Friday, April 15, 2011
Finally, a Jerusalem Recap
The weather has taken a definite turn toward summer here in Amman.
Last night we had dinner by the pool at the Embassy. Too cold to swim - and thanks be for that, because I'm not much for running around in a swimsuit in front of my colleagues - but definitely warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the breeze. It reminded me that I've been here for awhile: last time we sat out by the pool, I didn't have any friends yet, so it wasn't much fun. But last night we sat with some of the real, actual friends whom we've managed to acquire since last August. It felt... comfortable.
Which probably means we'll be evacuated any minute now.
My parents are safely back in Seattle, and I never did get them to guest-blog. But I think they had fun. I know they kept busy, and I believe they were pleasantly surprised by Jordan. Also Jerusalem. Which is what this blog post is about. What, you couldn't tell I'm writing about Jerusalem here?
We piled into the car and headed toward the border early in the morning, knowing that it could take hours and hours and hours to get through the border crossing. We planned on going across at the King Hussein Bridge, which is reserved for diplomats and Palestinians. Jordanian passport holders cross elsewhere.
We were just a few minutes away from the border when Shay threw up in the back of the car - he tends toward carsickness, poor guy. Ainsley took one look at the mess and got sick herself. We pulled over to survey the damage and realized there was no way we could continue. It was a big nasty stinking mess. We cleaned them off as best as we could (during which time a few of Bart's bodyguards happened by and stopped to see if they could help. If only! They couldn't help, but it was a nice reminder that people look out for each other here) before returning to Amman for showers.
Take two. Our second journey to the border passed uneventfully, and we got through the border crossing in around 2 hours - not bad. Then another 45 minutes or so later, we arrived in Jerusalem. Geographically close to Amman, but worlds apart nonetheless.
We stayed at the David Citadel, an outrageously expensive hotel just a few minutes' walk from the Jaffa Gate into the Old City. We hired a guide who was recommended to us by a colleague, and it turned out to be the best possible use of our shekels. The guide, Toni, was probably around 70 years old, spry as can be and so knowledgeable. He grew up in the Old City, so he knew every little corner of the place. He spent almost the whole day walking us through the site, and somehow we managed to avoid the crowds with his guidance. For example, when he took us to the building where it is believed that Jesus was jailed overnight before being crucified, we were the only ones in the place. When we left, we saw the tour buses lining up outside. Toni also knew the best place to stop for coffee, the best restaurant for a quick lunch, and the best souvenir stands.
Today we celebrated Palm Sunday mass in Amman (yes, I know, it's only Friday...), and it was strange to listen to the readings telling the story of how Jesus was led to his death, knowing we just walked that ground. It made the whole experience much more poignant (even with a 2-year-old crawling all over me). When we got to the part where Peter denies knowing Christ for the third time and the rooster crows, I got a little shiver knowing we'd just been in that very spot. Weird.
It was also odd to look down at the Wailing Wall. Like the Great Wall of China or Red Square in Moscow, it's one of those places that I've seen so often in photos that I found it unsettling to be there for real. The dull sort of roar that rose up from that spot was overwhelming after the quiet of nearby alleys.
It was all so interesting, and well worth going, although a full day of carrying Ainsley around (Bart carried Kyra much of the time) just about killed me. We definitely need to go back again, but not until fall - that's when some people who are very near and dear to us will be moving to Jerusalem for work. I have a feeling we'll be making that border crossing many, many times after they arrive.
Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures.
The girls in their new sweaters, made by Nana...
Shay was fascinated by this man, a Muslim whose family has held the keys to this church, on the site of Jesus' crucifixion, for hundreds of years. He comes every morning to unlock the church, then locks it again each night. If I understood correctly, there are so many Christian sects vying for ownership of the church that the Muslim family, a neutral party, keeps the key.
Ainsley has watched Aladdin one too many time - she thought the carpets were going to fly...