Friday, March 25, 2011

Israel Chronicles: Israel Is Real!

Taking the first step out of Ben Gurion airport, the first thing 2 Indian overworked mothers do? Behave like 5 yr olds let loose in a candy shop! TP and I let loose a few whoops and some tribal jinga-la-la-ho steps and sobered up enough to hunt for a cab... being a quasi-Western nation, Israel of course does not have helpful 'bhaiyyas' to carry your luggage... to cut a long story short, we took a cab to our hotel.

We stayed in East Jerusalem. Now there is a road in Jerusalem which bifurcates East and West Jerusalem.East Jerusalem was captured by Jordan when Israel was recognized as a Jewish state by the British Mandate in 1948. It was recaptured by Israel in the 6 day war in the late 60's. Perhaps because of Jordanian rule or perhaps due to its proximity to Al-Aksa, East Jerusalem is primarily Arab dominated whereas West Jerusalem is Jew-driven.... and we stayed in Arab dominated East.

We stayed in a fantastic hotel called 'Addar'. Would I have thought glowingly of it had I traveled with my son? Perhaps not.
But for 2 women travelers it was perfect. It had a tiny bed room with 2 single beds and a separate living room complete with a kitchenette and even a tiny dining table! TP crashed once we checked in, and I(with my OCD to set up a 'system') rummaged around my suitcase for a couple of hours!

When I looked out of the window for my first glimpse of Jerusalem, I had to remind myself to breathe.
The entire city stretched out golden....most houses and buildings in Jerusalem are built of some kind of stone that reflect the morning sun rays with a golden shimmer... clean and silent, yet resonating with ancient voices and a character that is hard to translate into words.

When we set off to visit the old city, the first sight that we remember in Jerusalem was cabbages the size of melons!Vegetables so fresh that had my grandfather come with me,
he'd've insisted on carrying home a sack. Burqa-clad women speaking perfect English blasted the first myth that the west-dominated media feed us...more on this later.....the Old City beckoned us majestically. A bleached red-fort like wall rose into the sky... and we entered through the Damascus gate.

The Old City is a walled area, about 1 sq. km divided purely on basis of religion into 4 quarters - Arab, Jew, Armenian and Christian. Given our hotel location (and perhaps our affiliation, but I am getting ahead of myself!) we entered the Arab quarter and were shocked. You'd think India would prepare you enough for noisy bargaining crowds, colorful stalls and disregard for any orderly movement, but it doesn't. Yet the Arab quarter isn't difficult to navigate, it is just so colorful, so lovely, yet without the filth and jostling of Indian bazaars and thankfully sans the humidity! As we walked through the Old City towards the Jaffa Gate (the entrance to the Jewish Quarters),TP and I fell in love.....

Moral of the Story: Always pack light! Always remember the moment you fall in love.


  1. the tourism department of israel should sit up and take notice :)

  2. I'm trying to imagine the sounds in the market. Lovely snippet.

    Houses made from stones lend quite a character to their environs.