09 November 2009

A Little Judaica, a Little Christianica, and a Little Islamica

Adi and I booked a tour of the "tunnels" underneath the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem for 9:20 a.m. At 9:20 a.m. Adi and I are sliha-ing people right and left, running through the streets of Old Jerusalem to get to the Western Wall. No problem. After going through the worthwhile underground tour and saying a prayer at the Western Wall, we set off on a self-guided amble through the Muslim Quarter and the Christian Quarter, stopping along Via Dolorosa a few times, as one should.

I really just wanted some falafel as a snack for lunch while walking around, to round off the bread and zatar we had. But the Hummus Tour had to continue! We had falafel and a bowl of Jerusalem hummus (mine with foul) each. Must walk off the chick peas!

Jerusalem is a place, like many others, that must really be experienced first hand. I'll simply say that there were several times during the day that I was moved. The greatest of these was in The Dormition. We met with Adi's friend Roni and then went to visit a friend of his named Bilal. Both of these gentlemen showed us great hospitality and generosity. Here are some of the other places Adi and I visited in the Holy City of Jerusalem:
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • King David's Tomb
  • Crusader-built Room of the Last Supper

Later in the week we traveled northeast to the Galilee. En route we stopped for a few hours in Nazareth (الناصرة‎/נצרת). Since Nazareth is heavily Arab Christian and it was Sunday, there was very little to going on. Even most of the shops were closed. We did, nevertheless, spend a good amount of time at the Basilica of the Annunciation and checked out the highly disappointing and poorly kept "Mary's Well" (if indeed what we were looking at was Mary's Well). In the evening, I took the opportunity to attend my first mass in Arabic with Adi (her first full mass ever) at the lower grotto of the basilica.

We continued East toward The Galilee, passing through Cana (where we didn't stop for a glass of wine!). In Tiberias we found a very nice restaurant called Little Tiberias (scrumptious eggplant roulade that was effectively deconstructed caponata with feta, and filet of a Red Sea fish called Denise in an herb butter sauce), and made our way to sleep in Migdal (also Magdal[a], as in Mary Magdalene). I saw no prostitutes on the streets of Migdal, so maybe it's been cleaned up in the past 2000 years. The following day we trekked on to
  • Kfar Nachum (Capernaum), where Jesus spent much of his time and where Peter and a few other apostles came from
  • Mount of the Beatitudes, home of the Sermon on the Mount
  • Tabgha, where the miracle of the loaves and fishes purportedly took place
  • Upper Jordan River

On the way back to Tel Aviv, we stopped in Safed/Tsfat (צפת), "World Capital of Spirituality and Jewish Culture" and home of the Kabbalah. There's an Ashkenazi Quarter, a Sephardic Quarter, and a Citadel atop a hill which provides stunning views of the surrounding area. It would have been nice to have a bit more time there to appreciate the art and cultural elements, but we wanted to make one more stop and had to make it back in time for an appointment in Tel Aviv. To take in a bit of a different culture from the region, our final brief stop in the predominantly Druze village of Holfesh for a Druze pita: a gigantic flatbread smeared with labaneh, zatar, something spicy like harissa, and a generous drizzle of exceedingly fresh olive oil, all folded into a manageable po-boy size sandwich. The kind lady running the roadside restaurant brought us an herbal tea made with freshly cut leaves typical of the Druze. This made for a fine late afternoon snack.

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