Monday, January 24, 2011

Mevasseret Reform Synagogue

One of our instructors is a lot of fun in class and we've really gotten to know her this year. She lives near Jerusalem in an area called Mevasseret Tzion. It was about a 25 minute cab ride from a square near my apartment to get to her synagogue. We were there for a little while before services started and we got to hear a little about the history of the community.

It was really a great story to hear. Starting with a small community of five or six families, they have built up a community of something like 200 families. Their services reminded me of home in so many ways. They used HaAvodah SheBaLev, the Israeli Reform Siddur, and the melodies were very familiar. I was even more impressed by what I we learned over dinner. Apparently, the cantor position is filled on a volunteer basis and it seemed to work really well. I also loved to hear the different people chiming in and doing other readings during services. It had a strong community feel and I really liked it a lot.

I would recommend making a point to visit Kihilat Mevasseret Tzion if you are around Jerusalem for an extended period of time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


My mom always made these amazing cookies while I was in high school. I brought a lunch to school every day, and almost every day she put two or three of her cookies in my lunch. She baked them fresh on Sunday nights. I always referred to them as her "Kick-A$%" cookies and it was a bit of a running joke. She even made a cookie jar at one of those "Paint-A-Plate" places with that written as their name.

When I moved into my first college house, she gave me a recipe box with that as one of the recipes inside. It's been a while since I've had some of them, you know, that whole 13-hour flight issue. But she did send me the recipe on Facebook.

For the Ride 4 Reform, we are doing some bake-sales to raise money as a group (if you would like to make a donation to me as a rider, please visit the Ride4Reform Donations Site and include my name as the rider). So what do you think I decided to make? This time it was some Kick-A$% Cookies with a few modifications.

I know it's just a cookie recipe, but unless she says it's fine, I'm not going to publish it online, but I did make a few modifications. Instead of only regular chocolate chips, I decided to include chocolate and white "chocolate" chips. In a second batch, I decided to toss the chocolate chips into the mixture before the butter/sugar mixture had cooled down, making the entire batter chocolatey!

Enjoy the pictures, they taste as good as they look.

"White Chocolate" Chip
Chocolate Chip and "White Chocolate" Chip

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Laundry Days

In our apartment is this tiny little washer and we don't have a dryer. Aside from the fact that it takes two loads to do a week's worth of clothing, it wasn't that bad trying to get laundry done, especially in the summer. It was really, really hot and it took only a few hours and maybe a whole day to dry everything off. It also helped being able to use our mirpeset (balcony) to dry everything off.

Since it has gotten colder, we've been using our drying rack inside our apartment. When it was really cold we had our heater on. I liked to put it near the drying rack to try to speed up the process. The problem that I didn't realize was that we still had all of our windows in the apartment closed at all times. I couldn't quite figure out why our towels and jeans took nearly forever to dry off. It just didn't makes sense.

I did notice a musty feel in the apartment and that some of my books started to warp. It really hit me when Kaitlin and I got back from Sinai. We decided to try something new. Instead of leaving the apartment sealed up, we decided to open the windows and keep the heaters running. I'm sure it runs a little more electricity, but I've noticed that it only takes a day or two to dry everything off.

It works so much better now and it only takes each of us a day or so to deal with al of our laundry opposed to having something drying every single day.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The First Week Back

This is the first weekend of the second semester in Rabbinical School. Wow!

It felt great to be back in class. If you've read any of the posts I made about the vacation I had with Kaitlin, it's not like I was bored or anything. The vacation was absolutely incredible, but it's good to be back.

I have a few new classes that I'm really excited about taking.

On Sundays, Biblical History has been replaced with a Rabbinic Elective. We had a few choices and I decided to study about the High Holy Days. I'm excited to be working on texts and I hope to get a little practical practice as well.

I'm bummed that there isn't a Rabbinic Texts class anymore, but it was replaced with more Bible. I like having that class two days back to back. It gives us the chance to really dig into some of the issues with the text and some of the problems with translations.

