My third day in Jerusalem began rather dramatically – the drain in my basement hallway had exploded with a river of excrement, due to a problem with the Jerusalem sewers and not my lovely hostel. So running away from the pungent smell of my room I ended up in the “City of David,” a complex of archaeological remains, many actually pre-dating the biblical king and even featuring a Canaanite toilet seat!
One of the main highlights is wading through Hezekiah’s Tunnel – a 500m long tunnel channelling water from a natural Gihon spring and hiding it from invaders, preventing the water system being poisoned etc. 500m doesn’t sound particularly long but when the water is waist-deep the journey does take a while – and also the novelty begins to wear off. You can however see from the different heights of the tunnel roofs where the two tunnelling teams met, 3000 years before a similar event with the more waterproof Eurotunnel! There was also a wet floor sign by the exit – a bit of an understatement! There are also the remains of a stepped road leading up to the temple used until Jerusalem’s destruction in 70CE, which is now underground, showing how quickly street levels can change.
Walking back through the streets of the old city, I ended up at a much more contemporary sight and whilst it is easy to be lured in by the might of history and religions surrounding you, the current political situation should not be forgotten. The Museum on the Seam visibly shows the signs of a conflict that despite current peace, has not in fact been solved and effects the everyday lives of thousands of people.
One instance I personally experienced when getting the bus between Palestine and Israel was due to the merits of my British passport I was allowed to remain seated on the bus as opposed to Palestinians who where shepherded through rigorous security checks. I do not personally have a problem with the checks themselves but feel that all bus passengers should be treated equally. Anyway this museum hosts changing contemporary art exhibitions with a socio-political slant and whether or not the art is to everybody’s taste, it is art that can honestly and not pretentiously be called thought-provoking.
To end my day I ended up where nearly every Jewish Jerusalemite was before the Shabbat shut-down – the Mahane Yehuda food market. The atmosphere was amazing; towers of spices, heaps of dried fruit, wheels of halva (a sesame-paste confection looking worryingly like paté) and vats of olives with half a city crammed into it’s covered tunnels, buying their whole family’s food for the weekend.
As someone who loves cooking I spent around three hours (possibly a bit excessive) attempting to narrow down my food purchases for the week-end resulting eventually in a rather bizarre combination of onion bread, a punnet of pomegranate seeds, a kilo of dried kiwis (yup my Hebrew definitely needs some work) and some mini pastries. It made a change from the houmous wraps I’ve been living on ever since – food in Israel being prodigiously expensive. You can get a train from one end of the country to another for the same cost as two packets of biscuits. I wish the same was true back home and you could get to Edinburgh for the price of some McVities Hobnobs though! I ended the day as mentioned in more detail here, joining the Franciscans on their weekly Friday procession along the Via Dolorosa.
My next morning began thankfully with the smell of cleaning products in the corridors but again took a slightly bizarre turn when I ended up wandering around a girl’s school in East Jerusalem. I’d been told the Rockerfeller Archaeology Museum was in a castle-like structure just outside my nearest city-gate although it seems the city is home to several castle-like structures. The school receptionist seemed quite amazed as to how I’d bypassed security to get inside and bemusedly directed me to a near identical building just down the road. Continue reading