Monday, February 27, 2017

Our Trip to Israel- City of David Tourism & Laundry Day

Monday, February 27th

Today was a day of stark contrast- in the morning, we did some of the most "touristy" things we have done while in Jerusalem, but in the afternoon, we did our laundry and I felt very much like a local Israeli.

We started out the morning taking the light rail to Hebrew University, hoping to be able to see some of the on-campus apartments since the dorm office was closed when we visited yesterday. Unfortunately, they were unable to show them to us today, but we are going to try again tomorrow.

We then caught a taxi from Mt. Scopus to the City of David. At first, the taxi driver was very confused about where we wanted to go. "Dung Gate" is not a popular attraction, I suppose. But, with Matt's Hebrew skills and our trusty map, we eventually were able to communicate where we wanted him to take us. He had a good laugh about everything and commented that Matt's Hebrew was very good and that I needed to learn Hebrew too.

After dropping us off at the gate, we walked the short distance to the City of David. We purchased tickets and planned to buy water shoes as well to go through Hezekiah's tunnels (also known as the Siloam tunnel). The tunnels were at the top of my list of things to do in Jerusalem. Matt wasn't so sure about it all, and he especially wasn't sure after we realized that none of the water shoes would fit him and he would have to go barefoot. But, he loves me so much that he said we could still do it. He jokes now that those were his famous last words :)

View from the gift shop & ticket windows in the City of David

View from the City of David platform

House beside the City of David platform

We descended numerous flights of crate steps underground. The yellow lights cast an eerie glow upon the stone walls and the air was damp and cold. The first half of the walk was through dry tunnels and caverns. Then, the path split- with Wyatt's Shaft (a dry tunnel) one way, and Hezekiah's tunnel (the wet tunnel) the other way. When we arrived at the split, though, everyone else took the path of the dry tunnels, and we were left staring into the small hole of blackness ahead of us. We had received plenty of warnings about the water level reaching the tops of our legs, but it still seemed a little scary at first. We ducked to enter, and Matt took off his shoes. Then, we began the 45 minute tunnel path. I do not consider myself claustrophobic, and I was the one who was the most excited about the tunnels, but I will admit that I felt a little unsure of everything, especially because we were the only two in the tunnel! Let's just say that we were very thankful for the mini souvenir flashlight the gift shop worker had encouraged us to buy.

Once we were a little further into the tunnels, I felt less nervous and was overcome with amazement of the natural beauty of what we were experiencing. Matt, on the other hand, was not having such an enjoyable time. No one had mentioned about how low the ceilings were going to be through most of the tunnel, and poor Matt was practically bent in half the whole trek. A few of his quotes throughout our walk were, "This must be purgatory." "Goodbye smooth stones on my feet... It seems I never can get both comfort for my back and for my feet at the same time. It's always one or the other- jagged stones or low ceilings." "I hope you're enjoying this, My Ka, because I'm not talking to you for a while after we get out of here." I couldn't help laughing most of the time, and I assured him that if I ever would doubt his love for me, I would remember Hezekiah's tunnels and rest assured :)

Pictures of the tunnels throughout history

Entrance to the tunnels

The start of the steps descending into the tunnels

I was very excited

Looking down into the tunnels from one of the staircases

One of the tunnel walls

Another view looking down into one of the tunnels

It was so dark that it was difficult to get a good picture when we were inside the tunnels,
but this can give you an idea of how narrow some of the spaces were.

View from the end of the tunnels, looking into the tunnels
at a group that came through a little after we did. 

He wasn't very happy at this moment,
but he really loves me! 

Our trusty little souvenir flashlights.

This was what was at the end of the tunnels.

Once we were through the tunnels, we saw the Pool of Siloam and followed its path up to Herodian's street (a dry lit 600m tunnel of steps leading to the Western Wall.) Once again, all the other groups turned around when they got to the entrance, but we went forward, the only two in that tunnel as well. This one had much higher ceilings though, for which Matt was very thankful.

Sign giving warnings about Herodian St. 

Picture of historical Herodian's St. 

Tunnel of Herodian's St. 

Thankfully for Matt, the ceilings were much higher,
and the tunnel was much wider. 