The History of the Zionist Movement ended with the term, and we have another course in Modern Israeli History. Another chance for us to select an elective. I decided that I wanted to learn about the Israeli-Arab Conflict. On the first day of class we were asked to get together into small groups and prepare a case to present to the UN. The question was, why should Israel exist. What a first day of class!

The last new course we have this term is a continuation of the history classes we had last time. After the end of the 2nd Temple History course, we now have a class on late antiquities. Unfortunately I missed the first course of the semester, so I don't know what exactly it will be like. I've heard it's going to be much more text based.

I'm really fired up to be working again! I just like to have things to do and things to keep my brain busy.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Between Azza To Berlin/Bein Azza L'Berlin

There is a little restaurant on the corner of Azza and Berlin. I've been walking past it just about every day since the day I moved into this apartment. Yet until last week I had never stopped there. Kaitlin and I got back from Sinai later than we wanted to because there was a terrible traffic accident about twenty minutes from Jerusalem. We needed to eat quickly and we walked the less than a minute to eat some dinner.

The hummus was smooth. This wasn't something that I anticipated because I normally like my hummus with some chunks and the texture was off a little from what I liked. The flavor was amazing. Not quite as good as Ben Sira Hummus but the location is unbeatable for me. Literally on the walk from my apartment to anywhere except the grocery store.

I really liked their pita. It made up for the texture that I didn't like in the hummus. It was warm, fluffy and soft. Fluffier than I have ever had before, it was fantastic. Another redeeming quality to the restaurant is the falafel we ordered with our hummus was a complete shock. I thought it would be good, but there is still nothing better than freshly fried falafel and the balls they make are incredible.

I wish there were a few more than the three we got with our hummus, and maybe next time I can order a full falafel from them. It was a very good place to eat, especially if you're in my area. But if you're not down in K'riyat Sh'muel, it's not worth a long trek. If you're near by, you need to stop in.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bye Bye

After we came back from Dahab, we had a very relaxing rest of the week. It was a very good way for me to finish off my break and spend some time with Kaitlin. We really didn't do a whole lot. It involved a lot of just hanging out, watching movies, eating at restaurants and being with some of my friends. It was really a lot of fun to introduce Kaitlin around. We returned to the Shuk to get some last minute presents and that was about it for excursions.

We had a shirut that came to pick us up. I wanted to go with her to the Airport to say goodbye. Leaving this time was not nearly as hard as it was the first time. When I think about it, we've already done about 60% of the time apart this year. That means the remaining 40% shouldn't be that bad. Another big long hug and I was off to get back in a car and head back to Jerusalem.

This was my mistake. You see, at 2130 on a Friday night, there are not that many planes that are flying in to Tel Aviv. You're shocked, right? But as it turns out, the Shirut on'y returns when it's full. I was really glad I had a little West Wing and a long battery life left on my iPod to watch for the few hours it would take.

Wrong again. Instead of taking two hours or so, like the shirut driver said it would. We had to wait until the car was completely full. Which took until about 0135 in the morning. I then had to deal with being one of the last people dropped off from the taxi and I finally walked back into my apartment around 0215 or 0230 in the morning. It was such a long day of travel only to end up right where I started but lacking something.

I'm writing this a day later, and it's weird not having Kaitlin around. I spent six months here with out here and only two weeks with her. Yet I'm still left feeling like something is missing. I'm just glad that the internet is such a fabulous thing and I can't wait to get ahold of her tomorrow or Monday at the latest. I hope she's not dealing with too much Jet Lag.

And this puts the finishing touches on the chapter of my break. It's back to the grind of school. In fact, by the time this post goes live, I will have finished the first day of the second semester.

Before I go, there was one more thing I didn't mention about break. I learned to play a really fun game with some of my friends last Shabbat. I'm hoping to not be hit that hard with homework already for this Shabbat so I can play again. If you want a great game that changes every time you play it, but it's not completely crazy like Flux, check out Settlers of Katan (I'm sure I've spelled it wrong).

