Jerusalem: Off the Wall Comedy for live music (but no comedy) with CSer Anat

Jerusalem Travel Blog

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Adi said her goodbyes, she had to get to school to work on her final project which was to put on a music and dance show. But she left porridge on the stove and her room mate offered me fresh rolls of bread from the local bakery. After showering, re-packing all my things, I finally got going by 11AM.

I said goodbye to the room mate, and tried to make my exit discreetly and quickly as possible. While I was treated well on the surface, I also felt like a sort of inconvenient guest, interrupting a routine. I washed my dish, wrote a thank you note and left a little present, then left. I walked around, not really knowing where I should start, so I found a bus, since pretty much everything went back to the Central Bus Station I wasn't concerned about being really lost.

I boarded a nearby bus, after wandering the neighborhood and seeing a lot of lovely homes that seemed either to be very communal with shared gardens or shared parking lots, to completely closed off compounds with security measures like video cameras.
I rode awhile, and then I saw loads of tourists, and then a sign for the Old City!

So I got off by the commercial center near Saffra Square. I walked around the square, hot and uncomfortable b/c of my backpack, then eventually spied a clothing shop with patchwork Israeli bags that I had often seen. They were 15 shekels! So I went into the shop, asked to put my bag down, and tried on a bunch of things, and ended up buying quite a few things, some for me, most, gifts for my gfs at home. Lots of the tops and dresses were very cheap, on avg. around $7, made of silk from India, unusual (for NY clothes )and were all vibrantly colored and patterned, adorable hippie clothes...

Then I made my way over to an internet cafe to look up what I should see in Jerusalem (14 shekels/hr) and to get in touch with Shir from couchsurfing whom I had JUST remembered that I made plans to stay with! So scatterbrained, I had forgotten! And I got into contact with Anat, another CSer whom I messaged with.
She helped a lot with figuring out bus schedules, def. had to hang with her.

I shopped a lot, there was lots of pretty things, great "souvenirs" for everyone home. I even bought dresses, ah girlie moment!

Eventually I made my way to the Jaffa Gate, I just followed the mass of tourists and pilgrims! No guide needed...

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, HEY!" a man called.

I turned around, I didn't realize anyone was calling me...

"Do you need a hostel? Nice place to stay?" Oh right, I was wearing my humongous backpack...I told him no, I didn't.

"How about a nice rich husband, I can find one for you." Ha! Amused, I said I would go to him when I needed one, and then waved goodby.

A few yards later in front of the entrance to the souq, I was stopped again, "Ni hao!"

I responded, "Salaam Aleukeum!"

He said in turn, "Howdy!"

I said, "Manishma?"

Lots of chuckling and giggling later, I continued into the bazaar.
It was incredible, the path way very narrow, cobbled steps and winding. It was a true labryinth! Shoppers heaven, and heaven for people who like to be lost.

I got fitted for sandals, and wandered for hours, through the Jewish Quarter, and some other quarters. I now know there are four quarters: Christian, Jewish, Armenian and Muslim. At the time, I just wandered wherever, one man stopped asking me if I need a tour. Nope! I like wandering thank you, well at least where I know where there are people but get back to me if I'm in a jungle, desert or mountain top :D

A jewish man stopped me, "You don't want to go there" he warned.

"Why what's there?"

He said, "There's nothing there. Where do you want to go?"

I said "I have no idea, I was just wandering.

"Oh, ok, then you can go but the Wall is the other way. You walk down the stairs and make a right."

And that's how it was in Jerusalem, random people randomly stopping to help or guide, with only a few sellers here and there offering services/wares. Besides when you said no thank you, they would leave you alone, or at least they left me alone.

So off to the Wailing Wall or Western Wall as it is also known. I took off my bags and each was searched, and I went through the X-ray. Security was thorough, a sad necessary precaution.

There were loads of people, a few rocking, prostrating in front of the wall, two Hasidic women walking backwards from the wall, "professional" beggars trying to get money out of haute Italian tourists, another tourist eating cantaloupe (I think?), children running around screaming and me.
I said a prayer in my head, closed my eyes, but made no wish. I was people watching, more than anything. I was curious if I would see anyone struck with the "Jerusalem Syndrome" I had heard about, where the stricken think they are holy figures.

Out, under the Western Wall tunnel, I resumed the aimless walkabout. At some point, I had wandered into an area where it was tall walls of stone, and cobbled floors, it was just like the movie Labryinth with David Bowie. I was alone fumbling around and it was quiet.

Eventually, I stumbled by a group of Muslim (Palestinian? Armenian? dunno) kids kicking around a soccer ball. They called hello, and asked where I was from. I told them the United States, wondering about the reaction but hesitating to lie. No worries necessary, they smiled, and called out welcome to Jerusalem!

