Hens and Chicks in Jerusalem

RampartsElizabeth and I rode the bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem.  Bus Number 18 moved quickly from the main bus station, just a block away from the Friends Boys School, and before we knew it we were at the security checkpoint.  Two Israeli soldiers formed the team that got on the bus to check papers. These young men, with their guns slung over their shoulders moved quickly through the bus, looking only for a brief second at my passport and visa.  The whole stop seemed to take about three minutes, though the waiting in line to get to the checkpoint was quite a bit longer.

Soon after getting underway, we arrived at the bus station near the Garden Tomb.  There, Retha greeted us and we went into the Hotel Jerusalem to have coffee and tea. I had the chance to have maramiyyeh tea again.  A teacher at the Friends Girls School offered it to me when I visited the teacher’s lounge and it was excellent!  Maramiyyeh is a type of sage and it gives a great fragrance and taste to the tea.

After our drinks, we walked into the old city, entering through the Damascus Gate.HPIM1920 This is one of the iconic scenes of Jerusalem.  Upon entering the gate, we began a journey up and down hilly narrow streets that were packed with people and lined with vendors and their wares.  You name it, there was everything to be had in the Arab Quarter.  From the bustling streets of the Arab Quarter, we came upon the entrance to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount area.  My colleagues waited for me while I walked into the men’s plaza down to the Wall itself.  Another great icon of Jerusalem, indeed, the world.

After more wandering, we found a cafe to have a drink and we talked.  Later, after a long hike along the Wall, we returned to the cafe for a buffet lunch. The views from the walls were amazing and somewhat nostalgic, as the various famous sites near and in the city were there for the viewing.  I saw the Mount of Olives, as well as the Kidron Valley.  After our lunch, Retha left us so that she could return to her place in the Old City.  Elizabeth and I left the city through the Jaffa Gate and then walked along the outside of the wall all the way back to the Damascus Gate.  On our way back to the bus station we come up to the Garden Tomb.  This was an interesting “attraction”.  A Christian group has purchased and preserved a garden area that is purported to be the place of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Guided tours were provided and the guides were quite good.  I followed two groups around and enjoyed the banter provided by the guides.

Leaving the Garden Tomb area, we made our way back to the bus station.  Just as we were moving to the buses, a young man shouted at us and Elizabeth figured out that he was a smaller van driver who was offering to give us a ride to Ramallah.  About seven of us rode the van.  He asked ten shekels for the ride, two more than the bus charged.  What a treat it was to ride with this fellow.  He was fast and assertive.  He ended up doing some very fancy driving through the checkpoint area that probably saved us at least 30 minutes although my heart may have stopped a couple of times during the trip. The driver let us off on the street right in front of the Friends School.

My day trip to Jerusalem may be a once in a life time experience.  It was a very enjoyable and memorable trip and I am glad I had the opportunity to make the journey. It was pretty amazing to think that Jesus walked through this area several thousand years ago.  It seems that the response that the city had toward Jesus was not quite what he would have liked.  As is stated in several of the gospels, here is how Jesus viewed the city:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing (Matthew 23:37).

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