Sunday, December 18, 2011

12/18/11: Arab Jerusalem, The West Bank, And A Traumatized Sister... Part 1

Welcome to Jerusalem! 
Since Ida has pretty much been restricted to life in Tel Aviv, I figured that this weekend would be a perfect opportunity to show her a side of Israel that she had never experienced before; Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Granted I probably didn't give much thought to the fact that Ida is a short, pale skinned, blonde, or the fact that she does not share my Arab obsession, but I'm glad that she was exposed to something new; it well rounds a person :-) 

On Friday my good friend Sarah and her friend Orlit picked us up from the apartment and joined us for our day in Jerusalem. It was so amazing having Sarah back in Israel, and it was just as fun meeting Orlit and forming new friendships here in Israel. Before we arrived in Jerusalem we decided to make a quick pit stop in Abu Gosh to eat some delicious, authentic Arabic/ Middle Eastern food. Abu Gosh boasts some of the best food in Israel and I haven't had the pleasure of going there since I was with Susannah 3 years ago. Though it was only 11a.m we decided to treat ourselves to all of the delicious luxuries the restaurant had to offer: Labne, Humus, Lamb, Arabic Salad, etc. It was so wonderful and it gave Ida a chance to truly get her Middle Eastern food fix. 

Delicious Lamb Meal  
So much delicious food

When we all ate our fill it was off to the Holy city for some sight seeing, shopping, and genuine girl time. After being surrounded by men in my apartment all the time, it was nice to have some time with just the girls. When we arrived in Jerusalem we parked the car outside of the big Mamilla mall next to the Old city, had some coffee, and then headed off to my favorite place in the world through Jaffa Gate. 

Entrance to my favorite city in the world 

Americanized Mamilla right next to the Old City 

Once inside the walls of the old city we went straight to the Shuk to do some shopping. We all needed some souvenirs and it was time to give Ida a taste of the true Arab shuk in the old city. I haven't been to that part of the Old City in some time, but the second we started walking around the streets in the Arab quarter I remembered why I fell madly in love with this city, this culture, and this language. The Arab Shuk is a magical place that completely enthralls anyone who walks through it. The Ashab Il-Ma7al (shop keepers) sit outside of their stores filled with bright and colorful souvenirs of all sorts, young children run and play in the streets, groups of men (young and old) sit around with their hookahs playing backgammon, while tourists from all over the world shop for gifts and experience this amazing area.

Heading to the Arab Shuk  
Ida thought this was photo worthy :-)

A tourist's dream 

7helwat!!! SWEETS

As we progressed deeper into the Shuk we were thrust into the heart of the Arab world, or so it felt. There were less tourists, more local businesses (butcher shops, restaurants, etc.), and all around us the call to prayer rang out from speakers in various shop windows.

Yummy... not very Hala or Kosher though 

While we were there I found a little shop that could make a necklace for me of my name in Arabic. If you know me you know that I am never without my Jewish start necklace unless I am in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or various other Arab towns and countries that I have (and will) visit. However, not having a necklace at all makes me feel very naked, so I have been trying to find an Arabic necklace for some time. While the necklace was being made the girls and I decided to go to the Kotel to pray before Shabbat. We each wrote our Petekim (notes) to put in the wall, had a few moments to pray and usher in Shabbat, and then it was back to pick up my necklace from the Arab quarter. I will say this, as much as I love a culture that is so different from my own, there is nothing in the world as special to me as being Jewish, praying at one of my holies sites, and living in my homeland.

Me and my sissy before going to the Kotel  
Our Western Wall <3

Sissy at the wall 

Sarah and Orlit at the wall 

Ida and me at the wall 

I would be nowhere without my faith and God 

After we said our prayers and placed our notes in the wall we headed back to the Arab quarter to continue shopping, pick up my necklace, and then wrap things up before the start of Shabbat.

My name in Arabic! 

At around 2pm it was time for us to say goodbye to the Old City, drop Orlit off at the Sheruts back to Tel Aviv, say goodbye to Sarah who had to go to a friend for Shabbat, and check in to our hotel in East Jerusalem. It was so amazing being back in East Jerusalem at Hotel Azzahra, and it was just as I remembered it from this summer when I lived there. Ida was a bit overwhelmed at first by the surroundings, but she seemed to really enjoy the hotel.

Our semi suite at Hotel Azzahra  
Huge hallway and balcony 

Extra bed for storage? I'll take it! 

Our terrace 
Once we were all settled we planned our day trip to Ramallah (scheduled for the next day), played around with our head scarves just to see what we would look like in Hijabs and Jewish head wraps, caught up on some work and emails, and then got ready to head down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. 

Muslim Jordana  :-) 
Jewish Jordana :-) 

 The food at the restaurant was just as delicious as I remember, although Ida and my stomach's were both having some problems with the water. I wasn't surprised at all since when I lived in East Jerusalem I had the same thing happen, but since we were there for such a short time it was not the most fun thing in the world. After our meal we headed back to the room to get a good night sleep before our big day in the West Bank. However, being that it is East Jerusalem, there is never a dull moment. While we were in bed we heard what sounded like gun shots outside of our room. We are not sure that that is what the sound was, it might have been fire crackers, but airing on the side of caution, we both got into the bathroom away from the walls and windows. I remember hearing sounds like that when I lived on Al-Harir street, and I'm sure it was nothing, but we didn't want to take chances.

It was a wonderfully full day in Jerusalem and Ida and I were both very ready for a good night sleep. The next day we were off to Ramallah and we needed all the rest we could get before that adventure! Stay tuned for my next post on Ramallah! It was quite an experience and I'm pretty sure I permanently traumatized my sister, but it will be something she never forgets!

Until we meet again (which will be in about an hour or so when the next post is finished!) <3,
Jordana Simone

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