Jaffa Gate, near the Tower of David, Jerusalem, Feb. 21, 6pm. Not much sleep.
It was a short night! Left Newark at 4:30pm Monday and we literally flew through the darkness arriving in Tel Aviv at about 9:15 Tuesday morning (2:15am EST). It will take longer to get back home next week due to the headwinds. This is merely a routine work day for Scott Stebbins!
The trip from the airport to Jerusalem was interesting. My cab driver was Mohammad, a Palestinian Israeli citizen--which is unusual. He filled me in on the class structure. Israeli Jews at the top, Palestinians at the bottom. He is able to have Israeli citizenship because his grandfather applied for it in the 40's when Israel was established. His case is rare.
The relationship is complicated, as I'm sure you know. Israel controls everything. Everything. All infrastructure, services, security, you name it. I am interested to see more. There are walls separating Palestinian territory from Israeli territory.
One section of the highway between the airport and Jerusalem is a thin strip of Israeli territory. Just the highway. There are walls topped with barbed wire on both sides of the highway. Security cameras everywhere! There is a balloon that floats above the highway with sweeping security cameras constantly surveying the whole area. We also went through a checkpoint like a tollbooth designed to be sure that the Israeli cars on the highway are not transporting Palestinians illegally.
What is not clear to me: are the walls and barbed wire, the security cameras, and checkpoints in place to keep Palestinians out of Israel, or are they to keep Palestinians in Palestine?
The hotel is outside the Jaffa Gate of the old town. I took a nap for almost 2 hrs and then found a coffee shop across the street from the Tower of David. Some kind of citadel has been here on and off since at least Jesus' time. It was destroyed over the centuries several times by fighting. The current iteration has been there since the 13th century.
Google maps is a big help taking me in a twisting and winding walk down the very thin lanes just like in the movies and TV. Little marketplaces and shops everywhere on the edge of the old walls. I made my way to the Western Wall. Wow!
Pilgrims everywhere! This is ground zero for Jewish prayer! Is was very quiet and very holy. I put on a yarmulke and just sat in a lawn chair and prayed right along with them. Whoa! So amazing!
I'm meeting up with some our group in a few minutes to find s bite to eat. Please forgive my typos. I'll write as regularly as possible and post pictures on Facebook.