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The Tour Begins

But not until we meet our guides at 5:30. Around 1:00 PM, we moved to the hotel where we will spend the rest of our time in Jerusalem. We trundled our suitcases the two blocks from the guesthouse. The hotel is really nice, upscale from what we are used to. But we still rather miss the guesthouse, with its beautiful garden and old Middle Eastern atmosphere.

For lunch, we went down the corner to the Educational Book Shop. This was a lovely, tiny shop with a great selection of books in several languages, largely pro-Palestine and therefore quite lefty, which is fine for us. It's the kind of shop we used to have a fair number of in the States before they disappeared, first to the big conglomerates and then to Amazon. This store has a cafe, where Marty ordered tuna salad and a coke, and I ordered a sandwich of labneh and veggies and minted lemonade. Then we went upstairs and sat at a table, happily perusing books. After a while, we wondered if maybe we were supposed to pick up our lunches, so I went down and asked the proprietor if that was the case. "No, we will bring it. We have not started. It will be a while." Ooooh kaaay, thought I. But we didn't really care, as it was delightful to sit in a great book store and soak up local color that is not covered in the guide books. Finally, they brought the food, and it was delicious! I wish I had taken a picture of Marty's salad, which was huge and filled with tuna and olives and cucumbers and tomatoes. All salads in this country are huge and wonderful. My sandwich, while less spectacular looking, was delicious. And the "lemonade" was actually a lemonade and sherbet frosty. I thought I would leave some, as I am not used to so much for lunch, but guess what. . . I didn't!

Then we decided just to have a direction to go we'd walk whatever part of the Via Dolorosa we could, so we headed into the Old City through Herod's Gate. This led us down a street where we had never been before, one that was much less congested than others, displaying the gorgeous golden Jerusalem stone on pavement and walls. The first station, "Jesus is condemned to death," is now the site of an Islamic school, but a shopkeeper led us up behind his shop and showed us a fabulous view of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque through a window in the wall. We proceeded down the street, checking out the various stations, sometimes noting them from the street, sometimes stopping into the church or courtyard built there. One, the eighth station, I think, the one where Jesus talks to the women of Jerusalem was identified by the guidebook as being across from an internet cafe. Marty suggested that it should be called "Jesus stops at the internet cafe."

All along the street, from about the third station on, there was a constant stream of shops on both sides, from each of which a proprietor called, "Hello, come into my shop! I have beautiful jewelry / pottery / holy souvenirs. I give you good price." But I at least was suspicious of the quality of the items. I like to seek guidance from Karen who used to run a folk art shop. And lo and behold, whom should we encounter exiting a pottery shop but Karen. Now we could shop! And so we did.

After the eighth station, we decided to head back to the hotel. I was really proud of my navigational abilities, for I led us straight to the Damascus Gate by the street to our hotel. Promptly at 5:30 we gathered in the meeting room to meet our guides and introduce ourselves. One of our guides, Yuval, remembered me, and I introduced Marty as the reason for my return. Marty had trouble understanding the other guide, Faraj, for his heavy accent was a real challenge without the hearing aids. Hopefully, as often happens with accents, this will become easier as time goes on. We all introduced ourselves, indicating something that had impressed us so far, and it was really interesting to get everyone's perspectives on the city. After that, we went to dinner. It was a buffet and as often happens with "included" tour dinners, it was okay but not spectacular, so I won't do my usual report on that.

The final event of the day was the compline service. I love compline; it is brief and quiet and a beautiful end to a day. We have no clergy on this trip, but two of us have lay pastoral / liturgical training and have agreed to lead compline every evening. So we gathered on the top floor with the lights of the city all around and sat in a circle around a candle. About a dozen of us were there. As we sat quietly, waiting to begin, the call to prayer started from the minarets of the city. The timing had not been planned, but the effect was extremely moving, especially at the beginning of a trip designed to present the multiple perspectives of this beautiful and troubled land.

Educational Bookstore

Educational Bookstore

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Posted by mlld3536 17:00 Archived in Israel

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