And with that, I pass.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


While I was in Sinai with Kaitlin it was strange that most business was done in English. While sitting at breakfast I heard people speaking, German, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French, a Scandinavian language I didn't recognize and some variants of Russian I didn't recognize. And these were just the ones that I thought I pick out. I'm sure there were more that I completely missed.

What continued to blow my mind was the fact that everyone could deal in some English. It is just incredible to me how many languages that other people in other countries know. It saddens me that I know English and a little Hebrew. I mean, I can function here in Israel with my Hebrew, but that only gets me so far in a small part of the world. I just wish that there would be a way for me to learn more languages.

I don't have the time, especially now. But I start thinking about why being bilingual at the very least isn't stressed in US schools. I mean, we don't EVEN have a national language. I'm not sure what I would propose to do about it. But I almost wish I could roll back time to learn another language in addition to Hebrew and American Sign Language.

I guess what happens when I turn my brain off school it turns on to other things that I start to think about. This is just one of those random thoughts I've had.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dahab, Southern Sinai

Under the Dahab Bridge

I needed a break from break. Yeah, I've had a week and half off but it didn't feel like a real break. The breaks around here have never really felt like real time off. So with Kaitin here we decided to get out of the country for a few days.

The drive down itself wasn't too bad. The bus #444 from Jerusalem to Eilat, a quick taxi ride to the Taba border crossing and finally a 1-hour 45-minute taxi ride to Dahab. Not too bad. The hard part was that we needed to watch the craziness of getting our passports stamped and taken care of. I'm sure when you send in your information back in the states, six or seven people see our information and it get's tossed around the office. I think there were six people that took our passports and wrote down information from them before we actually crossed into Egypt.

Then we got to our destination. It was incredible.

The Red Sea

For two-and-a-half days we did almost nothing. The breakfasts in the morning we took on the beach were complimentary with the exception of the turkish coffee, and we sat on the beach reading and watching the waves for a long time each day. It was really refreshing to sit with Kaitlin and just be on vacation. No cares, no worries and very little scheduled.

One of the few things that was actually arranged was taking a tour on a camel. She had her heart set on riding one since we were in the desert climbing Masada. So we arranged it and took a ride out to the Blue Lagoon to watch the sun set a little, but then our guide needed to make it back for prayers, so he brought us back before the sun went all the way down.

Kaitlin and Me Riding a Camel

We ate a bunch of meals in different restaurants, sitting on the floor or at tables. We sat in the open and in enclosed areas. We ate on the beach and in our hotel room. This vacation was exactly what I needed and what we needed to have together. It was incredible to have some time to just be with each other, watch movies, sit in the chill-out areas, watch sunsets and just really get a chance to relax.


There isn't much more I can say. Dahab and Sinai is an incredible trip, if you have the chance to visit I would highly recommend it. If you need a place to stay, use the Dahab Plaza Hotel. Mr. Emad, the manager, is great. When we arrived, he gave us a tour of the strip along the beach and pointed out his two restaurants, Same Same But Different and Fresh Fish.

On the walk with Mr. Emad, we were left alone by most of the annoying salesmen. He explained that he tried to tell the salesmen that most "westerners" don't like the aggressiveness that they work with. Many of them ignored his advice, but the ones that did leave us mostly alone, these were the ones that we shopped at. We loved to pop into the restaurants that only asked us once or twice to check out their menus and ate there. We also made a point of buying from the shops that were laid back about us.

Some of the salesmen were very aggressive though. One of my favorite lines I heard was a guy that very slowly said, " God Bless America. Yo. Yo. Yo. Whas up?" I also really liked the guy that told me each time we passed, "Remember when you said yesterday that you said you would come back?" It was a lot of fun experiencing a new place in the world and I realized that I have now been on the African continent now.

