[Tour of Israel: Day 1] Outside The Old City

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 (יום שלישי, 12 סיון)

I got up at 06:45 to an alarm, and answered some social media prompts. Then, I donned my white button-down shirt and striped slacks. Going downstairs and getting the right elevator guess (1 of 1 today!) I saw the big buffet, which included fish and lots of other good stuff in the dining room of the hotel. Food will wait until after services, however!

I walked up west on רחוב קרן היסוד (Keren HaYesod Street), and turned just before the Leonardo in order to get to קהילת מורשת ישראל (Congregation Moreshet Israel), the מסורתי (Israeli-Conservative) synagogue. We started at תהילים ל (Psalm 30), and the prayerbook was actually familiar: it was Sim Shalom—the same one that many American Conservative congregations use! The service proceeded entirely in Hebrew (not surprisingly).

However, everyone spoke English (unlike six years ago at קיבוץ פרוד (Kibbutz Parod), and the דרשה (sermon) was also in English: regarding the action of lighting the מנורה (menorah). It’s a gift that keeps on giving! It was good to do this, even if this will be my only time attending a weekday morning service while I am on this tour.


I returned and acknowledged people en route. Breakfast had Israeli salad with hummus, bread, and yogurt. There was also a boureka and fruit. I ate with the Hamicksburgs and the Feldmans, but didn’t have much conversation since I had to eat fairly quickly. Then, I went upstairs, employed my mortar and pestle with the urticaria medication and applesauce, and then headed downstairs to the bus, with the current score 3-for-3 on the Elevator Guessing Game.

We got on the bus, meeting Shachar from JNF and Gili, the latter who will be our tour guide for the trip. Our street turned into King George V, named after the English king who brought forth the concept of the Balfour Declaration. The drive took us to רמות (Ramot), past the National Bank, Cinema City, and other attractions. I got to read off some of the Hebrew that appeared on buildings, which I would not have successfully done 6 years ago. We also got to count off with numbers, and the order was according to the alphabetical order of the names. I was the last in line, so I’ll explain in a mini-Hebrew paragraph (and then translate it into English).

המספר נחושת שלי בטייול הזה הוא שלושים. למה לא מספר ברזל? כי מספר ברזל שלי הוא עשרים ואחת! בטייול הזה, סידני היא עשרים ואחת.

(Translation: My Copper Number on this trip is 30. Why a Copper Number? Because my Iron Number is 21! On this trip, Sydney is Number 21.)

The drive required a little turnaround once we got to רמות, because although a car could have turned left into the way we were going, a bus could not. So we had to turn around and make a right turn into the area. The road to the 9/11 Memorial was tortuous and hilly, just like in the Negev, and I’ll say it again: tortuous means winding, not torturesome, people! Jokes about the slow development of the Fast Train project came, as we saw one of the bridges that will eventually be used by the fast train connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. An example of a joke: “The project is slated to be finished in 2018, which is Israeli speak for 2025.”

At the 9/11 memorial, the centerpiece was a metal sculpture that depicted the American flag in the shape of a memorial torch. Each victim’s name was inscribed on several plaques at the rear of the site. Before we looked at the names, a few of us read a reading in English, recalling the victims and what they may have brought to this world. It was hot and sunny already, but we weren’t at the memorial for long. We got a few photos, I saw the inside of the flame which contained a piece of World Trade Center wreckage, and I found the name Jennifer L Howley, better known to the Southeast community as Jennifer Dorsey-Howley.


On our next drive, we drove toward the Pardes Institute. On our countoff just after leaving the memorial, Shachar gave us a hard time about our lack of speed in counting off: he says that a good time is to have everyone done in 20 seconds, tops. (It probably took over a minute to count off, and it was stunted from the start by #3 (Charlie) not paying attention!) Our drive got us onto Highway 1, after we won the game of chicken against a much smaller truck. We could barely make out the memorial from the highway, but so it goes. The trip then took us through neighborhoods and arterial streets in Jerusalem. Gili told us about the difficulty of navigation here, since street names tend to change every few blocks. We reached the building in a Short 40 Minutes!

At Pardes, we ascended to Level 3, in order to get introduced to our study session leaders. It was warm up there without air conditioning. We also saw the בית מדרש (big study room), before going downstairs for air conditioning and a smaller room for study. Our topic was Jerusalem Above And Below. The idea of the Institute is to engage in intense text study, in a non-denominational setting. I worked in חבורה (chavurah) with Seth.

Our scientific backgrounds looked at the text from a logical perspective, but others used pictures, emotions, and other various methods that didn’t come to our minds. Everyone reads texts differently, and it was nice to think-pair-share. That’s a hallmark of active learning, and I need to figure out how to make it work better in my math classes!

