Four in the morning is early no matter where you are in the world. But when you are trying to navigate passport control and security at Istanbul International airport at that time, mistakes are going to be made. For instance, lets say one of us is travelling with our parent’s ashes to be sprinkled in Bethlehem. Let’s say one of us was asked about the contents of the urn said ashes were travelling in.
Let’s say that because no English was spoken by local security staff that one of us decided to perform an interpretive dance to act out his parents demise and subsequent cremation. All this in an effort to convince those now surrounding him that he was not in fact smuggling black tar heroin out of Turkey.
Those of you that have been alive for over forty years will remember several movies depicting the horrific conditions of a Turkish Prison. And finally lets say that in order to dance and or mime his way out of cell block H he made a motion simulating death by the cutting his own throat in front of security.
That was the last I saw of that person (Dale) for quite some time. I can honestly say that I thought I was going to have to write to amnesty international from my roof top lounge chair later in the day to help him get duty counsel. Crisis averted several minutes later after an ion scan of mom and dad revealed no heroin. Then we move on to gate 201B and our Pegasus flight.
I’ll start by saying this is my first time in the holy land. I have never been to Israel before. I was overwhelmed by Ben Gurion Airport (the most secure airport in the world). I was overwhelmed by the 32 degree heat. I was surprised how many people you can fit in a minibus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. From sea level to 3000 feet in half an hour.
We traveled with a father and daughter who were in town to visit a brother who is interning at a local hospital. These folks were from New York and it took about a nano second to pick up the accent. To our immediate right were a couple from Northern Ireland who had their eyes wide open around every bend in the highway. We had some some great chat along the route and got some great pointers from the Yankee fans.
From Tel Aviv, a place that resembles any super modern city in the world to a city that has been around long enough to write the book. In fact, around long enough to write many books about many people of many faiths. Jerusalem is spiritual, hectic, alive, electric and just a little tense for a first time visitor. Soldiers kitted up everywhere remind you that Israelis take there security very seriously.
We have arrived just a couple of hours before the people of Jewish faith shut it down for 24 hours and celebrate Shabbat. From 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon until the same time tomorrow. With that comes panic. Every family must prepare. The grocery shopping isn’t gonna do itself. The Yahouda market is packed to the gunnels with throngs of desperate faces. Shabbat falls after a long week of work so Friday afternoon gives everyone some time to organise the family holiday.
Every food and beverage you can think of. Every bread, meat, spice, sweet, fruit and veg are on display in the Yahouda. Get it while you can, its T-Minus two hours to Shabbat. We were advised to be mindful of doing a bit of grocery shopping for ourselves but also to make the “Beer Bazaar” our first stop on the tour.
We did and we were treated to an array of over 100 different Israeli micro brews, both on tap and in bottles. We sat at the bar and ordered what the barmaid recommended. Pints on the bar and settled into a conversation with a friendly lady from LA who regularly visits family here. She was very helpful and a fountain of local knowledge. We sponged up the intel and the remaining drops of our pint. I wandered back about 80 meters to our airbnb and Dale stayed to battle the crowds while at the same time picking up a little local grub for dinner.
So here we sit on the rooftop of our Jerusalem home for the next 4 days. The sun is out its after 5pm now so you could hear a pin drop in the neighbourhood. Shabbat is upon us!
Shalom and L‘Chaim
Images taken with Leica Q-P