One final word of advice. If you go to Sinai, do not, I repeat DO NOT take a cab from the guys just inside the border. You need to walk through the border and out of the building. From that point you need to walk beyond the first gate. There you will find a group of men with taxis. You will be able to get a better price than we were able to get. Be ready to haggle.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Israel Museum and Shabbat

One of the greatest places in Jerusalem is the Israel Museum. It is newly remodeled and absolutely gorgeous! There is so much art, history and the Dead Sea Scrolls. We spent a little bit of time walking outside in the sculpture park and I took the cliche picture of Kaitlin sitting in front of the Ahava (love) sculpture and the ones of us playing with the reflecting statue.

Then we went inside the Shrine of the Book. This is the location of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The exhibit here is really impressive. There is so much more to see and read than there was at the traveling exhibit I saw with Kaitlin at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Instead of leaving disappointed with what we saw, we were fascinated by the layout and even the facsimiles they had on display were much more impressive than what we had previously seen. I had a chance to play history lecturer for Kaitlin again, but this time we were looking artifacts. It was really cool.

In the basement of the Shrine of the Book is the Aleppo Codex, a very complete copy of the Tanakch. One of the things that I kept coming back to that I found fascinating was that inside the margins and above the text are notes and corrections. There are places where the scribe made errors and corrected them and there are places that the writers made comments. I see a theme that shows just how much you can comment on the text as your own thoughts.

We continued to wander through the rest of the museum and looked at their section on fashion and on some of the other art they had available. I'm no art connoisseur. I have never claimed to be. It was refreshing to walk through a museum with someone who kept telling me that I don't need to understand it. You just need to find something that appeals to you in paintings or the pieces. There was one in particular that I really liked. An Israeli artist had arranged a photo that resembled The Last Supper by da Vinci. Adi Nes replaced the characters with Israeli soldiers.

In the Modern Art section there were some cool pieces about motion. This is one of their new exhibits. Again, it was great to go to all of this with Kaitlin. I'm hoping I can go again with another person who is more of an art connoisseur to teach me a bit more about what to look for.

Since it was Shabbat, the museum closed early. Kaitlin and I went home to get things ready since Marina was having a dinner. We used my mom's challah recipe to make challah for dinner. The problem was that it was chilly in the apartment and the dough didn't want to rise. We ended up not making it to services because we sat around waiting to finish making the challah. But I think it turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yamin Moshe

Since the first day that she got here Kaitlin saw Montifore's windmill in Yamin Moshe from a distance. We finally had the chance to go and see it. After getting a few pictures of the windmill we walked through the sleepy neighborhood. The only thing she kept saying to me was how beautiful the neighborhood looks. The problem is that it's pretty vacant because many people who live there don't stay all year long. There are many more residents in the summer. But it doesn't change the beauty of the town.

After walking around for a while, Kaitlin asked to go back to the old city. Really? For the fourth time in a week? Really?!

She wanted to go back to Hadaya to buy a bracelet that has an inscription written into the pounded silver (or sometimes gold). Unfortunately it will not be finished until after she leaves. So although I will have the day after she leaves, she won't be able to get it from me until I get home from Israel in May. Unless there is someone else who is coming here that will bring it back to Minneapolis for me. That will need to wait and see.

The rest of the night, we had dinner at a really good restaurant near my house, Restobar. I will put up a post about that place sometime soon. We spent the rest of the night finalizing our travel plans for going to Dahab, in the Sinai Desert. The day that I'm writing this, I'm really excited for our trip and I can't wait to write about it when I come back. By the time this post is up, we should be on our way back from Eilat to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"על נהרות בבט, שם ישבנו ושתינו
(On the rivers of Babette, there we sat and drank)" ~ Sign on the wall of Babette

Near Ben Yehudah street, on Shammai, if you are not careful, you could walk right past this tiny little hole in the wall. That would be a shame. Once you locate Babettes, you might need to shove your way through the door, especially in the winter when the door is closed. If you manage to get inside, you'll need to work your way towards the counter by fighting through the crowd around the tables and chairs that line the back and side wall.

What is your reward for getting through the craziness?

