Random Thoughts

Before I leave Jerusalem tomorrow, I wanted to post some thoughts/things to note that didn’t seem to fit in with the themes of previous posts. So here they are, in no apparent order:

1) Geraniums, lavender, and rosemary grow in the ground everywhere here. Huge bushes of them. I am slightly jealous of the fact that they don’t have to bring their plants in for the winter. (I haven’t come across one dish on either side that uses rosemary… but then again, I’ve mostly eaten falafel and shawarma.)

2) Tour guides everywhere tell lame jokes. I left a free walking tour of the Old City about halfway through, because he was just making awkward jokes and reciting historical dates. You get what you pay for.

3) It’s fine for vendors in the markets to ask you if you’re Muslim or Jewish (I got that question a lot as I wandered the Old City), but be careful to whom you ask the same question. After leaving the Armenian side of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I entered a nearby shop and asked if the shopkeeper was Armenian… he looked like he could be my cousin. But he wasn’t my cousin, and he took major offense to this question. “I am Muslim. All of these stores are Muslim. Why do you care? Now get out! I don’t sell to Armenians!” And he kicked me out of his shop! It was an honest question… it can be very difficult to tell who’s who just by looking. Luckily many shops sell the same thing, so I just moved on. At the next shop I entered, the (Muslim) owner asked me if I was Muslim or Jewish…

4) On the subject of markets: It’s best to go in the evening, when they are just about to close. At the height of the day, people know they can make money from the passing tour groups, so your bargaining power is greatly reduced. I offered someone more than a fair price for a couple of things I wanted, but he wouldn’t take it. I walked away empty handed on that one.

5) Good shopkeepers leave tourists wondering how they spent so much on something they didn’t really want. Good buyers leave shopkeepers telling them they’re cheap for haggling over 5 shekels. (Always insist on the last price quoted, and always count your change… I wasn’t letting him get an extra 5 shekels out of me, since we agreed on a certain price.) But I have been on both sides of that coin and now have some things to sell when I get home. If you’re interested, 90 shekels is a fair price. Give me your best offer.

6) Tattoos are always tempting. If I wasn’t going to be on the road for another four weeks……

7) Speed Sisters is a film about the first all-female motor car racing team in Palestine. Check it out. I met a man from Montreal (currently living in Ramallah) on a bus ride into Jerusalem. This is his friend’s film. There are some interesting thing happening all over the place.

8) I was reminded a couple days ago that a Jew assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. Yasser Arafat’s death still remains a mystery. And there goes Oslo…

9) The Israelis LOVE to party. Psytrance (psychedelic trance) music was imported here from Goa, India and took off. Raves, themed parties, clubs, discos… signs for dance-till-dawn events are everywhere in West Jerusalem. Across from Jaffa Gate a couple days ago, a DJ was on set in front of a hip, young Israeli crowd. Dancing in the shadow of the Tower of David… it’s how this place rolls. And I’ve heard Tel Aviv is even crazier… but time is of the essence, and I don’t have a day to recover this time around. I came here with a purpose.

So there you have it. A few non sequiturs for today. Tomorrow, I am leaving West Jerusalem for Aida Camp and will start a two week volunteer project with Lajee Center.

Jerusalem has been amazing. But the fact that thousands of people are living in densely packed refugee camps and are facing water shortages just a few miles away has never been far from my mind.

So as you celebrate the US today, please remember just how lucky we are to have what we have. Happy 4th!


Soldiers near Jaffa Gate


Women on the Temple Mount


At the Dome of the Rock


Children at the Temple Mount


Spices in the Muslim Quarter


The Stone of Unction, Church of the Holy Sepulchre


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