Monday, January 25, 2016

Shalom, Jerusalem!

I thought it seemed like a good idea to go visit Jerusalem one more time before heading home. I learned that it's not always a good idea to go sightseeing in January, even in Israel. I'm now an official survivor of Jerusalem Hurricane 2016 (no one else has called it that yet, but I think it might catch on).

I've been a little spoiled in Haifa so far this winter. Even though Israel is tiny and Haifa and Jerusalem are only 2 hours away, there's a significant temperature difference. Here in Haifa, this winter it's mostly been in the mid-60s. One time, my professor sent an email assuring us that class wasn't cancelled despite the frigid temperature of 57 degrees.

So that's the background explaining me being dramatic about the Jerusalem weather. Yesterday morning, we (me and my friend Bryonna) said goodbye to Haifa's blue skies and took the bus south to Antarctica.

Our first stop was going up to Temple Mount. I hadn't been there in almost 3 years, despite being back in Jerusalem many times. There are pretty restrictive visiting hours and restrictive modesty requirements that have prevented me from making the effort. Non-Muslims aren't allowed to go into Dome of the Rock or al-Aqsa Mosque, but it's still worth it to go up there and see the beautiful architecture. If you're not aware, this is also the spot where Jerusalem's temple(s) used to be.

We enjoyed (maybe that's weird) seeing a SWAT team ready to spring into action. Sometimes there's some friction at this spot.

Thankfully, I was able to get a picture of me before the cold drizzle turned into a an icy hurricane downpour.

For fun, here's the last time I was here (June 2013) and now:

After taking pictures on those steps, taking other pictures involved quite an effort. Like I said before, the rain really started coming down. It was about 35 degrees, so the rain was icy. On it's own the temperature wouldn't have been that bad, but when you're soaking wet you really feel it. Also, the wind was really strong. Evidence A: my umbrella died.

Despite this, I persevered in taking pictures, balancing my broken umbrella with one hand and whipping my other hand out of my pocket quickly to take the pictures. It worked out. I survived, I got some good pictures, and the ridiculousness of the situation was hilarious. For some reason, Bryonna thought it was really funny to watch me continue to use my umbrella that only half opened and kept turning inside out. I thought it was better than nothing ;)

Close-up of the lovely Turkish tiles.

View of the Mount of Olives and the Russian church of Mary Magdalene:

We stopped by the Western Wall since it's so close. It was weird to see it so empty! That was one big pro of the terrible weather: nothing was crowded.

That leads me to another big bonus of being in Jerusalem in the rain- ultra-Orthodox Jews wear plastic bags on their heads to protect their nice hats. It's an interesting sight to see.

Last glimpses of al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock:

The next place I wanted to go see was the Jerusalem Archeological Park, which is also right next to the Temple Mount. What I wanted to see there were the stairs that used to lead to the temple. I remember with the BYU people they made a big deal out of that being the place we went to where it's most likely Jesus actually walked. Unfortunately, the weather got worse from that point and most of my pictures are blurry from the rain drops. By then, I had nothing dry left to wipe off the lens with.

Good news: it's not too late to check out the Roman destruction of the temple. That's what these rocks are from.

View of the city from the park:

View of the puddle haha:

View of the blurry temple stairs:

All in all, my favorite part of this park was getting to stop in the bathroom and wring out my hair, dump some water out of my boots, and try to wipe out the water in my purse to protect my phone. 

Anyways... our last stop in the Old City was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Again, it was nice that it wasn't crowded. It was the shortest line I've ever seen to go into what's supposed to be Jesus' tomb, so we did that.

After that, we were pretty much done being outside, so we went over to the Israel Museum. I've only been there once and I didn't see all of it that time, so it was nice to go back. We walked through the Jewish Art and Archeology exhibits. I didn't take many pictures, but this terrifying mask was one of my favorite artifacts.

We were very happy to go back to the hotel and put on dry socks- the simple pleasures in life. We were also very happy that our hotel offered free hot chocolate. A dinner at an Italian restaurant was our last outing. By the end of the day, my poor umbrella ended up being awkwardly stuffed in a garbage can (awkwardly since it didn't close any more). We probably saw around 20 other broken umbrellas just abandoned on the sidewalk.

It actually did end up being a fun and memorable day, just a wet and cold one. Today we were supposed to go to Masada, but after getting to the bus station we found out it was closed due to flooded roads. I'll have to make it there when I come back to Israel someday!

I'm glad I had the chance to go say goodbye to Jerusalem. I'm lucky to have gotten to spend so much time here this year. Guess what time it is now... time to PACK! I'm going home in 2 days.

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