21/7/10 - 3/8/10 104 °F
Took a shared taxi to Jerusalem, thinking all the time “you haven’t a clue how to get to the Golden Gate Hotel. This is gonna be quite an afternoon.” Sure enough, after being dropped at Damascus Gate (had been told that’s the closest gate to the hotel), I negotiated my way through extremely crowded streets in 95 degree heat with backpack and rolling carry-on.
Navigate to where? So I asked. And just as in the U.S, people will give you directions whether or not they actually know where the place is. Finally gave up, and in a moment of sheer brilliance I thought “why don’t I call the hotel?”
Turns out I was looking outside the Gate of the Old City and should have been inside. By then I was about ½ mile from Damascus gate where I should have entered in the first place. The delightful young man Hani (never got his last name) said to go back to Damascus and he would walk out to meet me, which he did. Took me inside to Golden Gate Hotel / hostel, which I highly recommend – but don’t confuse it with the Golden Gate Inn outside the walls. It’s very basic, very clean, inexpensive. Would stay there again – 150 shekels per night, about $35.
Hot here, especially when one has to "dress modestly"! Don't know how women do it! Got in with no problem. don't know how looking like someone's Florida mother-in-law affected it, but no issues. Tucking away the dark lipstick and eyebrows to dig them out at Exit.
Jerusalem seems to be all one color - variations of a creamy stone. Seeing the magnificent ancient wall that surrounds the old city was just .... what? amazing? stunning? moving? So bright I needed sunglasses, which I never got.
more later, hopefully more interesting stuff.
What a visual feast is the Old City of Jerusalem! such narrow streets, and SO many people walking.
We're having a vegetable curry for dinner tonight, which Steve is cooking. He had asked if I wanted to cook dinner tonight, but I deferred. Didn't exactly want to tell him that had learned my skills from Leticia, so I said I'll do the chopping.
I already told you how lovely the City is - all cream colored stone, everything so old it makes England look like a whipper-snapper. The market here in the Old City is a maze of streets - you have to be very careful to note landmarks as you go, or you will never be seen again! But you won't starve while you're lost as there are shwarema and kabob shops all over.
The spice stores, especially, are a wonder. The smell, the arrangement, the variety. Saffron is about $3.00 for a large bag - I believe it goes for something like $280/lb in the states! Can’t imagine this stuff is pure saffron. I took a picture of a spice pyramid that defies belief - that it ever got built in the first place (only about 18 inches high, striated in a complicated design, with the dome of the rock at the top). It sits on the counter where at home someone would have bumped into it and knocked it all down soon after it went up.
Beautiful formal dresses in the shops, such as you would wear to the opera, or the prom. With so many women covered here, I don't understand yet who buys and wears them.
Got our itinerary tonight. Partial list: over the next two weeks, we'll join the Israeli Women in Black and then a demonstration in East Jerusalem in support of the Palestinians whose homes are being demolished daily to make room for more Jewish settlements(both of those tomorrow), to Sabeel, and to Jeff Halper's ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - ; BADIL, a Palestinian human rights organization, school accompaniment in Hebron, a women's cooperative in Hebron that produces fabric and embroidery (there goes my suitcase!), to a weekly demonstration in Hebron in support of Palestinians who had their homes welded shut in order to allow Jewish Israelis free access to Shuhada St (Hebron is a Palestinian town, mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but that's just an inconvenience – CHECK THIS OUT – you’ll be shocked! )
There's much more to the itinerary, but unfortunately I left it in my room. Will tell you more tomorrow nite.
The folks in this CPT group are all quite simpatico, about 1/3 of them ministers, most are Mennonite, though there are two Lutherans and one Nazarene. All but me are Christians and all but one drawn to this work for religious reasons, though one of us expresses no sect and is not very religious. My atheism does not appear to be an issue with folks (we had a round where people talked about their faith path, so had to share mine). They seem a very good group of folks to be doing this with.