I don’t care if it’s the holiest place in the world, it’s still 3 hours away

Jerusalem: Holy to millions, foundation stone of the world, dreamed of by generations.

Three hours away from Haifa by bus. (Two hours plus traffic and local connections.) So close, and yet so far.

It’s no wonder they have a hard time encouraging people making aliyah to settle in the north. If you are making aliyah for religious reasons, you might want to get to Jerusalem more than a few times a year.

The weekend here is typically about a day and a half long; there is no such thing as a “long weekend.” Friday can be a day off, but some people have to work in the morning, and if you do anything at all for Shabbat, there are preparations to be made.

But let’s pretend you have Friday completely off, you don’t have any Shabbat preparations, and you want to travel to Jerusalem. Great! You arrive around 11:00. Now you have exactly 4.5 hours before the last bus out and you are stranded. In the summer you can do it if you’re willing to spend more time traveling than touring. (In the winter a Friday trip is a non-starter.)

Realistically, unless you can plan to spend Shabbat in Jerusalem and take a late-night bus back on Saturday, you have to take off work on a weekday to make a visit possible. No one in Jerusalem seems to have space for Shabbat guests anyway (apartments are expensive and tiny–like the rest of Israel, but more so).

We visited Jerusalem last Monday for Jeff’s cousin Ty’s bar mitzvah at the kotel. Mazel tov Ty!

We left the house at 7:15 and endured a stressful cab ride in order to (barely) make it in time. I mentioned to the cab driver that the bus was late.

  • Traffic jam?
  • Of course.
  • Shorashim junction?
  • Yes, how did you know?

The bar mitzvah itself was pretty great. We stood on chairs and took pictures over the mechitza.

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There were five or six b’nei mitzvah going on all at once, with all the tables lined up in a row along the mechitza. It was a very joyous atmosphere with all the simchas going on at once. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation publishes the pictures of boys who have had b’nei mitzvah at the wall, and Ty is on there along with 50 other boys. (I don’t know if that’s from this week or this month or what.)

The kotel is a nicer place to visit than in years past. They’ve renovated the bathrooms to add more stalls. They’ve gotten rid of the problem of beggars asking for money right there on the plaza where people are praying. (Now you run the gauntlet up the steps on the way out.)

What they can’t renovate: the weather and hateful graffiti.

Frankly, I find Jerusalem exhausting. Part of it might be that as a visitor I do more walking in the hot sun than a resident might. But I think it’s also partly its size combined with the kind of people it attracts. I’m not the hugest fan of large cities to begin with. While I was in college in New York, I spent the majority of my time in quiet Morningside Heights. In contrast to Jerusalem, New York is full of people who don’t really give a crap. Sometimes that’s nice.

In Mamila (just outside the old city), Jeff’s cousin Binyamin got into an argument with a man whose job, apparently, is to convince passers-by that all Arabs want to destroy the Jewish people. Binyamin argues like most people breathe.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been as stressed out about the politics if I had been feeling better. I had became dehydrated on the long bus ride early in the morning without breakfast. Normally I would be able to hydrate myself afterwards, but that wasn’t going to happen in the hot midday sun, even with a hat and a bottle of water.

After the bar mitzvah we had lunch, hosted by the bar mitzvah boy’s grandmother, at a cafe in the brand new Mamila mall. Lunch was very pleasant. We caught a 4:30 bus home and made it in time for Rafi’s bedtime.

It was a long day, and I was happy to be home.

-Abby

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One thought on “I don’t care if it’s the holiest place in the world, it’s still 3 hours away

  1. Pingback: Hosting Guests with Reverse Culture Shock | Hebrew Is for Israel, Mommy

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