our shoes and feeling the softness of the carpet.
We found our way back to Yafo and walked through the old city looking at the mall artist galleries before having an afternoon shloof in a nearby park.
We boarded a bus to Haifa that night, both of us attempting to get comfortable squeesed in to the small, familiar bus seats of an egged bus.
Day Four: Haifa Stairways
The next morning we woke up freezing in the too low air conditioning of the Hashy Apartment. We showered, brushed our teeth ad pulled on our worn shoes ready to climb some stairs. We took the Carmalit, wich is an underground subway cart all the way uptown. The view was beautiful. You could see almost the entirety of Haifa. There were small cafes and resturants all opening for the day and as we walked we talked about how it reminded us of Cape Town. The air was fresh, almost too fresh to breath properly. We walked down what felf like 1000 stairs untill we found ourselves back where we started, a little sun burnt and a little sore in the leg area, but happy and excited about what a fantastic day we had. We saw so many different kinds of houses and parts of society.
Day Five: Haifa Bahai Gardens
I woke up bright and early to the uncomfortable smell that encompassed the entirety of the Hashy Apartments. The smell got into every part of ones being and lingered for a few days. Mitch and I had decided that today was the day for the exploring of, what we affectionately called, Uptown. We hopped on the Carmel, conveniently located just outside the apartment. We arrived uptown quite early. The city was just waking up and people were hurriedly getting to work before their bosses fired them.
We quickly found the Bahai Gardens and joined the queue eagerly waiting to be let in. I had been to the Gardens before, when I was sixteen, we spent a lot of time taking selfies trying to get the gardens in the background, but this time I could actually appreciate the effort put into the building and just how beautiful the city of Haifa was. We joined the organised tour, to get a little bit more information on what we were doing. Remember kids! It leaves at 12 sharp.
The Bahai People built the Gardens as a tribute to their leader. Everything is built symmetrically and so that one can really appreciate the beauty and splendour of the gardens. There are fountains and water streams that go all the way to the bottom of the gardens, as well as hundreds of round lights, that illuminate the gardens at night.
We walked down 9 tears of the Gardens and once we had reached the bottom found ourselves some ice-y, cold, frozen yogurt the cool us off.
It was back to the Apartment for us to fetch our things and catch our bus back to Jerusalem. The bus ride was quick and comfortable, we spoke about Netzer and all the big ideas we had and about our friends and how we would handle life when we got back home after being away for so long. Neither of us had any idea.
Day Six: Jerusalem at Night
We stepped off the tram just up the road from where we were living at around 7pm. Tired, with dragging feet we walked down the hill longing for bed and the return of Lily who had spent the last two months in either South AFrica, Israel or England. Spotting the Hustle and Bustle of the Mamilla strip we took a quick peek inside and found what was almost a carnivalle. Along with the usual mass of shoppers and art adorers there were now hundreds of people watching the street performers and the clowns that seemed to be around every corner.
One woman that caught our eye was the one blowing GIGANTIC bubbles for all the kids to jump up and pop, shrieking with excitement.
She was my favourite.
Lily and Josh were home and our Group was on the way to being completely reunited. We all threw on some clean clothes and headed out to Hamarkia, the best soup place in town, for a well deserved dinner.
Day Seven: Bethlehem
It was hot waiting for the Arab bus on the side of the road. The ground was hot, the people were hot and there was a load of construction going on in the background.
We caught the bus when it came.
The fences were high, the designated pathways were long and redundant, the doors were large and there was a beeping sound whenever you went through. Soldiers stood guard waiting to search people whom they deemed 'suspicious'. We walked through without any trouble. The man behind us, who was clearly in a hurry to get where he was going, was made to walk through metal detectors and be subjected to being searched and asked to show his ID. He was not pleased.
Inside Bethlehem we walked along the separation wall, admiring the graffiti and even witnessing a bunch of what looked like 15 or 16 yearolds all working together to create a new piece of political artwork.
We spoke to a woman whose house is completely cut off from the rest of the neighbourhood by the wall. She told us of the time when they were first building the wall and how her and her family were locked inside their house. She told us of another time when there was quite a bit of conflict in the area and there were soldiers that would use her house as their base. She was distraught.
We walked around for a good few hours getting increasingly lost, but not all that bothered by it. We stopped for a delicious lunch of Hummus and Falafel before heading back passed the wall and out through the check point, onto another bus and into our apartment.
There we found an assortment of Shnatties, both from Hashy and Netzer, all back from their trips in Europe. Our group was complete again. We sat in a circle on the ground swapping stories of the past week.
Jordy: "Why dont we go to Humus Ben Sira?"
Shosh: "Im okay with anything!"
Jade: "Why dont we just go to Japanica! Thats something that no one wants to do."