The Travels of Cypris – Jerusalem

The road to Jerusalem climbs through ancient mountains.  Unlike Tel Aviv, there are many ways to get into the city.  We chose to go through the forest.  It was my first glimpse and the many trees of Israel; hardy evergreens, that have withstood the test of time and the elements, supported by the rocky soil.  The roads are really small and windy, making it seem as though we were one of those caravans of people making the pass over the mountains and into the city.

I  was going to stay Sivan, a very calming prescence I met as she was cooking for the DPW team of the Israeli Burn the previous weekend.  I  told her i was planning on couch surfing in Jerusalem, and she invited me to come stay with her.  I was planning on couch surfing for the first time of my trip, but could not pass up her kind offer.  I was dropped at Independence Park and spun myself into the fleeting sun as I awaited her return from the Market. She rolled up with a huge rolling bag full of goodies for Shabbat dinner.  I met her friend Anat and we had a relaxing conversation about the ups and downs of travel over fresh goat cheese, veggies, tea, rice crackers and chocolate.  It was friday, the evening of Shabbat, when the tradition is to cook a huge meal with your family and friends.

The ratio of vegetarian/vegan to meat eaters is reversed here.  Us meat eaters are in the minority, at least in the group of friends i have been hanging out with.  Sivan and i have a great kitchen relationship.  You friends out there know how particular i am in the kitchen and i was excited to see how well we flowed together. It is fresh garlic season here.  Each clove is shrouded in a light purple layer of skin beneath its white exterior.  We sauteed up a bunch of greens with a couple heads of garlic and onion.  This was layered with bechamel sauce, feta, mozzarella and wanna-be parmesan cheese.  We made a salad, lemon-time vinaigrette, and the dressing for Sivan’s mom’s famous cabbage salad.  We decided to hold the meal at Anat’s because of her large table and selection on wine glasses.  The meal was rounded out with a roasted eggplant, onion, and tahini dish of amazing, slightly sweet dal and jasmine rice, tapioca pudding with strawberries and chocolate for desert.

The next day Sivan and I headed into the old city.  The sight of the ancient walls is intoxicating.  The rocks are tan in color with a very distinct, almost fractal pattern of intersecting squares.  The stones are very slick and have been rubbed smooth by so many millions of people whose steps have come before.  The old city market is slightly claustrophobic, about three people can fit abreast in the isles.  The walls tower about as the vendors call out to you as you approach, as you gaze into their stall and as you pass.  So much beauty is crammed into a very small areas, Moroccan furniture, Arab and Yemenite jewelry, gold and silver ornate kitchenware, leather sandals and bags, linen tunics and robes, belly dancing EVERYTHING, food stands, fruits and veggies, regular household items, souvenirs, like a plaque that reads,”Shalom, Y’all.”  It is a hagglers market.  It would be silly to pay the price the ask.  My favorite experience was in the first store we stopped in, a custom belly dancing shop where the store owner taught us a couple tying techniques for scarves.

The western wall was our next stop.  I find the word stop very applicable in this case.  The energy from 2,000 years of turmoil as well as celebration and honor causes you to really pause all thoughts of anything.  People write their wishes, memories, and prayers on pieces of paper then stick them into the cracks in the rock.  White plastic lawn chairs are set out for sitting as well as used to stand to get the paper into the highest crack possible.  The access to the wall is divided by sex.  I placed my head against the wall and let the waves of gratitude flow over.

We walked back home through the Armenian Quarter and stopped in a few of the pottery shops to enjoy the intricate hand painted pieces. After a rest, Sivan and I bussed to a Couch Surfer’s house for dinner.  We has spinach-shouka, a combination of the Tradition Shakshouka dish of simmered tomatoes and eggs with the left over greens from the night before.  We left a little late for busing and had to cab back home.


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