Well, it’s been a couple of days now, and I’m definitely starting to feel the heat of the Middle East. Except when I decide to take a shower in the morning, the water is cold because it’s solar heating. So I take my shower in the afternoon, but by then, it’s really hot outside so I would rather have a cold shower and I don’t use the hot water. Okay, it doesn’t make much sense. Maybe in a couple of weeks I will have figured out what is the best time of the day to take a shower.
Yesterday (12th of July, Friday).
My first mission of the day was to go to the bank. I had someone with me who speaks Hebrew. That’s a good thing. As we stepped in the office, people were shouting quite a lot. We realized the account adviser we were looking for didn’t work in that office, but in another one, just twenty meters away, so we walked there, only to be told that now, she actually does work in the previous office. So we went back. It was quieter (probably because as we came in, a very angry looking lady came out). We picked a number and waited, and we waited a bit more, for about half an hour even though there were just two people before us. After the bank, we went to the Orange shop, so I could by a sim card. But it’s Friday. And it was 2 pm. It closed at 1 pm. That’s how it works in Israel. Shabbat shalom everyone!
I discovered Jerusalem’s big market. It was incredibly crowded: I noticed a lot of tourists, of course, but there was a large majority of Israelis just doing their daily shopping, shouting at each other across the alleys. They didn’t seem cross, just very enthusiastic I guess. You can buy all sort of fruits and vegetables at the market, there’s also a fish section, a meat section, all sorts of spices, herbs, nuts, and so on. For this first, I was pretty shy in my shopping, and I only got a couple of carrots, a box of olives, some grapes and Arab bred.
The Jerusalem International Film Festival ends on the 13th, so as I live only a five minutes’ walk away from the cinematheque, I decided I had to go and see a film. I took a program and went to see the first film that was showing at the time I was there, a Mexican film called Heli. It didn’t have anything to do with Israel or Palestine, but I guess it was good to see what going to the cinema feels like in Jerusalem. All the volunteers were young Israelis, who looked like any kid you would see in Europe. People who volunteer at an event such as the Jerusalem Film Festival probably don’t live in a place like Mea Shearim, and probably didn’t need to be back home that night to celebrate Shabbat.
I got home in time to start preparing dinner for the Shabbat. We did a “hachis parmentier”: probably not the most Jewish of meals, but it’s a French home, even though it’s also a Jewish home.
For Shabbat, I was told only the women light the candles. I’m a guest so I got to light two out of the four (I think normally it’s just one for a guest, but I’m very privileged J). Jews celebrate Shabbat every week because that’s when the big man up there was able to rest after having created the world in six days. Sure, I agree, he must have been really tired. It’s also a good reason the gather all the family together.
After diner, I was took on a little night time walk “around the block”, to see a beautiful view that’s only accessible by going in the garden behind a synagogue. From up there, I saw that big golden Dome that everyone seems to want to have access to, all for different reasons of course. It was pretty spectacular by night and I can only imagine how spectacular it must be in the day light. I’ll have to go back.
First little adventure in the Old City (13th of July).
It’s Saturday! Shabbat Shalom!
After walking for about three quarters of an hour, I finally found Jaffa gate, tucked in between the Christian and the Armenian quarter on the western side of the Old City. I found my way right through David Street, then Souq El-Bazar, where you can find absolutely EVERYTGHING. Clothes, shoes, electric plugs, scarfs, jewelry, spices, fish, postcards, meat, fruits, tedybears, books, vegetables, toys for kids, and many more. Well, it’s just a Souq, basically. With a name like that, I should have seen it coming, but I couldn’t help being surprised. I took a left up Souq el Attarin and Souq Khan El-Zeit, which led me to Damascus Gate. After that, serious business began. I entered the Christian quarter and started walking around. I didn’t have a very detailed map, so obviously I got slightly lost.
As I walked up a street I couldn’t find in my guide book, I stumbled upon a men who started talking to me, saying “ah, British accent, you from England”? I was so pleased he said that, because a couple of days before, when I was in a car rental office (not for me, for my hostess), an Israeli guy asked me if I came from France after hearing me speak English. At the time, I didn’t know if I was supposed to be impressed by the fact that he could tell I’m French from hearing me speak English, or if I was supposed to be offended by the fact that he could hear a French accent in my English. Either way, I was so happy when Youssef thought I was English that I let him lead me to his shop, down a narrow street. And after bargaining for half an hour (thank God for having learned how to do that in India), I bought a nice scarf from him. Stupid, I know. I’m not likely to use a scarf before November or December in Israel, but it’s really pretty, and I didn’t have any scarfs that color yet.
Going from the Souq into the Christian quarter was like changing worlds. From a world of busy working Jewish and Muslim Israelis, I stepped into a world of eager looking very red-faced tourists. In some of the calmer back streets (where I got lost, obviously), I saw a few locals of course, probably people who live there. Somehow I don’t really remember how, I found my way back to Jaffa gate. Just as quickly as I had discovered the busy Souq, I walked and strolled along the city walls.
I’m going to stop writing and leave you now, as I want to learn numbers in Hebrew. I need to at least know how much I’m paying for something when I go shopping.