Monday – October 4th, 2010
Today was a sloooooowww morning for me. Having just gone to bed not a few hours earlier I was in some pain. The plan was to be up and out of the house by 7:30am and head to Jerusalem. Albeit my more innate human instincts I dragged my ass out of bed and crammed into our tiny rental car and headed to the holiest of holy cities.
We discovered parking can be a tough project in Jerusalem considering, King Solomon probably didn’t consult his city planner to discuss roads and traffic congestion. However, leave it to the Alhadeff’s to have a friend in the “biz”. Kathie had a friend who worked for the Sephardic Education Center (SEC) and he hooked us up with not only a parking spot but a wheelchair for Papoo. Our car was so tiny there was no way we could fit the wheel chair we borrowed and still cram six people in their. At this point, if you haven’t done the math already, I should note that Heather did not join us…she was a little tired.
I should mention that the way the old city used to be was a walled fortress. Having twelve “gates” which you could enter in which only three still exist today. We entered in the Jaffa gate, pronounced Yaffo gate, and drove straight to our new friend, coincidentally named Israel. He got us a parking spot and then walked us to the SEC. Israel gave us food and drinks and then told us all about the great work he’s doing and helping students learn about their Sephardic Jewish heritage especially as it relates to the country of Israel.
We spent most of the morning there and we all learned a lot! Israel was able to track down a wheel chair for Papoo and again, pushing him over the cobble streets proves quite the challenge. After the SEC, we went to a few different synagogues that are very, very old, and I stress the Old factor. They were beautiful and built entirely out of Jerusalem stone. We got to go inside one of them and see how they are still active and thriving in the walled City.
Finally, it was time to meander over to the highlight of anyone who goes to the Old City, the Kotel. Known by many as the Wailing Wall or just the Western Wall, either way it is a special place. The wall is enormous and towers over anyone standing at its base. I’ve also learned that it goes some three times as far down underground as it does above ground – WOAH! There are two sides, separating men and women and it’s a quite, spiritual, and emotional place for many. My grandma Ruth, Kathie, and I head towards the women’s side and each said our own solemn prayers and touched the holiest remnants of our once wonderful Temple. With the unfortunate Dome of the Rock in the background I slipped a small piece of paper* with a personal prayer into the wall, hoping one day to have it answered.
- point of note: I didn’t have just a “small piece of paper” so I used my new NGPC business card, so sue me!
My grandfather Abraham, my dad Steve, and Noah headed to the men’s side and Papoo got to use the new Talit he purchased from a local artisan. I’m sure their experience was just as powerful.
Eventually we all met back in the common area where talking is allowed, and noticed there were an absurd amount of soldiers growing in numbers each with Oozies and M-16’s flung over their shoulders. Now I should mention that one or even several soldiers walking the streets of Israel is nothing new and quite the common occurrence. However, I’ve never seen so many organized in one place. So I put on my detective hat and discovered why! Apparently each year, all the new recruits of the Israel Army are inducted in a ceremony at the Kotel, which is very fitting. So we’d arrived on such a night and all the families of the soldiers were pouring in, unfortunately we couldn’t stay but it was special to have witnessed nonetheless.
We wandered the “shooks” of Jerusalem and bought souvenirs, artwork, jewelry, and I of course took hundreds of photos. Ultimately, most of these will end up online so keep an eye out. Speaking of which, if you would like a kodakgallery email of all the photos I’m going to post make sure and send me an email so I’ve got your email. We all had lunch at an outdoor café and took in the sights! So many different types of people, different languages, and different attire, even different religious sects walking around makes Jerusalem truly a melting pot of the world.
Lastly, we said goodbye to our new friend Israel, the holy city with the bustling streets, the stores and craft markets, and the wonderful views of the Wailing Wall and headed home to Tel-Aviv. I crashed from a long day but boy, what a day.