As it turns out, the word “Jerusalem” never appears in the Pentateuch, but perhaps it combines the words השם-יראה (HASHEM Yireh) from the story of the עקידה (Binding of Isaac), and the town שלם (Shalem) from another story. We discussed the conflict of action versus belief, and the idea of concentric circles with the קדוש קדושים (Holy of Holies) in the centre also came out.


A nice session! After that studying, most of us were hungry for lunch. We drove to תחנה הראשונה (The First Train Station), which no longer serves any trains. Our lunch was at המזנון (Kitchen Station), a dairy restaurant. Food was brought out in shifts, from salad to parsley in a cream, to cheesy pastries, noodles, and fried fish. I tried, but didn’t like, the cheese dishes. At least I tried! Though I should have taken down some of the conversation topics that I had, I didn’t, so that part is sadly missing from the account here.

After custard and mousse for dessert, I led a brief bentsching session. Before leaving the area, we circled up as a group in an open area of the station. One-by-one in the circle, we introduced ourselves by name and then gave one adjective about Jerusalem based on our knowledge. My adjective was “deep,” and others had words like “holy,” “ancient,” “beautiful,” and more. After this, the bus picked us up, and drove us a short distance to the hotel, where we had a three-hour respite. Wow!

I got some time to do some journaling, and got a few paragraphs in for today. Then, I headed up one floor, and found the sundeck. I chatted with Amy, “Nancyla,” and Doug. Topics included medical care, travel, hotels, and a lot more. We also watched the kids having fun with hammocks (but also ensuring that they wouldn’t get hurt). We were under an umbrella so that the temperature was comfortable. At 16:30, I retreated back to Room 601 for some more journaling.

At 17:15, we met in the lobby to get to the bus. Once aboard, we had an awkward count-off and headed eastward. We turned at the five-point intersection near the Leonardo Plaza, and drove past the מסורתי shul that I pointed out to the others. We reached an intersection which used to be under Jordanian control prior to the Six-Day War, and learnt that today marked the liberation of Jerusalem 50 years ago, according to the Gregorian calendar.


There was a פקק (p’kak: traffic jam) near the Old City, along the west wall of the fortifications (not of the Temple Mount). Gili talked about Ramadan, because we were near a Muslim-owned market, and there were many people who were obviously Muslim walking around. A street market was busy, selling bread and other foods for the iftar meals that they will have tonight (and for many more nights after sundown).


After we turned onto the north side of the Old City, we descended a hill while seeing the Mount of Olives on the left, as well as a valley. This valley was the site of many prophecies (I think it was the Kidron). He stressed talking about the evidence when arguments regarding claims to the land come up. He also suggested Zedekiah’s Cave as a place to put on the Next Tour list. We can return time and time again, and each time find something new to explore!

We entered the Old City via the “Dung Gate,” and after a short uphill walk, got directly to the Western Wall Plaza. No need for trust walks and tortuous zigzagging this time like what we did on Birthright! Though I already put on תפילין earlier this morning, there is no rule against doing it again. I prayed the מנחה at the Wall, and later Gili told me that I could have joined one of the small “pickup” מיניינים that were davening. Oh well–maybe next time!

We left and caught the bus, which completed the circle around the Old City walls. After getting off at basically the same spot that we got off at on Birthright, we walked down to Eucalyptus Restaurant. There were three round tables at which we divvied up ourselves. A bunch of courses came, starting with some tasty bread that we ate after saying המוצאי (HaMotzi). An eggplant dish I didn’t particularly like, but the lentil soup was good, and I ate without a spoon from the cup! Yep, I’m a savage (not really–no spoons were provided for the soup)!


Duck wraps (shaped like cigars), beef with tahini, and various other dishes came out. But all of these were merely hors d’oeuvres! All of the items had interesting spices. Sydney was then invited to the front of the room, and everyone counted before she flipped a dish open (with the chef providing supervision), to reveal a dinner similar to what I had at the Bedouin tents (i.e. chicken, rice, and veggies with Middle-Eastern spices). There was also a lamb “pot pie” dish, of which I tried a little bit.

Most of the items included spices from the Bible, including hyssop, mint, geranium, and four other species that I didn’t encode. Chef Moshe [illegible] talked about Chefs For Peace, which is a fairly self-explanatory organization. The dessert was really good too: chocolate cake, a dessert with rose-water with the consistency of custard, and one other item that I couldn’t successfully identify. It was nice eating, chatting, and filling myself up.

Before we returned to the bus, we saw a dancing fountain and Israeli music was playing with lights closer to the Old City walls. After marvelling at both of these, we got back to the hotel when the bus picked us up. The Watches, Seth, and I went to the lobby near the bar, and played a variant on Rummikub using cards. It was fun for a few hands, and there was also a piano player that we heard. I ascended Elevator E, which was interesting: Elevators D, E, and F have you choosing the floor from the outside, not the inside. Upstairs in 601, I brushed my teeth before sleeping at 23:00.



(Dirty?) Thirty: 12 days

Nebraska Regional: 46 days

Semester Kickoff: 78 days

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