The Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv makes the Port Authority bus terminal in NYC look like a glistening church. If you like cheap hooker clothes sold indoors by chain smoking men and the feeling that at any moment you could be taken hostage, raped or sold into slavery…you will love this station. This being said they do have a bus (with WIFI!) that goes to Jerusalem for 19 shekels. I took it.
45 minutes later as we arrived at the Jerusalem bus depot where I learned that there were kosher McDonalds. Aside from this learning moment I felt unexpectedly emotional. Had I really arrived in the Holy Land? The geographic source of so much tension, bloodshed surrounding love, faith and religion? This was THE place. I was advised to take the city light rail vs a taxi to the Old City. While I was on the train I realized this was the same line and area that a terrorist in November had driven his car into a group of straphangers. It happened just 1 stop from where I got off near City Hall. There are now large cinder blocks in place at each station to prevent this from happening again.
The Old City is divided into different quarters; Jewish, Christian, Muslim & Armenian. I entered through the Christian quarter. Next weekend when I have more time and will be with others I will take a proper guided tour… but today was just about me meandering through the quarters with little agenda.
Wow! Jews glorious Jews! Orthodox Jews, Jews on skateboards, Jews playing harps, American Jews, Jerusalem Jews…Jewwwwwwws!!!!!!!!!
First stop post bargaining with a vendor over an olive wood nativity scene gift was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (side note; not to brag but he did compliment me about my use of Hebrew…I asked him “Kama” aka “how much” and was able to get 50 shekels off the price…and yes, I realize that he still over charged me).
While I am no longer Christian I felt that a visit to the site where the famous Jesus Christ was buried and resurrected was an exciting opportunity. I opted not to belt out “Jesus Christ Superstar” outside for all those on their individual pilgrimages to hear, which was an excellent use of self control. The great thing about Israel is that there are no stupid signs with thousands of rules or partitions that I feel the USA is peppered with.
You get to touch and really experience things first hand here. There were several men and women with head scarfs deep in prayer over a large stone slab near the entrance.As I didn’t have a guide nor were there any signs as to what I was witnessing…the only clue I had to go on was a large painting on the wall depicting Jesus lying on a stone in preparation for burial.
Whoah! Holy S–! I touched it…as this is one of those rare life moments.
To get inside The Kotel you must go through security which comprised of scanning my backpack and walking through a metal detector. Good modern times.
The energy in The Kotel was palpable and it was HUGE. I quickly made my way to the women’s side of the wall and soaked in the reality of the moment! I was getting the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall. I had arrived. I almost cried. There were Siddurim for those that wished to read from it and plastic (ugly) chairs set up. Tradition is that you can write a prayer on a slip of paper, fold it up and stuff in a crevice of the wall. I opted not to take any close up selfies of myself at the wall as a sign of reverence…I know, even I have selfie limits. I observed some of the women walking backwards after they prayed and left the area and remembered that this was something I was supposed to do. Why? I wasn’t exactly sure why but assumed it had something to do with showing respect and perhaps not turning my back on G-d and so I followed the flock.
Filled with this amazing sense of peace, hope and love I spent a few minutes observing the hundreds of uniformed IDF soldiers in a section of The Kotel nearby. They seemed to be there for either picture day or some sort of official ceremony… I was reminded yet again of the price that is paid to keep Israel the Jewish homeland.