Out and About

We visited the Shuk, which is the big market area filled with fresh everything: olives of all varieties, huge red strawberries, bread in all varieties, fish with their heads intact and a lot of people. I've been told to visit it on a Friday as people prepare for Shabbat, but we were there Thursday and it was plenty busy. It's similar to most European open air markets, except no pig heads hanging around.

Once I get my legs under me I plan on actually buying something. I guess technically we did buy something -- pizza! Two different kinds, one with a top crust and one folded over the top in a triangular shape, so all the cheese and sauce stayed inside. Since they don't eat pork the varieties of toppings (or fillings) is interesting. This time we had red pepper and some type of cheese, perhaps gouda. Delicious!

We then went to the central bus station to get our transportation, or RavCav, cards. Another unique Irsaeli experience, there was no office, just a desk set up in the hallway. The man who helped us was a gift from G-d. There are a lot of technicalities to the card, and if you're a student or a native then you get discounts. But Tom's school is not recognized by the system yet, due to paperwork and the newness of the lightrail. We didn't think we'd get any kind of discount, but our friend George suggested we at least try to get a discount. "Stranger things have happened in Jerusalem," he said.

And sure enough it happened! Not only did Tom get a student discount, but I did as well (technically I get to take a class each semester) and Cassidy got a discount as well, for being, um, cute, I guess. We are blessed to have the cheaper rates, since we'll take the lightrail to Cassidy's school five days a week and anytime we go south of French Hill (or north of Talpiyot for now). As Pop said, a penny saved is a penny earned.


Am Israel Chai

Our first trip to the Old City was a success. We took the #8 bus north and got off on the right exit, then headed towards the Damascus Gate, but just before we got there we veered north and found Cassidy's new school. Tom's navigating has been spot on and we're getting where we need to go.

Jacob's Ladder is a Messianic school that prepares children for 1st grade in Israel, which is taught in Hebrew. We met the director, Bess, who is actually moving back to the states on Thursday, and the other teachers. Celia will be Cassidy's teacher and she stresses Hebrew to her young students, who speak mostly English. Bess introduced Cassidy to the other students, including her grandson Elan, who seemed very sweet and wore Crocs, just like Cassie's best friend in the States. Cass was happy to introduce herself to everyone and very excited about the idea of going to such a fun school. Class is Sunday through Thursday, from 7:30 to 2:30, which will be an adjustment, but I know she will learn a lot at the school. She'll probably start shortly after we move up north.

When we finished the tour of the school we headed east again toward the Old City. It is only a block or two from Cassidy's school. We entered from the Damascus Gate, which means going through the Muslim Quarter. It was another awakening to a new culture, much like our flight from Chicago to Amman on Royal Jordanian Airlines. It was a long, winding corridor crammed with food, clothes, toys and people. It's a strange thing to see Muslims and Jews mingling so freely in a tight space, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. 

At the end of the corridor we went through security and immediately we were there -- the Western Wall, known to Israelis as the Kotel. I wasn't expecting to come upon it so quickly and both Cassidy and I were surprised to be there. It's not that it's massive, although it is large. Or that there were a lot of people; we had just come through a really tight crowd of people that quickly dispersed as we got to the security check. I suppose it's the anticipation of seeing this piece of history that is so shocking.

Tom had the foresight to get out some paper for us to write prayers on, so we could stick them in the wall, as the tradition goes. Tom asked Cass what she wanted him to write and she said, "Dear Jesus, We're here in Israel. I'm excited to go to school. I wish the temple was rebuilt." We folded up our prayers and headed for the women's side. As we walked toward the wall we heard men singing on the other side of makeshift divider. The women were standing on plastic chairs to look over at the men so we popped our heads over too. We saw a few men and some boys dancing in a circle singing, Am Israel Chai (The children of Israel live). To hear them singing that song in Jerusalem made my spirit jump; it wasn't that long ago that the children of Israel regained Jerusalem.

Cassidy and I prayed the Shema and then she put our prayers in the wall. I wasn't sure what I expected to happen while we were there, perhaps an intense encounter with the L-rd or the warm sensation of the Holy Spirit drawing near, but nothing dramatic happened as I held Cassidy and prayed. It just felt good to be there and I was briefly reminded that one day He will return to this city, and we will all have our reunion. 
We walked back to meet Tom and as I turned to look at the Wall one more time I noticed the glaring gold Dome of the Rock to the left of the Wall. It surprised me just as much as the Wall itself. (Notice I did not include a picture of it.) We had an interesting time explaining it to Cassidy was we walked through the quiet Jewish quarter. There are about as many cats as there are soldiers in the Old City, so we only held her attention for so long, but I'm sure sometime when we're there she'll hear the call to worship for the Muslims and we'll have another conversation. She said she's looking forward to learning new words, and while I know she means Hebrew words, I can't wait for her to truly understand what it means to be grafted into Israel. Hallelujah!