I was relieved and happy that there was only true friendliness.
I try to treat people as individuals and not reps. of their nationality, ethnicity, gender/sex, political parties, etc. and am happy to report I was never treated unkindly because of my American citizenship either while I was in Israel or Palestine. Did I get off the "beaten path"? I have no idea, I didn't even know where I was, :) But I had lovely conversations with many people of different "faiths" for hours sitting on benches or sitting on low benches around Jaffa Gate, and everyone was excited to talk about their lives, their personal histories living in Jerusalem, about the occupation, or about the settlers.

One woman from Ramallah was waiting with her beautiful baby girl for her husband. The little girl had dark pools for eyes, framed with dark lashes and black curly hair.
She resembled her mother, and had the same mournful gaze when she wasn't shyly looking away. We talked for nearly an hour, she was surprised that I was traveling by myself, that I was unmarried, and asked if my parents weren't worried. I asked her about her life, she was studying to teach English. Her English was very good but she kept apologizing, very modest.

I said my goodbye, time to meet up with Shir! She asked that I wait for her by the Domino's at the end of her block. I asked the taxi driver to take me to Shir's neighborhood or the bus station, whichever was closer. I tried some of the Arabic I learned b/c he said he spoke Hebrew, Arabic and only a bit of English. I told him about my trip in Egypt and how I loved koshary. He laughed and recommended a good place to eat tamiyya or falafel for just 8 shekels. I asked him about growing up Palestinian, and he told me how he and his family were kicked out of the home they had for generations, and that even his Jewish neighbors were sympathetic.
He said that he had a new home for his family though, and that "This is the life." He was resolved to move on and try not to be bitter. He asked about my life and my parents and finally we reached Shir's neighborhood. We wished each other well and I exited.

I waited for awhile, actually early for once, so I ended up buying a huge veggie Greek calzone w/ o.j. -28 shekels-, and called Shir from Domino's (the only fast food place I ate throughout the trip I promise). She came down to meet me, and we dropped off my stuff. We "broke bread" so to speak, well the calzone, and chatted. She introduced me to her room mate, gave me a tour etc., and I called Anat. Anat was confused, she thought I was still at Adi's and had made plans to pick me up there. She seemed mildly annoyed.
..yes I am all over the place! :(  During the rush to get out of Adi's hair, I forgot to update Anat on my location...

Then Shir and I went to the local supermarket and picked up some food. When we got back, she was explaining to me about keeping a kosher kitchen, how there is special set aside cutlery for dairy, etc. Very interesting, very regimented for sure.

Shir was too busy with exams so she looked up stuff for me and Anat to do, and I got ready. Anat picked me up in her car and we went to Off the Wall Comedy for some live music. We got there early, so Anat and I went for Israeli food in the neighborhood. We had fuul, falafel topped with skug, a spicy green Yemeni sauce, sliced tomatoes with raw onions, pickles, hummus and hot pitas -20 shekels-. The food was amazing  and filling, I couldn't even finish half my food.
Anat was impressed that I ate all the skug, and called me her skug hero haha.

We practiced Hebrew words, emphasizing the "hhhhhh" sounding very phlegmy. 

"Hhhhhumuus" Anat said. "Ohhhhhhhhhh kay? hhhhhhhaaaa hhhhhhhhaaa"

Anat's sarcastic and playful like me but even more cheerful and tons more talented, as she plays the guitar and writes her own songs.

She too asked me, "What are you going here? Tell me the truth." Her manner was very direct, as I had become accustomed to from most Israelis but I couldn't help being a brat and saying "I'm here spying on behalf of my government."

She laughed and said "You know some journalist is jailed for doing that.

Well...I explained to her I was interested in the holy sites like Bethlehem, Wailing Wall, and why people were fighting over Israel. She nodded, understanding I think and was surprised when I said I was with the Palestinians on tour,  the woman from Ramallah and my taxi driver. She too had been on a similar tour of increasing awareness of the treatment of Palestinians. She laughed at the strangeness of my trip, I was missing Tel Aviv, the party city to go to "ugly" cities like Be'er Sheva and going to Palestinian settlements. ;)

Then we talked about couchsurfing, traveling, and she recommended wwoofing to me, and said she approved that I wasn't wearing "Those American dresses." Huh? What dresses, she said you know the dresses that American women wear, LOL okay...

Finishing up, we sped walked, jogged to the show, and she too scolded me for jaywalking! Boy, I hardly think getting hit by a car is the biggest danger in Israel! :D Really though, it was a quiet night with few cars.

When we got in, the place was full with people who were either friends or family members of the performer. The singer was very good, which is why I taped a little bit of her original song in Hebrew to go along with this entry. My video camera did her ill, she sounded more nasal and high pitched than she actually was. I liked her voice and her Hebrew songs, though she sang mostly American covers...Anat explained that was b/c Israelis are really into American culture...She had a beer, I had a Tequila Sunrise, or Hawaiian punch with alcohol basically :D (30 Shekels). Anat studied the singer, I teased that she was watching out for her competition, and she laughed saying that WAS what she was doing haha.
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photo by: daynnightraveller