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Israel/Jordan/Palestine: Win One For The Kippa

Part 2: Jordan / Jerusalem
Segments of the Jordan / Jerusalem section include:

Day 5: Wadi Musa->Jerusalem

Western Wall, Jerusalem on the Sabbath
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Up early again, and on the move to Jerusalem. We take a cab ride from a driver who is only marginally less a terrifying driver than our one when we arrived two nights previous. Two white-knuckled hours later, we get to the Jordan-Israel border. It is busier than before, but that still only means around a dozen people and one car in our 20 minutes at the crossing. Again, it feels eerie.

We get to Jerusalem around 5:30 and walk through the Old City and towards the Western Wall in order to see it on the Sabbath. The Orthodox Jews walking there in their fur hats and trenchcoats, despite the fact it's boiling, freaks me out. At the Wailing Wall, it's actually a much more fun atmosphere than I had imagined. While I had pictured it would have an almost Gregorian chant of prayer at the Wall, instead the loudest noises are of excited teenagers dancing and singing and having the time of their lives. Many are teens here on cultural tours from other countries and they are excited out of their minds. These are some pumped-up Jews!

Kids shout and sing “Shabat Shalom” and dance around, some dance on each other's shoulders. The weather is perfect and warm and the whole atmosphere is very fun. We sit there and read for an hour or so, soaking up the good times.

We have a tasty local beer to beat the heat and relax. L'chaim!

Jerusalem Photos
Western Wall on Sabbath, Jerusalem Western Wall on Sabbath, Jerusalem Western Wall on Sabbath, Jerusalem Old City Market, Jerusalem Old City Market, Jerusalem

Day 6: More Jerusalem

Light shining on Jesus' Tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Light shining on Jesus' Tomb
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Today we decide to head to Dome of the Rock, one of the few sites open on a Saturday morning, according to Lonely Planet. As we get moving, however, Stephanie realizes she has left her scarf at the bar from the night before. We go to find it but the bar is not yet open. However, Stephanie sees it – the staff have taken it and are using it as a wrap to hold together a broken potted plant. Ingenious!

We head straight to Temple Mount to hopefully avoid the lineups, only to be informed that it, too, is not open on Saturdays. Sigh. Other people are showing up when we are there, too, and everyone is leaving disappointed… or not leaving, in disbelief. (And this is a city of believers, if ever there was one!)

We instead head to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place where Jesus' tomb lies. The church itself is a trip, partially because of its beauty, partially because of the myriad of different religious rituals being performed people there by the mass of tourists. At the Stone of Unction, where Jesus' body was washed, one woman is gyrating and speaking in tongues while a group of 60-year old Chinese women hand out dozens of rags and polish the stone vigourously, like exuberant informercial spokespersons.

When we get to Jesus' tomb, I'm actually quite awed, too much to really “get” what it is I'm looking at. One poor priest continually shoos people out of the tomb's cramped viewing chamber, then runs out to the side of the tomb in order to blow out the hundreds upon hundreds of prayer candles being lit, which continue to merge into massive flames and almost certainly threaten to burn the tomb to the ground.

Most places are still closed for the Sabbath, so we visit the Ethiopian Monastery before wandering through a few neighbourhoods outside of the Old City. We eat at an Armenian restaurant playing Michael Bolton's Greatest Hits on repeat, which is even eerier than the desolate Jordanian border.

More Jerusalem Photos
Urns, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Light shining on Jesus' Tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Light shining on Jesus' Tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Light shining on Jesus' Tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Dome, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Dome, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Prayer (with bling), Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Day 7: Even More Jerusalem

Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Steph and I walk through the Jewish Quarter to Temple Mount again which, thankfully, is open today. On the way, I stop in to use the bathrooms at the Western Wall, which have toilet paper so rough I feel like I must be atoning for something by using it.

On our walk to Temple Mount, I note that the number of teenagers walking around with pistols and machine guns is kind of disconcerting, particularly the ones who aren't in army uniform. The fact that they look young enough that they'd fire these guns off after being incited by a particularly shocking episode of “Dora the Explorer” doesn't help my feeling of unease.

At Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock is beautiful and, amazingly, once again there aren't that many people there. Once more, we are the only people in our photos. Incredible. It's pretty and serene but we don't stay long as I have curiously picked today to get sick (I think it was the Michael Bolton). We take it easy for the rest of the day, checking out the main market and wandering through the City Centre. With my stomach in a delicate state, I make sure to stay very far away from the Western Wall bathrooms.

Even More Jerusalem Photos
Cityscape, Jerusalem Temple Mount, Jerusalem Temple Mount, Jerusalem Mosaics at Temple Mount, Jerusalem Open Square at Temple Mount, Jerusalem Temple Mount, Jerusalem