Hello from Abraham hostel in Jerusalem!
Yesterday I arrived here in the early afternoon. Vera, another volunteer and I, were both going to Jerusalem, except she went on to Galilee, so we decided to go on the bus together. It was perfect because she had been here before so she knew where I needed to go. My hostel is just a 15 minute walk from practically everything, the perfect location. I got here and had some time before I could check in so I went to the market which is amazing. It is a huge outdoor market where they sell everything from fish to vegetables, fresh pita and baklava and it is so cheap (finally something is around here). I went back to check in and they told me there was a free old city tour being offered that day so I decided to check it out. I am so glad I did. It was 3 hours, which was a little long, but it gave me a really great understanding of the old city so when I went back today, I knew where I was and could go to the places where I wanted to spend more time. There was also a bunch of people from the hostel on the tour so I met some cool people who I ended up going out with last night.
The Old City is un-real. It is like going back in time. There is a Christian quarter (divided between Coptics, Ethiopians, Orthodox, Catholics and Syrians), a Muslim quarter (the biggest and craziest), the Jewish quarter (the most laid back) and an Armenian quarter (just kind of random). A lot of people live there so it has everything a city needs, grocery stores, schools, hospitals etc. It's not just touristy. Our guide was great and definitely pointed out some things I probably would have never found or noticed unless he did. We went to the Wailing wall (a bit disappointing, not gonna lie) and saw the Temple Mount. Afterward, he showed us a great and cheap hummus place so we all went and got some dinner there (Sabre hummus is a lie and a sham). The hostel had an open mic night last night with a local band playing and a good happy hour so we just hung out here for a while and then went to a bar downtown which was nice.
I woke up at 6:30 am this morning, still on farm time, but it was perfect because I got back to the Old City before the madness began. I had the Church of the Sepulchre (the place where Jesus was crucified and buried) pretty much all to myself which made it feel so much more real and amazing. Afterward, I went to Mt. Olives and checked it out. Mt. Olives is an Arab neighborhood now so that was really interesting to see, everything in Arabic and arabic food everywhere. Afterward, I went back to the market, got a picnic lunch and ate pita and tabbouleh in the park and took a nap. When I woke up, I felt refreshed and happy until I realized that a bird had pooped on my head. Not a lot but still, kind of a bummer. But what can you do? Go home and take a shower and hope that not too many people stop to tell you about it on the way back. Tonight there is a party in the Market so I think I will go to that with some of the people from last night.
I am not feeling the intensity of the city like people keep saying. I am not sure whether I'm just not in tune or what, but I think the city is amazing. Here are all of these people- Ethiopians, Egyptians, Russians, Arabs, Israelis (orthodox and secular) sharing a very old, sacred and pretty small place in a pretty peaceful way. I have not seen any fights or weird security problems, and really not that many soliders (more in the Muslim quarter). Granted, they are pretty separated and I haven't seen any Arab-Israeli parties but still, they are doing alright. The city is definitely different from Tel-Aviv, you can feel that immediately. Tel-Aviv is young, vibrant and only comes alive at night- Jerusalem is the opposite. It is very serious, family-oriented and the city shuts down around 8 except for a few bars and stuff. The scenery around it is very mediterranean with olive trees and grass everywhere (think godfather scenes in Sicily). It is supposed to rain for the next few days so I saved all of the museums for that, today I am just enjoying walking the city and doing some hard core people watching. Mistake number 1 was feeling like I am supposed to treat the Orthodox Jews like some higher class. They tend to mooch. And once you give one something, it's like they have a secret, telepathic network so that all the others know you are a push over too. I fell for it today, not happening again.