There are very few things you can order at Babette. Your choices include some coffee/espresso, other soft drinks, and waffles. But this is no breakfast place, oh no. Oh no. In Israel waffles are a dessert item because you not only get a waffle, but you also get any amount of sweets poured on the top. My personal favorite is to have butterscotch on top of whipped cream. Some of my friends like to get bananas and chocolate, or any great variety of toppings.

I was surprised to hear about waffles for dessert, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Waffles are a lot like a cake, especially when they are dripping with dulche de leche sauce. It is worth the walk slightly off the beaten path of Ben Yehudah towards towards Shammai, but be ready with some napkins, they can get really messy.

The food is not the only reason to stop in to Babette. The staff there are great! They are all really friendly and it's always fun to watch them interact with the customers. I wish my Hebrew was better than it is so I could join in with the joking. Alas, it's not and there's nothing I can do about it.

If you have the chance, pop in for a dessert. If you are going to be in Jerusalem for a long period of time, they have a "club card" that gets you a free waffle after you buy nine. They won't tell you about it, but if you ask for it, they will grab one for you.

The Shuk

On Wednesday after being in the old city all morning, we decided to go to the Shuk because this is something that you cannot miss if you are in Jerusalem. I've written about the craziness that happens in an earlier post. On a Wednesday night in the winter, the shuk is pretty empty and it was a lot of fun taking Kaitlin to all of the different places in it. We picked up some food that we needed for making a salad for Shabat dinner, some presents that Kaitlin wanted to bring for her family and some Marzipan desserts.

On the walk home she asked why I didn't do all of my shopping there. It was also totally work the 30+ minute walk it takes me to get to and from the Shuk. Not much more to say about it.

A final note is that we've been doing a daily "cat count" because they are like squirrels here (according to Kaitlin). We broke our earlier record of 26 by spotting 32 different cats. Over the course of the day. I wonder if we can do better than that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Third Time's The Charm

As it turns out, The Dome of the Rock/Al Aqsa Mosque Plaza is in fact open from 7:30 AM - 10:30 AM Sunday through Thursday to allow visitors to see the plaza. It tooks us three tries to figure this out, but we found the entrance, which is just outside the Kotel Plaza near the archeological park. There was a line that took us a few minutes to wait through to get access to the long bridge that takes you up to the plaza.

When we got to the top, the sights were incredible. The massive plaza extends incredibly far and is full of trees and beautifully designed courtyards. There are tons of ritual washing stations for Muslims to purify themselves before entering the Mosque or the shrine, places that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

It was amazing to get close to the Golden Dome. The exterior work is so impressive when you are standing at the base of the building. It was absolutely incredible. I want to understand what the writing means that encircles the building. Unfortunately I don't have the words to describe how amazing the site is. I will have to ask the following pictures to try to do the plaza justice.

When we were asked to leave the plaza before Prayer started, we walked back to the Kotel so Kaitlin could walk down to the wall. I was again frustrated by the fact that I couldn't go to the wall with her. She echoed similar sentiments about not having the space to actually get right up to the wall because the Women's Section is so much smaller than the Men's Section.

After finishing up at the wall, we walked back up the long way towards the Jaffa Gate. Kaitlin was excited to look around the Citadel. For 30 sheckels for an adult, we had an incredible two and a half hour tour through their history exhibit. It was incredible to fly through a lot of the history that I had studied this year. I also felt validated since a lot of the information that I had been telling Kaitlin was elaborated on. She had a great time learning about it.

The view from the top of the tower was incredible! It was a different look at the city and we had it framed for us in the history of the space. A great way to end our time in the Old City.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


When I was in Israel on Taglit (Birthright), my bus chose to not climb Masada in the morning. They wanted to stay up later in the "Bedouin" camp. That group wanted to hike later in the day. So I was really excited when Kaitlin said that she wanted to get up at 5:15 to climb the mountain for sunrise.

It was totally worth getting up so early in the morning!

