Saturday, July 23, 2016

Midwest Meets Mideast #3: The Map is Not the Territory

We began our first full day in Israel around 9:00 am, which was way earlier than my jet lagged travelers wanted, but comparatively late if you want to beat the desert heat. After the aforementioned breakfast, we set off to find our way through the Old City to the Dung Gate so we could visit Ir David (the City of David). Simple, no? I let Morticial and Lurch lead using the map from the tourism office to give them an illusion of control. Naturally, it did not take too long before we got lost, or as I preferred to think of it, creatively placed. The problem, as we discovered, was that the many maps throughout the Old City had helpful markings that said "You Are Here". And unfortunately, these markings were typically wrong. Completely wrong. Lying, in fact. Eventually, I had to take over navigation again. Middle Easterners are my people, and I knew that maps don't follow Western logic in the Old City. Four rugelach, one baygelah, and one melt down later, we found the Dung Gate.

The walk through Ir David would have been a lot more pleasant in March than in July, but I think overall, the family found the ruins interesting. We opted for the 'dry' route through Hezekiah's Tunnel instead of the 'wet' route. I personally would have taken the wet route if it were solely up to me; back when I was 12, wading through the waist-high cool waters was the highlight of my trip. However, we were not wearing bathing suits, and I didn't want the rest of my family to suffer any more claustrophobia than absolutely necessary.

Eventually, we made it to the end of the ruins, and we tried to find the cool underground tunnel that would take us back to the Dung gate. This path was beautifully illustrated on the tourist map, but apparently the map was also printed in the Old City and therefore it lied. We ended up walking uphill in the blazing heat through a questionable neighborhood called Silwan. For those of you who don't know Jerusalem, this is like me saying, "well, our map of Manhattan was poorly marked, so we walked back to our hotel through a lovely neighborhood called 'Harlem'."

Exhausted, sweaty, but otherwise unscathed, we made it back to our hotel and all had a well-deserved nap.

In the early evening, we met up with my friend Robin and her brood. Robin is an old friend from an Israel youth trip I took way way back when I was 17. Robin and her husband Ron made Aliyah about 14 years ago, leaving Milwaukee for sunny Yerushalayim. They and their lovely daughters walked us through Machaneh Yehudeh, a lively outdoor market that succeeded in replacing much of our spending cash with spices, pita bread, and gifts. We then had dinner at a vegetarian restaurant which was as exotic for them as it was for us, but for different reasons. They translated Hebrew for us, and we translated vegetarian for them.

And by the way, 'vegetarian׳ in Hebrew is tzimchoni. You can't imagine how proud I was every time I got to say, "Ani tzimchoni." And by the look on the natives' faces, they were proud of me too...assuming that pride in Israel is shown by a complete lack of interest.

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