Jerusalem Travel Blog› entry 74 of 81 › view all entries
The sun was already a brilliant disc burning through a yellow-brown haze by 6:30. A small kiosk offered morning tea from under the only tree in the area, a date palm. Several hours passed before the border opened. After an hour of processing out of Egypt, a bus drove us to an Israeli checkpoint for another hour of processing and tight security checks. Beyond that, we found a whole new world.
The road became lined with trees and desert gave way to green vegetation. Every acre of usable land had been cultivated into thriving farms and flourishing orchards. A truck ahead of us brimmed with fresh oranges. When we signaled two riders, they tossed a dozen or so to the side of the road and we pulled over to savor the thirst-quenching fruit. As the three-lane highway approached Jerusalem we noticed that destroyed military vehicles along the road-side were draped in Israeli flags and strewn with fresh-cut flowers.
The five of us checked into one room at a youth hostel inside the walls of the Old City. After taking showers and hanging laundry, Scott and I set out to explore the city. Policemen seemed to be everywhere patrolling on foot. They donned flak jackets under blue coats and carried M-16 rifles. As we rounded one corner a policeman called us back, nodding toward an unattended car parked across the street - suspected of containing a bomb. It dawned on us that with the holiday celebrations tensions were high and we promptly got out of there.
We browsed a bazaar. Lit by shafts of sunlight spearing through a dried-mud ceiling, the lengthy tunnel-like market bustled with chattering merchants, traders, and buyers. Dealers displayed colorful gems, venders squatted on heaps of Persian carpets, and tinsmiths hammered silver trays. The aromas of exotic Middle Eastern spices filled the cool air. Shops, stalls, stands, and blanket-covered ground-space all offered what looked like everything in the latest Sears and Roebuck catalog. In the vast selection of fine crafts, we noted items we would seek out during our stay in Jerusalem.