We were at the gate to start climbing at 5:45 in the morning and it was pitch black. We couldn't find the path right away, but there were two large Taglit groups that went ahead of us, so we could follow them on the path. As we were climbing the sun started to rise.

The fog of the morning prevented us from seeing the entire sunrise as we were climbing, but we stopped during the hike to watch it. After about 50 minutes of walking up the "Snake Path", the winding path that takes you up the back side of the mountain, we made it to the top of the mountain.

After a 350 meter vertical climb that takes almost 2 kilometers and 700 stairs we made it in time to see the sun break over the top of the fog of the morning.

The top of the mountain was the same as I remembered. There are some really cool remnants from the Herodian Palaces and the fortress that sits atop the mountain. We wandered around for a few hours before going back down the snake path to get back to the hostel.

Walking down was harder to me than climbing up to the top of the mountain. It's hard on my knees and my calves, but it was a good workout. I would suggest that you make the effort to climb Masada for sunrise. It is absolutely beautiful!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Dead Sea

Look Moms, No Hands!
We tried to get to a beach that Marina's family went to on their trip to the Dead Sea. They had gone to Kalia Beach and said it was really nice. The site was not marked very well and we could never find exactly what we were looking for. Instead we went further south towards Mineral Beach Spa.

We checked this place out and for 45 sheck, we thought we could find something better. When we went a little further south on Route 90, we found the Ein Gedi Public Beach. After a quick glance over the property, we thought better of it and went back to the Mineral Beach Spa. It was a good choice.

For a locker, entry for two, and a towel it came to a total of 130 sheck. The mud was free because there was a space on the beach where we could take it right out of the ground. After thoroughly covering ourselves we walked a bit to let it cake on. After a few minutes we wadded out into the water, which was surprisingly not that cold. It's a strange sensation, you just kind of squat and lean backwards. The salt in the sea does the rest and you just float there.

The water starts to loosen the mud and there is a awesome sensation of smoothness as you brush it off.

Once we were completely mud free, Kaitlin went and got my camera so we could take the stereotypical picture of the two of us floating in the water. It's really cool to think that you don't need to do anything aside from sit there. But if you stay too long, you start to feel your skin drying and dehydration setting in. So after about fifteen or twenty minutes we washed ourselves off.

On the way up to the showers we saw a sign saying that they have a natural sulfur pool. It sounded like a great idea and decided to check it out. It was really warm and smelt like sulfur, there were some little white things floating in the pool too. It was all a part of the natural salty mineral water.

After floating in the water for fifteen to twenty minutes we showered off again. I really liked this place and would highly recommend this as a location to use if you're on a it of a budget. There are places that are much better and cost a lot more. If you are interested, there are some treatments that you can buy in addition to accessing the beach, but those are additional costs and we didn't really want to deal with that.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Driving in Israel

I first went in to rent a car fro Avis. A very good experience and if you are in need of a car, check them out. To my surprise, the automatic transmission on the Chevy we picked up also had tiptronic. I know how to drive a manual, and I understand the concept of the tiptronic. However, I had never driven a car with one. It took me more than a few tries to figure out exactly how to use it and in the end, I was glad to discover how to get the car into drive and stay automatic instead of this "new-fangeled" transmission.

That wasn't the end of the driving issues though. If you've never been to Jerusalem, I don't think I can begin to explain what goes on here as far as traffic. The traffic lights change from green, to yellow, to red, to yellow and back to green. This is so you can have your car in gear and already moving before the light changes. The result is a lot of honking when people are a little slow.

Driving here is also a lot like walking. You just need to go for it. People are very good about using their breaks to stop, but they are not so good at using things like turn signals or letting someone into a lane. Complicating the diving issue even more was the fact that the street signs, while marked somewhat well for pedestrians, are of little to no help for drivers. They are tiny and often blocked by traffic control signs or by advertisements.

The roads here do some strange things too. They sometimes add lanes and then take them away. Israel is also not immune to road construction. All of these things added into the difficulty I had trying to get us out of Jerusalem to head to the Dead Sea and Masada.

