Went to sleep last night with the window open and the sound of young people singing in the cafe across the road filtering into our room. Parts of Jerusalem seem lighthearted and joyous, filled with the energy of youth. But we saw another side too — the intensity of religious devotion as men and women, their faces raw with passion, were forcibly dragged from Christ’s tomb to make way for others, and as, devoutly absorbed in prayer, they kissed an ancient wall that held the hopes and fears and absolute faith of an ancient people.
For me it was different from the peace I feel sitting in a place of worship and sharing the quiet spirituality of the ages. Last night I felt like a voyeur, spying on some intimate act that should be protected from a nonbeliever’s eyes. When Jerry and Amir walked up to the wall, I could not go.
Perhaps my favorite part of Jerusalem was walking through the old city in the star-studded dark, when most of the shops in the souk were closed, the people were going home, and the ghosts were starting to emerge. I am not a mystic but for me the places of the past hold the energy of those who once walked there and in the quiet moments that energy feels real.
Yikes — where is the food in all of this? Don’t worry — it was there too. Because I skipped breakfast, my food day began with a fabulous falafel from a roadside stand Amir knew about. Fresh falafel fried to order, stuffed into bread with hummus, salad, and a killer lemon sauce made from a whole lemon, cilantro and spices, blended to a frothy, tart and slightly bitter, purée. Yum.
And then, the market! My nose will remember this day forever. I have been to many markets in my time and they are all so different, culinary mirrors of the people who shop there. This one stood out for the glorious aroma of spice that must linger in the air here always, the warm taste of freshly ground tahini, the sweet tartness of clementine, the sugary nuttiness of halva, the briny bite of olives, and the herby chewiness of bread and za’atar.
Somehow we were not so hungry when we emerged from the market and the religious tourism that followed didn’t do much to fire up my appetite. I was happy to have a sampling of salads (and some very good hummus) in the gorgeous and ornate Armenian restaurant where we had dinner, while Jerry and Amir shared a special dish of meat and vegetables cooked in a tahini sauce. The sauce was mellow and rich and really wonderful. I am thinking of ways to play with it when I get home.
Then it was a walk back to the hotel in a light rain for three very tired people. The Harmony Hotel, is delightful and sooooo much nicer than the Dan Panorama TLV. Amir took off and Jerry and I went to our room, opened the window to let in the happy night sounds and slept soundly through til the dawn.