For those who don't know, the Sabbath (day of rest) occurs on Friday-Saturday. This coincides with the Jewish traditions of Sabbath. A typical greeting that you will hear is, "Shabbat Shalom." It has been an interesting time. I had my first Shabbat feast ever last night. About 50 (or so) of us students had a Shabbat meal put on by the Madrachim (kind of like orientation leaders). We got to hear the traditional prayers (I could pick out a few words and phrases, but they speak so fast). All the food was kosher and it was GREAT. After the dinner we kind of just had a chill night.
With Shabbat, many places will close for the evening and also the next day (Saturday) until sundown. So all public transportation stopped running at about 4 or 5 on Friday (not positive on taxis, but buses and the light-rail for sure). The city grew quiet, and at about 11 we were all hungry again. Not being Jewish, and not strictly adhering to kosher practices, about 9 of us went in search of a Dominoes (which we heard was nearby). We found it, and we got some pepperoni pizza, and it was delicious. Having filled our stomachs we kind of relaxed until about 2 in the morning.
I woke up at about 11 today (still getting used to the time) and since it was still Shabbat, everything was still closed. We found an Arab falafal stand a couple blocks away from campus, which was very tasty. While we were eating our lunches we decided that it would be pretty sweet to go to the Old City today. So we went back to our rooms and put on jeans and walking shoes (the women also made sure to wear clothes that covered them) and we walked. Yes, we walked. We couldn't take the light-rail, since it wasn't open due to Shabbat, and we were not about to spend the shekel to get a cab. The walk only took about an hour, and it reminded me a lot of Greece.
Upon arrival to the Old City we found ourselves in the Arab Quarter. It was in the middle of the day, so it is nothing to worry about. We kind of just wandered around and looked at all the stalls selling goods. Arabs do not adhere to Shabbat like the Jewish do, so everything was very busy. We meandered and finally decided that we should actually figure out what we wanted to do in the Old City. We decided on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We finally made our way to the church and it was incredible. I could smell the incense from about 100 feet away from the doors. Once inside Franciscan monks were walking around the inside and chanting prayers, it really helped create a nice ambience. We then stood in line for the entrance into the chamber were Jesus was buried and the 5 of us just took a few moments of silence for this occasion.
Once outside the Church we realized that it was about 4:30pm and Shabbat would be coming to an end soon. We decided that it would be really cool to see Shabbat end at the Western Wall. We didn't go up to the wall, because we felt really underdressed for the closing of Shabbat. But sunday came and it was a very interesting experience. Islam prays at Sundown, so we first heard the prayers coming from the minaret (which also caused a flock of birds to take flight), and the Jewish started the Shabbat prayers. It was so interesting to hear one religion's prayers, and to physically watch another religion's prayers.
After that, we decided that we should probably head home (it gets dark rather quickly here), so we made our way into the Armenian Quarter. We didn't want to attempt to navigate all the streets in the Arab Quarter at night. We also grabbed some dinner at an Armenian restaurant, so we kind of failed at the whole, "We're trying to get out of the Old City before it gets really dark" kind of thing, but it was worth it. Afterwards, we followed a road and came out a few blocks from the light-rail, which was now open because Shabbat was over. So we were able to take the light-rail to the stop closest to campus and now a lot of us our blogging about our awesome day.
I hate to break it to everyone who is wanting pictures, but I didn't bring my camera today. For two reasons. It was Shabbat, so I just wanted to have a chill day. Second, I wanted to experience the Old City for the first time NOT through the lens of a camera. The way I see it, I'm going to be here for 5 months. If I never make it back to the Old City in 5 months that is pretty pathetic. In time, but for now, no such luck.
Peace and New Experiences