I got us lost twice in the city. Well, not really lost because I knew where I was. We were more lost in the fact that I couldn't get us where we wanted to go. I only take the blame for one of these two instances. One was due to poorly marked roads and me not having great directions (thanks Google). The other time was an issue of me not being in the right lane. That one was my bad. As it turns out, if you ask someone for directions they will give you very detailed ones. But this was not enough.

After I had returned to my car, the man followed me to give me better directions that he had thought of since we talked 20 seconds earlier. These worked really well. The third time is the charm.

Once we were on the highway, it was pretty easy to get where we needed to go. We made our way to the Dead Sea (look for another post soon about that part of the trip), and finally on to Masada.

This is where I got us lost again.

We were planning on staying at the Masada Youth Hostel and Guest House. When I was looking for directions, I could only find bus routes and an address that told me Masada. I put this into Google Maps, copied down the directions and hoped all would be well.


I knew that there are two sides to Masada. What I didn't know was that we were staying on the side closer to the Dead Sea. This was something that escaped me in my directions. So instead of having a very short journey, I took us far south, into and through Arad, back into the desert and to Masada. When we got there, the man at the security barrier told us that we were on the wrong side and had to go back.

When we reached Arad for the second time, we pulled over on the side of the road. Luckily there was an open internet hotspot that we could log on to. Kaitlin helped me find the right address and we charted our own course back through the desert to our hostel for the night. We arrived only an hour later than we had planned and two-and-a-half hours after we could have arrived.

Where We Were Supposed To Be
Where We Ended Up

The drive home was far less eventful. It took us about an hour or so to get back to Jerusalem. Reentering the city is a lot easier than leaving it. Maybe it's not that Jerusalem has such a hold on you. It might be that it's just impossible to find your way out!

It was a great trip though. I really enjoyed getting to spend time in the car with Kaitlin. The experiences were great too.

Another post will come soon that will tell you all about the Dead Sea and Masada.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Old City Again

After realizing that the Dome of the Rock Plaza was closed on Saturday, we wanted to try again. This time we went with friends.

Before we needed to meet Jay and Bryce, we wanted to walk around for a little while in the old city. We took a route avoiding shuk in the Old City to end up in the Kardo (the old roman thoroughfare that used to hold shops). As we were wandering through the shops we bumped into them and headed in the direction I thought was towards the plaza.

It turns out to be a lot harder to navigate the old city than I anticipated. Instead of immediately finding the entrance to the plaza, we found my favorite Falafel place in the entire city! I will talk about it later when we get back into the shuk (market). After stopping to reorient, we backtracked towards the Via De La Rosa to find our direction. We ended up outside the Austrian Hospice, a place I had been earlier this year with HUC (blog post here). I ran in to get some directions.

The only way for us to access the plaza is right next to the Kotel. After going through the checkpoint, we walked to the southern edge of the Kotel to find the entrance. We were informed by the security guard that it was closed to visitors at that point. I was confused because the websites I consulted said we should have been able to get up at that time of the day.

The security guard that we talked to didn't give us any good information so we kept looking around for the entry point. When we went towards the archeological park we were stopped by somebody more knowledgeable. We asked him when we could go up and he gave us an exact set of times.

At this point we went back towards the Kardo to do a little shopping. Jay and Bryce wanted to grab lunch at a bagel place in the Jewish Quarter. Kaitlin and I wanted to grab a falafel so we went back to this shop we had rediscovered earlier. I'm so glad we found this place!

There is something special about their spices and the way they put everything together for you. It really is the best stuff you can find. Near the Damascus Gate street, just off of the Via De La Rosa there is a point at which two roads come together and make a nice little square. The falafel shop is right on the corner. For 7 sheck you can get a really tasty falafel. Right next door is a great coffee shop.

I had never had their coffee before, but I bought a half pound so I can make turkish coffee. I was excited at the chance to pick up that coffee and have a great falafel with Kaitlin. She really seemed to enjoy the falafel too. And after that we walked through some of the shops. Kaitlin ended up picking up a couple of gifts for her friends and family back home.

