Thursday, July 24th:
Today we planned to go to the Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem to Cheerfully Changed to finally cash and deposit our NBN grant check. Finding out from Egged which buses to take was impossible. Fortunately for us we had a 15-minute wait at the bus stop around the corner from our apartment and after explaining our predicament to a very nice native, she not only coordinated our travel plans with the bus driver, but also helped us to finally purchase cartisias (bus passes).
It took a while to locate Cheerfully Changed – we had the address Malchai Yisrael 31 but most of the buildings weren’t numbered. Eventually we came upon a Feldheim book store and as I attempted to ask in my pathetic Hebrew, a very nice man told me in English that it was the next door down (the one we had just passed). It turns out that you have to go up the stairs, turn, and then down to the basement level.
The man behind the bullet-proof glass was very efficient and nice – I signed the check, he cashed and deposited it into our bank account at a good exchange rate and changed some American dollars that the post office had rejected. The Post Office has a machine the money goes through and if it doesn’t like anything about the bill (e.g., some idiot wrote a love note on it, it absorbed a person’s perfume or skin oil, there’s a small tear, or maybe the clerk just tried to put it in too fast) it beeps and rejects it – which means they won’t exchange it.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Jerusalem Pizza – very good thin crust. Michael ordered as I looked at hats and scarves a few doors down.
The main drag in Geula – Malchai Yisrael
Shopping in Geula was nice – very good prices (compared to King George/Ben Yehuda streets) on small appliances, phones, and clothing. I was desperate to locate 3/4 length sleeve 100% cotton t-shirts because it is too hot here for some of the tops I brought from the States (they have a little spandex or polyester, etc. in them). In Geula I managed to acquire 3 t-shirts, 3 shells (to wear under blouses that are too transparent) and 1 dressy white blouse for 420 shekels/$120 at today’s exchange rate. Prices in the King George Street area were 2 or 3 times higher.
Paula – they have fabric shops with reasonable prices, no need for JoAnn’s here!
And a Crocs store! Although the prices are higher here.
We wanted to buy a cordless phone to plug into our US VoIP line so when you call us we won’t be restricted to the corner of the living room (affectionately named by Michael “the Green Acres phone pole”) which gets uncomfortable in the afternoon sun. We found 2 shops that had the Uniden we wanted, but Michael likes to shop around and know that he’s getting the best price before making a purchase. What he keeps forgetting is that we don’t have a car and I don’t have the stamina to walk all the way back to these places from the shuk!
From Geula we walked to the Kotel (it seemed to take hours) in the hot sun.
Here’s some of what we saw along our walk:
Observing bullet holes above the Yaffa (aka Jaffa) Gate
Vendors Inside the Gate
If you forget to turn right, you have to pass through the Arab shuk
We were reminded by a guard that if you are carrying a backpack (we were) you have to climb the stairs and come down the other side to go through the x-ray machine! Michael argued with the guard, I willingly complied as I have learned there is no compromising when it comes to security – and I am thankful for that.
Michael & Yisrael Praying at the Western Wall
By the way, the Kotel is waiting for you…
I was hot, tired and in a surrender mode and found praying at the wall to be a spiritually uplifting experience. I had been carrying around a piece of paper with the very long name of a friend of Iris Moskovitz’s because she had asked me to daven for this woman’s refuah shleima (i.e., speedy recovery). Well Iris, I’m ashamed to admit that couldn’t read the Hebrew script, but as I sat down in the shaded area of the women’s section the lady next to me asked for tzedaka. So I gave her 10 shekels and as she began pouring blessings on me, I showed her the paper and asked her to say tehillim for your friend. She carefully pronounced every word on the paper and began crying out in prayer to Hashem to heal the woman. She was very emotional. I thanked her as she blessed me again. Then I got up and stretched my hands out on the Wall, leaned into it and prayed and cried for what seemed like hours to Yisrael (who had been waiting with Michael after he finished the afternoon prayers).
The Women’s Section
I carefully backed away from the Kotel and up into the courtyard and found my way to the ladies room where I took off my scarf and soaked by head in the sink! I was overheating in the sun and needed to cool off.
As I was tying my scarf back on, I was amused by the women walking in with scarves draped over their heads and shoulders – most were wearing spaghetti strap tops and painted on Capri leggings with tongs (i.e., flip-flops, shower shoes, etc.) and several of them were at least twice my width! Two of them had taken photos of each other posing at the Wall while I was backing away – imagine women dressed like hookers standing at the most Holy spot on earth.
(I know that those of you who knew me 20 years ago are wondering what alien has taken over my body! People change, okay?!)
We had hoped to take the Tunnel Tour, in addition to it being very interesting, I figured it would be cooler down there. But when I asked the man at the window what time the next tour was scheduled to begin he snapped at me to come back on Sunday and slid a business card under the window.
This is getting long (it was a LONG day) so I’ll just give you the link to the Kotel/Old City page of the photo gallery for the rest of the pictures.
From the Kotel Michael wanted to go shopping in the King George/Ben Yehuda district and then on to Machane Yehuda (literally Yehuda Market a.k.a. The Shuk). I protested at the possibility of walking all the way there. We took a taxi for 40 shekels ($11.50) and arrived around 4:30 p.m.
Shopping and Dining in the King George/Ben Yehuda area
Yisrael and I were hot, hungry and tired. We enjoyed ice coffees and shopped for a few hours up and down and in-between all the streets. It was exhausting and frustrating because the prices were much higher than our Geula experience – for example, the Uniden DECT cordless phone set (2 phones) we saw at Salon Geula on Malchai Israel for 290 shekels ($84) was 499 shekels, on “sale” for 440 ($127) on King George.
Michael was driven to move on to the Shuk – he had been there last Thursday night on his Bezeq outing and had a romantic recollection of the experience. So Yisrael and I followed along up and down hills, through narrow alleys, complaining all the way about our feet hurting, and being tired and hungry – as Michael stopped people and told me to ask for directions! Why were we hungry with so many places we could have eaten at between King George and Ben Yehuda? Michael wanted to eat at the shuk.
So we finally arrived to the sight of people crammed into the Shuk like cattle.
One of the Shuk Entrances
On Wednesday, when I went with Esther and Daniella Aaron, it had been a pleasant experience. Thursday evenings are different because many people are in the mad rush of buying everything they need for Shabbat.
While the vendors yell out specials and attempt to entice people to buy their wares, young and old are struggling to get to the counters while being trampled on by fellow shoppers and their carts. I guess you could compare it to people rushing into a stadium or movie theater to get the best seats – or “Black Friday” shopping in the US (but this is a weekly event here). I suspect that some people enjoy the thrill of it all, but for me? Let’s just say that I prefer Internet shopping.
I did make one important acquisition at the Shuk – my new shopping cart. This is the “new and improved” version over what my mother had when we lived in NY City, with one exception – I can’t figure out how to collapse it for bus travel in such a way that doesn’t require an erector set mind to reassemble! However, it is nice that it can be closed so groceries don’t spill out if it tips over.
Imagine being exciting about purchasing one of these!
We arrived home late – and exhausted – to phone calls from University Heights neighbors concerned about the status of the sale of our home. We don’t know any more than they do since the grapevine travels faster there than here.