Terri and I had no trouble arriving in Jerusalem in time for the plans of the day. We took a Sheirut (shared taxi) to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and then another Sheirut to Jerusalem. We wanted to take the Jerusalem circle tour (a bus ride around the city with narration), but I managed to miss the Jerusalem Central Bus Station stop thinking that it would be the last stop (it wasn’t) on the Sheirut route. So at 10:30 we found ourselves on Latin Partriarchate Rd in the Old City. We wound our way to the Jaffa Gate and discovered that we could hop on the Circle Tour bus there, so we did. The bus itself is a bit of a disappointment. Slightly shabby with truly minimalist and stupid narration (surprising number of errors in the historical reporting), but you are traveling through Jerusalem, so it was worth the small price.
We arrived at the Central Bus Station where we were told that there would be a break until 1:30pm, so Terri and I wound up with our second day in a row of eating lunch in a Central Bus Station. This time I had the local equivalent of a potato knish. Very filling and tasty. After lunch, we returned to the bus where we found the bus driver trying a variety of methods to resurrect the computer that controlled the dumb narration. After 15 minutes of this he told us that we’d have to wait for a new bus and finally at 2:15pm we were back on the road with a bus that had a canvas top–actually much more comfortable than our first bus. Terri and I got seats on the top level right at the front, so we had a magnificent 180 degree view of Jerusalem as we ascended to Mount Scopus and down past the Mount of Olives to the Old City. At 3:30pm we were back at the Jaffa Gate. This time we took the traditional walk down David Street to the Street of the Chain, and a quick jog over to the Western Wall Plaza.
Here I was astonished at the changes since my last visit. Before the renovation of the Jewish Quarter, it seemed more open with vast views of the Wall and the top of the Temple Mount. I wanted to show Terri the western wall tunnels, but it turned out you now need to make reservations to see this, so that will need to wait for another day.
From the Wall we wandered over to the entrance to the archaeological park. For the second day in a row we had to decide against entering a museum because we had arrived too late in the day. We will definitely be going back at a more reasonable hour. From there we headed through the Dung Gate and had a view of the City of David dig. We re-entered the old city and made our way through the new Jewish Quarter. A yeshiva student tied a red ribbon around my wrist. I let him do this thinking I might actually be able to engage him in some conversation. This turned out to be futile, so off came the ribbon. I also avoided the appeal for “charity” as well as a few dozen other beggars. Our travels back took us to the excavation of the Cardo (the east-west thoroughfare of Roman Jerusalem). And we were delighted to see near there an excavation that revealed some material dating as early as 7th century BCE.
As the sun set we departed the Old City and walked along Jaffa Road. The road is in quite a state as they seem to be installing a light-rail set of tracks down the middle of the street. Before long we arrived at Ben Yehuda Street and I was in for quite a shock. The last time I was in Jerusalem, this was a bustling street. It’s still busting, but now it’s a pedestrian mall! There were people everywhere, shops, expensive restaurants and much street life. Up the mall to King David Street and I saw that my once-beloved felafel stands were no more. But Terri and I dined in a lovely little Italian restaurant. She had pasta with Tuna, I also had the pasta, but with roasted vegetables and pine nuts in a light olive oil sauce.
Sated with food, we took a cab to the Sheirut stand, back to Tel Aviv (with a delay for a massive traffic jam) and then the sheirut back to our neighborhood.
More time for the museum would have made this is a great day, but as it is, we are learning to cope.