Day 2 in Jerusalem

We started off the day on Mount of Olives, another view of Jerusalem. Because the Messiah is supposed to come through the Golden Gate of the Temple, the Muslims have blocked it up and also put an Islamic cemetery between the Gate and the Kidron Valley.

Next we heard about the complexities of the divided city. We viewed the wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank from a distance and up close. It was covered with plenty of anti-Israeli graffiti. Very reminiscent of the Berlin Wall.

We then walked in through Jaffa Gate and headed to the Citadel of David. Just as you walk into the complex there is an amazing glass piece by Chihuly. We climbed to the top of the Citadel of David for more views and then walked the Rampart from Jaffa Gate to Zion Gate.

Next we viewed King David’s tomb and then directly above it was the Room of the Last Supper. Time for a falafel for lunch and shopped on the Cardo, an old Roman road that is now basically an underground shopping mall. After seeing a 2000+ year old mikvah that was recently discovered at the Southern wall excavations, we headed back to the hotel.

I didn’t remember to take a picture of my dinner until I’d eaten half of it. But it looked similar to last night’s. Add rice with vegetables and some roasted potatoes. Oh, and sorbet in apple, mango, raspberry and ROSE!!! Yay!

After dinner we had a debrief and then we headed to take a short drive around the city to see it at night. The Muslims have in the last five years started lighting up their minarets with fluorescent green lights. Oh, I forgot to mention earlier about the Muslim’s call to worship. We’ve heard it twice now from by the Western Wall and it’s pretty eerie. It starts from one direction and then you hear it coming from everywhere.

Then we stopped to stroll down Ben Yehuda street for a little shopping. Apparently some shops stay open as late as midnight. Ben Yehuda street seems to also be a place to hang out. And lucky me, I got a phone number. Israeli men are persistent buggers. At least he wasn’t creepy like the Orthodox men who keep harassing a couple of the women in our group. They’ve been leered at and one had a man offer to give her a “Jewish experience.”

On to Jerusalem

This morning left Tel Aviv and headed to Jerusalem. On the way, we stopped at Neot Kedumim (Oasis of Antiquity), a biblical landscape preserve, and each planted a tree so we’d leave a little of ourselves in Israel. We also saw a 1000+ year old cistern at that site. While we were hearing about wheat and barley and how it was processed in ancient times, a donkey wandered up. I ate a fruit off of a sycamore tree. It’s similar to a fig, but not as sweet. We also saw almond trees and caper bushes there.

As we got to Jerusalem, we passed by the Israeli Supreme Court and the Knesset, heavily fortified as you might imagine. Then through some Jewish neighborhoods on the way to a vantage point overlooking the old city. Then it was time for lunch. As you can see, the vegan isn’t suffering.

Next we passed through some Muslim neighborhoods with a lot of graffiti on our way to the Western Wall. I didn’t really have any profound experience at the Wall. As I touched it, I could feel that the stone had been smoothed by many, many thousands of people doing the very same thing. The connection with all of the other people who have touched it makes the Wall a living thing. Okay, I guess that was somewhat profound, just not emotional.

Next stop was the City of David where we explored Hezekiah’s Tunnel, built 2,700 years ago to protect Jerusalem’s water supply, the Gihon Spring, from the Assyrians. We actually climbed into the tunnel, anywhere from ankle to thigh deep with cold water, and followed it to where it originally ended in a pool. They have just recently discovered the original pool and are excavating it. We were able to see a part that has only been uncovered for about 3 months. Sadly, no pictures from inside because of all the water they had us leave everything on the bus.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed by Damascus Gate which, if the photo isn’t obvious, is controlled by the Muslims. Back at the hotel I ate and wrestled with the internets.

Israel – First Night, Tel Aviv

So, we’re here! The plane ride was long but mostly uneventful. There was a bit of turbulence the first 30-40 minutes, the shimmy, shimmy, shimmy kind, but it wasn’t bad enough to be scary. Not to me at least. I was on the aisle, which made it hard to sleep, but I managed to get some in. I had an interesting experience upon landing and I’ll post that in video form in a bit.

This was basically a free night, so after we met up with the Boston folks, we headed to the hotel. The bus seats seemed absolutely palatial compared to being on on the plane. If that’s the kind of bus we’re having for the trip, it’ll be a nice ride.

Our hotel turned out to be right on the beach. I even have a few from my room. The rooms are fine. Not luxurious, but probably nicer than I would have bothered with. No free wi-fi though. At least you can buy time at about $5/hour.

After getting cleaned up, Gwen, Mitch, Patrick and I headed out for food. We found a place by the hotel right on the beach. We all shared a tasty hummus. This one was a little heavier on tahini than we usually get in the U.S. It also had plenty of garlic and lemon. I think I detected a bit of sumac as well. It came in a huge bowl and we completely demolished it. I had the Arabic salad as well. Finely chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley and basil with lemon juice and olive oil. Refreshing after the airplane food. I also had a Weihenstephan beer. It was somewhere between a pilsner and a wheat beer. Very nice and quite potent.

After eating, we headed down to the beach to dip our toes in the water. Gwen and I both exclaimed how warm it was and either Patrick or Mitch complained that it was cold. Compared to the Pacific off of Northern California, it was like bathwater.

Tomorrow we head to Jerusalem. Here’s to hoping the internets are free there. Uploading is pretty slow on this connection, so I hope my video makes it up before I run out of time.

Harrison Street Coffee Shop

It seems like Richmond has sprouted up a few veggie restaurants since I was in the area, or at least since I bothered to notice. My mom didn’t seem enthusiastic about Panda Veg so I decided to drag her to Harrison Street Coffee Shop instead. It’s basically a coffee shop that also has about a dozen sandwiches. And apparently they do breakfast as well. I think everything is vegetarian and can be made vegan. I had the Tempeh Ruben and my mom had the Black Bean Hummus Wrap. We both enjoyed them. The Ruben was overflowing with sauerkraut and extremely filling. Looked like all of the sandwiches were under $6 and came with a side of potato chips. I also picked up a vegan chocolate chip scone and eyeballed the vegan peanut butter cups, but didn’t get one. I ate the scone later and it reminded me of how the scones come out from…Garden of Vegan, I think. Good, a touch salty.

I loved the atmosphere of the place. Cozy booths downstairs, and kind of a loft area upstairs with seating. Steady traffic in and out for coffee. Seems like a viable combination the veg items plus the coffee. All in all, if I were to start a veg restaurant this seems like a pretty good idea.

Back in the day I used to hang out in that area a bit. The day being 1984-85. The Village has moved out of their really cool space into an okay one across the street. Used to go to the sub shop right there across the street from Harrison Street Coffee Shop. Weird that it took place 20 years ago.

Harrison Street Coffee Shop outside

Harrison Street Coffee Shop outside

Harrison Street Coffee Shop outside