Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day of Tombs, Day of Shopping


The day started off slow, skyping with home, Micah sleeping in, then breakfast down the street, but then we ventured out in the car and drove to Hebron a city in the West Bank, a sign when we entered saying that It was illegal for Israelis to travel in Hebron, cars everywhere, busy busy busy - we were looking for the Tomb of the Patriarchs, but we weren't going to find it in Arab Hebron. We had to leave Hebron and drive to Kiryat Arba, the jewish settlement town inside Hebron, so back onto the highway and basically around the corner and into Kiryat Arba. We drove around Kiryat Arba trying to find the Tomb of the Patriarchs and finally fell upon the big old building with israeli soldiers nearby.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs was a very strange place with religious jews of all kinds praying. There were side rooms that were the windows to the actual tombs, giant ornate caskets behind locked barred doors in small ornate rooms, people praying outside the doors to the tombs. There was one prayer room which had Abraham's tomb on one side of the room and Sarah's tomb on the other side. There were 2 live pigeons on top of Abraham''s tomb. Micah was amazed by that, we were inside and the tombs had ceilings so how did the birds get in? Another room had Jacob and Leah opposite each other. We didn't see Isaac and Rebecca. Supposedly Adam and Eve are buried beneath the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the Cave of Machpela. I need to google it to get the "facts" straight, but it is interesting stuff.

A young woman sat facing Abraham's tomb praying and crying. The entire place had a very weird vibe with Israeli Defense Force soldiers inside and out, Hasidic Jews, orthodox jews, people lighting tea lights, tourists, no english information, very disjointed place, with all these odd rooms, and an ark in the center of the largest room with all these men praying while others mill about (see video). And the tomb is supposedly the spot of the Garden of Eden. All in Hebron, the original home of King David, a town which was settled by radical Jews after the 1967 war.

So Micah and I took pictures and wandered through the rooms of this very odd and very holy place. We then wandered out and bought some prayer beads from the only vendor across the street and then asked where the old city of Hebron was. It was just past the Israeli security forces, a young man was telling us we couldn't go there if we were jewish. I ignored him and just asked the Israeli soldier if we could go into the shuk (market) and he just waved us through to the Shuk of Hebron. We walked and looked at stuff and talked a little bit to the shopkeepers - only one of them really spoke english, but we had fun haggling with some of the shopkeepers, using my hebrew to communicate. We ended up buying a few things, it was good exposure for Micah to see and experience the haggling, start at 100 and end at 50 kind of thing... It was an interesting market, all the shopkeepers either ignored us or said, "Welcome" only a couple of them were really aggressive. There were very few tourists. The only question we ever heard was "where are you from" I think that's all the english they had.

On the way back I stopped to talk with the one guy who really did speak english. He showed me this book on Hebron, and the Palestinian struggle. It was a Palestinian published book in english, I probably should have bought it, but I would never read it. It was historical and political. I looked at it and he just made sure I was aware of the problems of Israeli occupied Hebron, business was bad, many many shops were shut down, since the Intafadah, things just haven't been the same.

Our experience however in Hebron was one of vibrant business, the hustle and bustle of the new city and the welcome feeling in the old city. We were jews being welcomed into Hebron, maybe for them we were just Americans, but I did speak a little Hebrew, but it was clear that they don't see many foreigners, but I think they are seeing more than ever... But then again at one point about ten Israeli soldiers marched through the narrow market so that's definitely a sign of less freedom and I'm sure hard to swallow if you are a Palestinian.

Well we ended up spending a few shekels in Hebron making a few of the shopkeepers happy and then left the shuk back into Kiryat Arba through a security check point and then back to our car and back to Jerusalem. Driving there and back was so easy - no check points, never needed to show passports and the girl at the front desk of the hotel had told us that we couldn't drive there at all. And we were driving all over Palestinian Hebron - we never parked when we were on that side of town, but we could have.

When we arrived back in Jerusalem, Micah really wanted to visit the Old City one more time so we drove straight there into a big traffic jam, drove around the perimeter of the Old City and then found a parking space near the Jewish Quarter where just by chance we wandered into a building, King David's Tomb, another odd place where a man in his late 50's insisted on giving us a short tour, showed us the tomb and explained to us that underneath David's tomb is Solomon's tomb. Then he took us to the rooftop for the view and he asked if Micah's mother was jewish and when I said no, he said, I see it's complicated and then when he walked us out of the tomb he said business is really bad, give me some shekels. ugh. I was expecting that, but it was still icky.

It was a Day of Tombs.

After that we looked for the schwarma place from our first day in the Old City, then we had ice cream cones, then we walked back to the Western Wall for a goodbye prayer, then we hit the Arab Market and did a little more shopping, getting into the spirit of haggling, we were the last sale of the day as the shops were closing at Sunset, since it's Ramadan all the Muslims fast during the day and only eat after sundown, so once it's getting close to sundown it's definitely time to close up shop.

Then back to our car where low and behold a jerusalem parking ticket. I guess I wasn't praying hard enough, now I just have to figure out how to pay it. I'll have to ask my lawyer friend what I need to do, it's all in hebrew, though it does appear to be for 100 shekels. I think I needed a parking pass or had to buy something, I really have no idea. It looked like a real parking space.

So we went back to the hotel and took a short rest, and then back out to the Emek Refriam restaurant area, where there was a free jazz concert and arts and crafts fair going on which meant more shopping... so today was a shopping day, somewhat relaxing, but still tiring and then after the jazz/art fair we had sushi at a different sushi place which was really good. Sat outside and enjoyed the breezy evening air, with a beer and a coke and some spicy tuna...

City of Hebron

The Tomb of the Patriarchs

Old City Shuk of Hebron

piles of pancakes popular for Ramadan

Goodbye to the Western Wall, As Micah said, who knows when we will be back...

praying at the tomb of the patriarchs

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