Today I did something that I think is probably the coolest non-religious thing to do in Jerusalem. I hiked Hezekiah’s Tunnel, an underground man-made aqueduct that dates from around 700 BC. Oh, and did I mention you’re hiking through thigh-deep water for most of it?
Luckily today was a rather nice day, and even though the water was a little cold at first, I quickly got used to it. It really is a feat of engineering; the tunnel was dug from two directions, and the two teams met in the center. There are many twists and turns, and some places where the diggers started going in the wrong direction and stopped. There are several zigs and zags where the two teams were trying to meet up. However, it is one of very few structures left on Earth of this astounding age that the public is allowed to visit and experience firsthand in such a way. I highly recommend it.
Also, even though it’s not technically a religious site, it is mentioned three times in the Old Testament, e.g.: “It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the City of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did” (2 Chron 32:30). Also see here and here.
Earlier this week, Rodolfo and I went with some friends to a Palestinian restaurant. I ate a fish called a denise fish, which is native to the area and was delicious!
Something I find so interesting is how, around the world, fish are often served whole, instead of filet-style the way they are served in the U.S. In fact, on one of our first trips to the open-air market here in Jerusalem, I exclaimed over the fish sellers because I had never seen fish sold quite like that before. There was a salmon cut in half, and the only reason I recognized it was because I could see the pink meat inside. If I had seen only the fish, I probably wouldn’t have recognized it as a salmon.
After dinner, we smoked a mint-flavored argeeleh, which is a Palestinian hookah! Awesome!
Rodolfo and I have been walking to the Old City from our home (approximately 5 kilometers, or a little over 3 miles) on Saturdays when the weather is nice. Since the light rail doesn’t run on Saturday because of the Jewish Shabbat, there is little to do unless we walk. So we walk! Along the way, we pass by the Knesset (Israeli Congress building), a lovely grove of olive trees, a city park and several diverse neighborhoods, including one with barriers in the street prohibiting any driving in the neighborhood during Shabbat.
There are some priests at our church who recently hiked the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum (65 kilometers, or 40 miles, over two to four days). You can watch a video of their adventures on YouTube:
The video is in Spanish and French, but you don’t have to understand these languages to enjoy the spectacular views. Rodolfo and I have decided we’d like to try it soon. So we’re working up to that!
You may remember Eli, the kind shopkeeper from an earlier edition of the Sunday Seven. This week I went to buy a lightbulb from him. It’s interesting, because he has the lightbulbs laid out on the counter in trays, and you choose a lightbulb and hand it to the shopkeeper, much as you do when buying fruits and vegetables. Eli very considerately plugs in the bulb for you behind the counter so you can tell that it works. It’s just such a different experience than buying a bulb at the hardware store! You may also remember that Eli’s shop has a Facebook page. Go visit him online!
I have often seen a red bumper sticker with white Hebrew letters that ends in an exclamation point. (Actually, being that Hebrew is read from right to left, the sticker actually looks like it begins with an exclamation point instead, but I digress.) I didn’t think much of it until I realized that I was literally seeing it all over town; in western Jerusalem, in East Jerusalem, on the cars of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. I was incredulous; what deep thought was this, what eloquent phrase, that could be so unifying, so universal? So I finally snapped a picture of one and typed it into Google Translate.
Turns out it means “Keep your distance!” as in, “Don’t tailgate!” But I find it hilarious and actually quite spot-on that the unifying, universal thought all over Jerusalem is “Back off!” That tells you a little bit about how some people treat strangers here.
When I was very young, my family lived in Athens, Greece. My mother used to make me laugh with stories about the chaos in Greece, including how the tire tracks on the “Wet Road” signs actually crossed behind the vehicle, which is, in fact, physically impossible. Yes, I used to laugh about the chaos, but I have just realized…
…Now it’s my chaos too! And someday these are the stories I’ll tell to my own children.
Have a wonderful week!