Once we made it to the Western Wall, we walked around the Old City for a bit. We stopped for some Falafel at Jaffa Gate. The falafel was good, but it was only a few pieces of falafel with a bunch of raw vegetables. Our favorite falafel so far has been at the Mahane Yehuda, where the vendor always stuffs the pitas full of falafel and tops them with hummus and various other sauces and pickled veggies and a scoop of homemade fries too if you'd like. (Matt actually was still hungry and stopped to get one of these as well on our way home, since we pass right through Mahane Yehuda to go back to the apartment.) 

An archaeological project going on just outside the Old City walls.

The Tower of David inside the Old City walls.

Where we ate lunch, just inside the Jaffa Gate.

There are vendors all over Jerusalem selling freshly pressed juices .

Matt had a conference call he had to be on this afternoon, so we decided this would be a good day to do our laundry, since we would have to be back at the apartment anyways for a few hours. Doing laundry here made me feel like a local for a few reasons... 

1) All of my pants needed washing, so I was wearing a long skirt. I was confused for a local when someone tried asking me questions in Hebrew about how to work the machines. That made me smile, but I had to respond, "Ani lo mavina Abrit." (I don't understand Hebrew.)

2) The only available dryer only took US quarters, and I didn't have any US change, only shekels. Go figure. So... 

3) I devised my own method of drying our clothes. Most Israelis hang dry their laundry anyway (at least that's what I have seen in Nahala'ot.) We didn't have a clothesline at the apartment here, so I brought out the coat rack and used whatever I thought would work to hang dry our clothes outside. 

So, that was our day. Tomorrow is my last day in Jerusalem! Matt & I will be spending the following day in Tel Aviv before my flight back to the US. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Our Trip to Israel- Visiting Hebrew University

Sunday, February 26th

This morning, we caught the light rail to Mt. Scopus to visit Hebrew University, where Matt has been accepted to attend this Fall. The campus was about a 20 minute ride on the light rail from Nahalaot, the part of Jerusalem we are staying in this week.

The campus is full of hills and shaded walkways. And the view from the mountain is breathtaking!  First, we visited the Health & Recreation Complex, which was very nice. It has a great pool, which Matt is excited about. After that, we walked to the Rothburg International School's building (the English-speaking school where Matt will begin his graduate program here). We were able to speak with one of the secretaries and learned some helpful information about membership to the Health & Recreation Complex; she also gave us helpful information regarding scholarships. Tomorrow, we plan to visit the campus once more to visit the on-campus apartments and to discover the best bus route (the bus stops are closer to the campus than the light rail stop).

The entrance to the campus from French Hill neighborhood

After walking through the campus gate into the Student Village

I was so excited to see a playground in the student village!
We will probably be spending a lot of time here!

On of the discouraging things (for me) about the campus was the lack of English. Nearly everything was  only in Hebrew. In Jerusalem, most things are in English as well, but the further out of Jerusalem you go, the less English you will see. 

Before we left campus, we stopped in at one of their cafe's and enjoyed one of the most delicious hot chololates! The barista dropped a handful of chocolate pieces into the mug and topped them with warm, frothy milk. After letting it sit a few minutes, you stir the melted chocolate into the milk, and it is so yummy!

The trip to the university took most of the day, so it was late afternoon before we rode the light rail back to our part of town. On our walk home, we stopped in Mahane Yehuda and found the neatest sausage, wine, & cheese shop. After a little confusion about the word "champagne" and a good laugh about it (at first the shop owner thought we wanted to buy mushrooms), we walked out with some champagne, orange juice, butter, and a chain of sausage links. We will definitely be visiting this shop in the future!

A group of teenagers stopped us on the street, pointing at Matt and laughing and saying "Wow." They took a picture of us with some of them.

We also made some more purchases in the shuk- including olives, eggs, hummus, baba gnosh, & fresh cherry tomatoes- all of which we enjoyed for dinner later that night. Matt caught one of the vendors from ripping us off by counting the shekels after he gave us our change from our purchase. And when I paid for the olives, Matt commented, "I like the way you dropped that 'Slichah' (excuse me) to get his attention.'" I guess Hebrew is growing on me after all :)

After dinner, we walked into the Old City once more and worked and read while sitting in a cafe in Mamilla.

Beautiful palm trees on Jaffa St. 

Jaffa Gate at night

Information about free tours that we found interesting

Old City Walls, taken from the steps leading down to Mamilla shopping center