Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Israel Adventure: Driving, Western Wall Tunnel, and Shabbat

After trying to get some sleep on the plane from Brussels to TelAviv, we landed around 1:00 a.m. We picked up our rental car and were on our way to Jerusalem, with my husband behind the wheel and me navigating.  We were quickly confronted with what would be the biggest challenge of the entire trip: driving in Israel.  If you ever plan to drive in Israel, here are a few tips for you; some things I wish someone would have told us.  First, a GPS can be your best friend and/or your worst enemy. Do not depend on it. Ours kept losing its signal right when we needed it the most.  Also (and this is VERY important), words transliterated from the Hebrew alephbet to our alphabet can be spelled several different ways.  So, the street you are looking for could be spelled one way on your map, another way on your GPS, another way on the directions from Google maps, and yet another way on the actual street sign (if you can even find it!)  For example, Zipporah Street can also be spelled with a "Tz" or "Ts" at the beginning, with just one "p" in the middle, and with or without the "h" at the end (and this is the simplest example I could think of). An "h" in a word can also be "ch" or "kh", and most vowels seem to be interchangeable. And to top it all off, sometimes the names are actually translated into English, like "Bethlehem" instead of "Beit Lechem" or "King David" Street instead of "David Hamelech".  So, you can imagine our confusion when we couldn't even find our apartment's address in our GPS! Other things we learned about driving in Israel: the city streets are not straight, but very winding, the stoplights are different (green, then blinking green, quick yellow, red, yellow, then green again), and Israeli drivers live up to their reputation of absolutely insane driving!  Somehow we managed to find our apartment (after driving around Jerusalem for a while) with the help of written directions, several phone calls, and our not-so-trusty GPS.  We all fell into bed completely exhausted.
Our apartment building in the daylight
The next morning we had to drag ourselves out of bed, because we had a reservation for the Western Wall Tunnel Tour. This tour has to be reserved two or three months in advance, and we did not want to miss it.  It was completely worth it! The Western Wall is just a small area. It is the holiest place in Judaism, because it is the closest accessible place to the location of the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt in the Temple. That's above the ground. Underground they have excavated the entire length of the original wall, and this tour goes through those tunnels. It was amazing just to be standing there on the 2,000 year old road.
Ancient road
Ancient Walls
Matityahu was our guide
The tour ended with a walk through the old city back to the Western Wall area. That was quite an experience in itself! The old city is very, very busy on Fridays. Many muslims are there for their holy day, and many Jewish people are rushing to get things done before their Shabbat (sabbath) begins. We followed our guide back to the Wall, spent some time there, and then made our way through the maze of shop lined streets back to the Jaffa Gate to find our car where we left it in a parking lot near there.
The Western Wall
Robert & the girls by some old city shops
We knew we needed to get back and do some grocery shopping before everything closed down at 1 or 2 in the afternoon for Shabbat.  Stores, restaurants, and other businesses close so that everyone can get home and prepare for the Sabbath before sundown. As soon as we got back to our apartment, we walked (much simpler than driving) to the nearest "supermarket".
Some of the food we bought
The walk through the neighborhood was so nice. It was busy with children walking home from school and adults getting home from work. One of my very favorite memories of that day is when I saw a young woman at her kitchen window cheerfully preparing the Shabbat meal for her family. Her hair was wound up in a scarf, and she smiled as she went about her work. The whole neighborhood had a feeling of anticipation, waiting for the special day of family, rest and worship to begin.

We got some much needed rest that evening. So much rest that we slept until after 11:00 the next morning! (And some of us slept even longer!) We were going to attend a Shabbat service at a Messianic congregation, but we slept right through it. We did our own Bible study like we would have at home, only it was much more special actually being in the place we were reading about! We took another walk around the neighborhood, and then later, after sundown, we found a restaurant and had some delicious Israeli food for dinner.

Coming up next....Sea of Galilee, a Flat Tire, and Caesarea.

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!!! I've been there and loved every part of it!!! from Etsy Blog Team www.sweet-fix.net