Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Our Trip to Israel- Garden of Gethsemane, Mt. of Olives, & Apartments

Tuesday, February 28th

In the morning, we planned to visit Hebrew University once more to see if we could look at one of the on-campus apartments. When we arrived, however, the student housing office was closed again, but the receptionist told us to come back later that afternoon.

The campus is close to the Garden of Gethsemane & Mt. of Olives, so we caught a taxi and headed there. The taxi driver was Arab, which is more common in East Jerusalem, but he spoke Hebrew very well, and he and Matt enjoyed talking to one another. He told us all about the popular foods in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, and when we told him we were from Kentucky, he exclaimed, "Ahhh! KFC!" which made us laugh.

The Garden of Gethsemane was so neat to see. The garden is enclosed, with a walking path surrounding it.

Beside the garden is a breathtaking church building, with large columns and ornate details, called the Basilica of the Agony. The pictures are a bit blurry because I had to turn off the camera's flash. 

Basilica of the Agony, next to the Garden of Gethsemane

View of the Old City wall from the Garden of Gethsemane

Entrance to the Basilica of the Agony

The beautiful interior of the Basilica of the Agony

After visiting the Garden, we hiked up the Mt. of Olives. This was one experience I will never forget. We would climb for a little while, then stop and look at the view in amazement. Then, we would continue up further and stop, this time even more stunned with the view we saw. I kept thinking, It can't get any more beautiful than this! But it did. I was breathless (and not just from the climb :) when we reached the top. The Dome of the the Rock is absolutely captivating. And the Jewish cemetery that runs alongside the pathway and seems unending is so intriguing; we learned that many Jews desire to be buried in this place because they believe that the resurrection will occur first in the Valley of Jehosaphat. 

When we reached the top of the mountain, we sat together for a while, taking in the stillness of the moment, watching Orthodox Jews bowing to the wall of the cemetery while others prayed over some of the graves. 

Jerusalem has already captured a piece of my heart. 

The start of the path leading up the Mt. of Olives. 

The view kept getting more and more stunning. 

The Cemetery

The sign for the cemetery. 

Peeking through a whole in the wall of the cemetery.

We weren't sure why some of the graves had rocks on them.
Does anyone know if this has any significance? 

Could it get any more breathtaking than this? 

The random camel at the top of the Mountain.
We were quite tempted to ride him back down to the bottom :) 

Jews who were bowing and praying. 

Once we walked back down the mountain, we walked along the city wall, through East Jerusalem, back towards our apartment. 

In the afternoon, we took the light rail back up to Mt. Scopus, in hopes of being able to see an apartment at Hebrew University, since we hadn't had very much luck the past three times we had tried. We almost were unable to see them this time, since there had been some confusion with the front desk giving us wrong information on the student office's available times, and we hadn't been told we needed an appointment. Despite all of this, however, the lady was very gracious and let us see one of the Student Village apartments quickly. 

I will be honest, after we walked out of the apartments and sat on one of the wooden benches overlooking the student village, I started crying. Seeing the apartment had given me an overwhelming sense of reality that we were really moving here and that things will be very different. The apartment was very small (probably less than 500 sq. ft as a two bedroom), but that was not a problem. I actually prefer small apartments- less to clean :) And we won't have very many belongings since we are selling almost everything and are really limiting what we bring with us. But there were two other things stuck out to me: there was no oven, and there were large desks mounted to the wall in the two bedrooms, taking up about half of each room. Each bedroom had a twin bed, just like a dorm. We decided that we might be able to put the two twin beds next to each other in one room to make it like one bed for Matt and I to share, but we are not certain if that will work because of the desk. I wondered about all of this and about how we would fit the girls' pac'n'play and toddler mattress in their bedroom with the desk in the way. The oven-less kitchen seemed even more discouraging though. It was like the no-hot-water-in-the-shower moment at the beginning of our trip. I felt overwhelmed. But, after having time to process everything and think about it, I think we could make this apartment work, if the beds will fit. The kitchenette does have a little stovetop and a fridge. There might be some adjustments, but we could make it work. God will give grace and thankfulness and contentment. When I stop to think about it, it is even such a blessing to have a kitchen with a stovetop and a fridge! How spoiled I can be in America sometimes, taking so many things for granted. 

So I have a plan for when we return home to the US for a few months- to practice cooking everything without a stove for a month (I actually realized that many apartments in Jerusalem, not just on-campus, do not have an oven). I also want to learn how to cook a whole fish (and to eat a whole fish- I can't believe I have never done this before!) And I'm going to find and create some recipes using some of the most inexpensive ingredients of Israel (tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, chickpeas, olives, etc.) I heard it said once that a Jewish mother encouraged her son not to marry a woman unless she knew how to prepare an eggplant 80 different ways. So, to be like an Israeli, I have quite a few ways to go :) 

We did look into some apartments in the area we are staying now- Nahalaot. I absolutely love Nahaloat! It's such an eclectic mixture of people! In some parts, it is highly religious. And in others, it's like the crunchy, hippie section of Jerusalem. Like the Bardstown Rd. of Louisville, only Jerusalem style :) The apartments are very reasonable there too, for Jerusalem, that is. We may be able to book a small AirBnB for the first month or so when we move to Jerusalem to stay while we look around at apartments. We have been in contact with a realtor and Matt might look at a few places while he is here the next few days after I leave. The cost of living is very high in Israel. We still have to talk to Rothburg School (the English program Matt will be studying with at Hebrew University) and compare the on-campus apartments with the Nahalaot apartments. So, while we thought we would have more answers regarding apartments from this trip, we ended up with more unknowns. But that is all the more opportunity to trust God and to pray. He has already given much grace in helping me not to be anxious about these things. If He sees each sparrow and provided the lilies of the field with such beauty, I know He can provide us with a place to live. I do not need to worry. 

Later that night, we took some time visiting Mahane Yehuda market again. This shuk is one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. I wrote down some of the prices of food items sold in the market. Some examples are: 

- Spreads (Hummus, Baba Gnosh): 20 NIS/ 4 containers
- Olives : 26 NIS/ kilo
- Spices: 8-12 NIS/ 100g
- Tomatoes: 8-15 NIS/ kilo
- Eggplant: 3 NIS/ kilo
- Oranges (small like clementines): 2.5 NIS/ kilo
- Strawberries: 5-7 NIS/ kilo
- Eggs (medium size): 26 NIS/ 30 eggs OR 15 NIS/ 18 eggs
- Olive oil: 27-30 NIS/ container

** To get an idea of the conversion of shekels to US money, divide NIS amount by 4. So, you can see that oranges are so cheap here in Israel! We got a bag of oranges for about 75 cents US that would have been about $6 in America. 

I have been doing some research on local farms and produce in Israel, and I was so excited to find a local farm that offers a CSA subscription year round! The price is about $25 US/ week plus a small feel for delivery for a huge box of local organic vegetables. We joined a CSA last summer in Louisville and absolutely loved it! We felt connected to the farm where the vegetables were produced, were able to get to know the farmer and his family, and enjoyed a few potlucks with other subscribers. If we joined a CSA in Israel, it would give us a close connection with local farmers, a weekly newsletter that gives recipes and tips on how to cook local vegetables, and possibly more opportunities to learn and practice Hebrew in our interactions with them. I am so excited about this! 

I love this country and the people. Jerusalem really has captured a piece of my heart this week. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to visit. 

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