Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Delicious Kunafa and Rooftop Wanderings: The Final Adventures

Group dinner at Kedma, a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Old City. (One of the ones where we all look semi-decent)

Surprise! Went to visit Galya. We made noodles and pesto (we love noodles), and then afterwards sauteed an entire onion just for fun. Delicious. 

Yes, Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station is the second largest central bus station in the world. It's also considered a failure: most of the shops in its seven floors it are empty. What it does have is a synagogue (in fact, these are signs for one on the 3rd floor and one on the 6th. There may be others, too);

This is a bus that was right next to me on my way back from Tel Aviv.  This picture doesn't show the full diversity of people that were on the bus. But every single person was Thai, Filipino, Indian, Sudanese, or Eritrean. There were no "typical" (Jewish/Arab) Israelis. 

I was in Gan Yavne (south) for the weekend, and we drove to Max Brenner, a restaurant that serves (mainly) stuff made out of/with chocolate. On the way there, we passed this mall (?) that had dinosaur replicas outside

At one point when I was with Bar (this is her driving), the car next to us started honking and waving crazily at us. Bar was getting annoyed at the aggressive driver...until we looked and saw that it was her friend Bar (yes, it's a popular name) and her father!

When I got back to Jerusalem on Saturday night, I walked from the Central Bus Station and met Leah by what's normally the shuk. This is how it looks on a Saturday night: kind of eery! 

The night before I left was "tu b'av," meaning the 15th of the month of Av. Apparently, it's the Jewish/Israeli Valentines Day, so all the restaurants were decked out with hearts and red balloons (except for one that had green balloons. That was weird). There was a huge tu b'av concert/show/festival a few blocks from the apartment with big names like Eviatar Banai. But it costed 55NIS, so I just stood outside the gate and listened from there (don't worry, I wasn't the only cheap person doing it!)

Monday morning I was on a mission. After I slept in (!) and finished reorganizing my suitcases so everything fit under the weight limit, I walked to the Old City. There were a few final things I needed to buy that I hadn't. I intended to go to one particular shop near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (I may not be able to pronounce it, but I can spell it!), but terribly and hopelessly lost, and find myself deep in the less-touristy more necessity-shopping sea of the Arab Quarter markets.

I had no idea where I was or how to get out (all the streets look the same, and all the vendors sell the same stuff, and alleys poke in and out from every direction), but then I saw this sign, and knew that I had inadvertently achieved one of my missions for the summer. My Aunt Emily had told me that "One of the vendors by the Damascus Gate sells the best kunafa in the world." If I'd gone looking for the Damascus Gate (like the Church), I never would have found it. Good thing I'm good at getting lost! It was actually only the second time I'd ever had kunafa (and it was milk, not cheese, the kid selling it said), but it was soooo good.
Interesting note: It's Ramadan, yet all the vendors selling food were still selling food. And not just to tourists (in fact, tourists don't really get to that part of the shuk, It's not kitschy and touristy. It's clothes and produce and vegetables, etc.)--but to people who were probably preparing for the iftar break-fast meal at the end of the day. But in any case, it's not comfortable to eat while walking amongst so many people who can't eat, so I walked around carrying my kunafa. I walked into a shop with Jerusalem tiles and chatted with the guy in Arabic (he was very impressed), and then he said: "You eat that here. Take a spoon, and a napkin. Don't eat out there. Eat it here." So I did.

Remember how I couldn't find the Church? Good thing I made another wrong turn! Because I (literally) stumbled into the courtyard, just in time for some ritual with incense that I'm sure has a name, but I don't know it. As soon as I got there, the organ started playing, and all the priests (monks?) started walking around swinging incense on chains and doing that at all the altars in the church. It was super cool.

Also, when I went to the Church with the Mechina, it was under construction, and a lot of it was closed off. It was really cool to get to explore all the alcoves and chapels and altars--and even the basement and second story!

And another wrong turn leads me to... the rooftops of houses in the Jewish Quarter? What?

That boy was so cute. These people live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and get to there house (somehow) by walking over the rooftops.

Oh, right. The rooftops also have grates in them. If you look down, you see that you're actually standing right over the shuk!

So Israeli.

My feet at the end of the day. Crazy tan on top, gross-dirty on the bottom. 
My plane from Israel was delayed two hours... because something was wrong with the engine. We left at the last possibly time before the Ben Gurion Airport curfew kicked in (flights can't leave after 2am, which means they must be taxi-ing by 1:45am). I have never been more scared to fly ("There's something wrong with the right-side engine. We're going to reboot the entire plane, which means it will be dark except emergency lights for the next five minutes" Cue: every baby on the plane starts crying.) Luckily, I was sitting next to a sweet couple, who gave me one of their giant white-chocolate kit-kat bars. I got onto my connecting flight to Chicago 10 minutes before it was supposed to take off. Then I renewed my driving permit (!), and drove home, where I'm sitting right now.

Israel Summer 2011: finished.


  1. Nice feet. Welcome back to the States. I still have no idea what you were doing in the think tank, but it's been fun checking in on your blog. Best of luck with Year2.

  2. strangest pic of the Dome of the Rock