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I think Or said it best: “Jerusalem is more complicated than Tel Aviv”.  That can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people.  On the surface level, it is actually physically more complicated to get around due to the ancient hilly winding streets.  On a deeper level, Tel Aviv seems to represent liberalism and modernity where Jerusalem represents ancient tradition.  Both are beautiful for their own reasons, but I think there a lot more people that Jerusalem needs to please so it is necessarily more complicated.

Or had to work so he stayed behind, but he had arranged for us to meet up with his friend Omer, who was immensely knowledgeable about history and religion and was a licensed tour guide.  So we jumped on the train in Tel Aviv and enjoyed the hilly scenery for the 1.5 hour ride.  Before meeting up with Omer, we wanted to go see the famous Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.  I had been in 2000 when I came to Israel on the Birthright trip, but the entire site had been rebuild since then.  It was a beautiful and overwhelming experience and more than a little sad, but it should be a “must” on any Israel itinerary.

I’m a big shawarma fan and have eaten these meat-filled pita pockets all over the world, starting from when I was 10 at the Street Fair in Palm Springs.  We knew that shawarma were big in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, so we decided to ask the two college-age front desk guys at our hotel where to find a good one.  The 15 minute debate that ensued was hilarious!  Eventually they agreed that we should go to a nearby place called Arkadesh and they marked it on our map.  We wandered around for a bit and then luckily I spotted the Hebrew-only sign.  I had never been so happy that some of my Hebrew school lessons stuck with me!  The shawarmas were filled with lamb, turkey, chicken, guacamole and assorted marinated vegetables and they were as big as a small baby.  And yes, it was without a doubt the best I’ve ever had!

The next morning we met up with Omer for our tour of the old city.  He was a super nice guy and really interesting.  He was secular but he carried a bible around and would show us quotes from it that referenced the things we were seeing.  He made a good point that typically Jews only want to see the Jewish sites (as I did on the Birthright tour), Christians only want to see the Christian sites and Muslims only want to see the Muslim sites.  But because we were all mostly secular, he was going to show us sites from all three of the religions with a focus on how they intermingle and affect each other.  The amount of historically and religiously significant sites that we saw was incredible. We spent the morning exploring the Wailing Wall, the room where the Last Supper took place and King David’s tomb.  Then we even got to climb up and see the  golden Dome of the Rock!  It was only open to non-muslims for one hour in the early morning and one in the afternoon and unfortunately they confiscated Omer’s annotated bible when we entered because no religious objects were allowed at all.  We felt lucky to see it though because the very next day there were huge protests and it was shut down again.  Afterward, we went to see the Holy Sepulcher Church (the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection).  All along the way, he took us through less touristy sections of the markets and bazaars to try local snacks and drinks at his favorite places.  We even stopped at a halvah (sweet made from sesame seeds) factory in the back of a small market in the Muslim quarter.

All in all, we found Jerusalem to be fascinating, but we were ready to take the bus back to Tel Aviv to meet up with Or for the weekend so we could get started on our Israeli road trip!

  • Yad Vashem
  • The Broad Wall
  • King David
  • The Last Supper Room
  • Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem
  • Ancient Madaba Map Replica
  • Pita pita
  • Caitie and Pita
  • Western Wall
  • Soldiers at Western Wall
  • Golden Dome from Afar
  • Adam Caitie and Amanda aboce the Western Wall
  • Amanda and Caitie at Western Wall
  • The Dome of the Rock
  • Mountain of Olives
  • Amanda and Caitie at Dome of the Rock
  • Dome of the Rock and Sun
  • Dome of the Rock and Sun
  • Fresh Pomegranite Juice
  • Tripple Pomegranite
  • Caitie profile
  • Old Jerusalem
  • Adam and Amanda and Dome
  • Halvah Factory
  • Crushing Sesame Seeds
  • Caitie Likes Halvah
  • Sesame Juice
  • Piles of Sesame
  • Sesame Container
  • Halvah Factory
  • Orange Cheesy Deliciousness
  • Mandy Likes Orange Cheesy
  • Where Jesus Died
  • Golgotha
  • Where Jesus Rose
  • Goodbye Bobo
  • Mezuzah Salesman

Posted: December 11, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Blog, Continents, Israel, Middle East


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