Afterwards we looked in to renting a car to take down to the Dead Sea and Masada the next day and I showed her my campus. I don't remember exactly what we did the rest of the evening. I think we cooked dinner and hung out at home to get ready to head south the next day. This was when we had some issues with the internet and I took her to Cafe Yehoshua to have a hot chocolate and use their internet to plan the route.

As you can read later, it probably would have served us better to research more than we did. We had a few issues with the car and getting around Jerusalem and to Masada.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Shabbat with Kaitlin

We slept in a little on Saturday. I made some pancakes and we had a nice big meal together to celebrate New Years and finally being together. It had been way too long.

We decided to go to the old city and walk around since most things are closed on Shabbat here. It was pretty quite in the the shopping areas and it was nice to walk around. We tried to get to the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount because it is supposed to be incredible up there. There were specific times that we are allowed up there because we are not Muslim.

There were a few routes that we could have taken, but apparently only one is the right way up. We never found it. Instead we checkout out the Kotel, but didn't walk down to it. It was Shabbat, so pictures were not allowed. While we were wandering, I showed her the Kardo (the shopping area in the Jewish Quarter) and we explored a little bit more.

While circling the streets of the old city we found an ancient city wall from the 1st Temple Period. Think 900's BCE for the rough time period. It was pretty cool to find that.

It was about that time of the night for the sun to go down. On of my friends had sent out an email that there would be Havdallah (A Saturday night service that puts an end to Shabbat), so we walked that way. For dinner we decided that it would be a great idea to go down to Emek Rafayim (German Colony Area) to have dinner.

At Cafit (a dairy only restaurant down there) we ordered Cheese Burgers. No, not a hamburger with cheese, but a burger made entirely of cheese. It's a fried stack of cheese served on a bun like a burger. So incredibly tasty. If you have the chance, I would highly recommend picking one up.

That about did it for Saturday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

She Arrived!

On Friday Kaitlin finally arrived in Israel. In the morning I was trying to get some last minute things ready. I bought some groceries for Shabbat, cleaned the apartment, started on a little bit of laundry and then I needed to wait.

There was nothing to do because all of my exams were finished so I sat.

I was waiting to leave to catch a shieirut (shuttle) to the airport to collect Kaitlin, but I couldn't take it anymore. I left my apartment to wait on the street near my pickup point. Luckily I found a way to get some of the West Wing onto my iPod so I could kill some time until the cab arrived.

Emily met me a little bit before we were supposed to leave and we went off to the airport.

Sitting in the arrivals area is one of the most stressful things I had to deal with all week. Not nearly as bad as any of the exams. The plane was almost an hour late and after we saw that the plane landed we stood near the exit so we could wait until our friends got through customs. It took a long time for her to come through and I was very anxious.

I kept standing on my toes and stretching me neck to see over all of the other people. I knew she would be carrying my guitar and every time I saw a guitar my heart started to race a little bit. Emily's friend, on the same flight, came out first even though she saw Kaitlin in line ahead of her.

Finally, finally she popped out of the door. Very bewildered I caught her attention and there was a hug smile on her face. I tried to get as close as I could. When she finally got past the pack of people I gave her a huge hug! Aside from waiting to see her, all I could think about the whole time is that scene from Dogma at the very beginning. Matt Damon and Ben Afflek are discussing how great it is to see the reunions at the airport. They were right. There is so much joy in seeing that person you've been missing after so much time apart.

The rest of the night we spent trying to get to Jerusalem, unpack a little bit. We had dinner at a great restaurant, Dolphin Yam. After hanging out with some of my friends for a while, we met at another of my friends' apartment to celebrate New Years Eve! What a night and what a great way to start off 2011!

I know it's been a while since I've posted much. We've been traveling and the internet at my apartment is shaky at best right now. I hope to be able to update the blog while Kaitlin is here, but we're trying to squeeze as much out of Israel into her visit.

Happy Belated 2011!