Saturday, 29 October 2011

Jerusalem part 2.

!! שבת שלום

I met so many people in Jerusalem, from the weird guy selling bread at Sha'ar Iafo to that homeless free spirited religious man who hangs out near the Kotel and the Golden Menorah Replica who invited me for a walk around the old city ramparts before buying me tea. And his friend who lives underneath his shop on Rehov Chabad who gave me a picture of an aerial view of the Old Jerusalem and a large bottle of water for no apparent reason then invited me inside to watch french tv which he did not understand.

I am glad I am writing this, in a certain way it allows me to relive things I did not especially wrote down in my diary.

At the hostel, I met David who was volunteering there and told me about a Rabbi (of whom I have forgotten the name unfortunately) who welcomes anyone that shows up for Shabbat dinner on Friday night, Saturday at lunch and Saturday night for the Havdallah. And the word is on the street so sometimes the house located in Mea Shearim is too small to hold the huge crowd and people end up eating outside. I went there twice with David who was gathering people to go with him because the Rabbi had asked him to. There is only one rule in the house: no politics.
There, I met Avi and Ruven. Ruven is a Yeshiva student in New York preparing his Alyah, he used to be a doctor. He spent a few hours explaining the American political system to me and sharing his life experiences. Avi is a physics teacher currently writing a book who showed me amazing places in Jerusalem. On Saturday evening, he took me to two different Havdallah services where there were only locals and just a dozen people because they were very private and after, whenthe sun had come down we went to Nachla'Or, the house of traditional Jewish music. It was halfway between a jamming session (everyone brings their instrument or just their voice) and prayer. Beautiful!
That night I sang my heart out eventhough I had lost my voice in the desert (it ran away!) two days earlier because of the aircon in the bedroom that couldn't be turned of.
I caught a bad cold in the desert, the irony.

I still have so many things to say about the people I met, the things I lived in Jerusalem, seriously I could go on forever about it. I shall say more later...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Jerusalem part 1.

Where was I?

On my way to Jerusalem. Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, one hour by bus. I was never so happy to take a bus.

During my trip I kept coming back to this magnificent, so unique city.

After just two days, I knew my way around the old city which still had plenty of secrets for me to discover, but at least I knew where to go.
This city... it just made me feel like no other city never had. The history behind it, the legends, the atmosphere, everything just attracted me like a very strong magnet.

The view from my hostel rooftop.
It felt so great.
I won't tell you about what there is to see in Jerusalem because that is what travel guides are for and they probably have a better idea, I'm just going to talk about my experience of Jerusalem.

A hello here, a hello there as I walked the hundreds of year old steps of the Old City, as sellers were trying to get my attention and eventually my money. I never stopped. I was not there to buy made in china souvenirs, I was there to feel because Jerusalem is a city you have to feel.
However once in a while I stopped and it was always for the best, I guess I'm lucky that way. First time I stopped when a shopkeeper called me, I met Zyad, a maybe 50 year old man who looked like he was 70 and whose back was in pain all the time.
Zyad made me tea that day. Chai u'nana. Then he shared his lunch with me. The whole time I was in Jerusalem Zyad made me food and tea from that dirty old kitchen of his at the back of his shop. It was hard but I managed not thinking about the cleanliness or more like the non-cleanliness at all of it.
He taught me how to make hummus (the real one!), taught me typical recipes, let me cut his newspapers and showed me an Egyptian TV show (his favourite) about a Bedouin and his wife and much drama I did not understand a thing about.

Another time I stopped and this guy was all like, hey I will show you Jerusalem, I know it by heart. I didn't really want to because it was Friday afternoon and my plan was to hang around at the Kotel waiting for Shabbat. First thing I told him, and it's really a reflex you have to get in Jerusalem, was that I did not carry any money on me, because guides are the best at tricking you into showing you the city and explaining things to you and then  when they're done they'll ask you for money and then you feel guilty if you don't give them anything. If you tell them you have no money, they'll just leave you because suddenly you're not that interesting anymore. But that guy was like "I'm not a guide, promise, I just love my city and I'd like to show it to you". So there I was, following him in the Old city. He had a hard time showing me stuff I didn't know about because I'm just that curious and I already knew the things and places he is used to show people but eventually I learnt something new.
I made him understand I didn't want to miss the beginning of Shabbat at the wall so when the horns went on he let me go and gave me his lighter cover decorated with a Chamsa.

I think I could fill a book of the very short amount of time I spent in Jerusalem. So much happened to me. This city is magical, it does things to you.

To be continued...


Charles Lecharmant disait : "Je suis à la cage ce que le crapaud est au cigare."

"La pluie, le vent, la neige et les choux me font chavirer chaudement mais j'ai tout de même du mal à choisir entre chocolat et chamailleries chevalières telle un charlatan. La charmante mélodie si choyante que joyeuse et si attachante qu'affligeante du chamois chahuté chevauche mes songes les plus choyés. Je n'imagine point la gelée jaune gênante jasant avec la jumelle si chaude et gentille soit-elle.

Nous souviendrons-nous de ces après-midi journalières et ces jours passés à jacasser chaleureusement tout en chanson ? On se chuchotait des choses telles des chochottes jugeant non-chalamant une chèvre aux chevilles chavirantes sur une chaloupe. Une chaloupe ? Que dis-je ? Une salope, une salope alléchante et mal-lechée. Mais que signifie ce lynchage ? N'a-t-on plus l'âme charitable louche d'un chanoine dans sa cheminée ?
Mais qui nous rendra donc nos chopes des charmants jours chômés ? Chez le chapelier, Chantale faisait du chantage subjuguant. Chez le juge, Gilles et Jean jetaient leurs javelots.

Les jonquilles jaunes de Jules gisaient dans le gîte gelé. Pourtant, le gel, le sel et la pelle salissaient mes chaussures et la charte chartreuse veut que les chevaliers chevauchent leur luge enneigée.

La chaste chatte perchée sauvagement châtiée attend la jauge et le chenapan. Serions-nous devenus spectateurs de notre propre vie ? Le char est parti sans nous. Enfile ta chemise et ton châle et suis-moi, chopons le prochain, acharnons-nous. Fauchons les obstacles, chantons en chemin.

La chute ? Cela vous semble peut-être un charabia mais en vérité, mon coeur larmoie ces souvenirs à jamais choyés. Mais si je pense, ne suis-pas telle une cage abandonnée par le lion ?"

extrait de son oeuvre intégrale, page 463 paragraphe 7b

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gilad Shalit will be coming back home after 5 years!

This new year 5772 starts beautifully as Gilad Shalit is to be freed in the next few days, announced the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu,  just a few hours ago.
After years of negotiations, Israel and Hamas have finally found an accord to release Gilad.
"@IsraeliPM (The PM of Israel) 
We have concluded ardeous negotiations with #Hamas to release #Gilad #Shalit. He will be coming home in the next few days"
the PM tweeted.

In July, we celebrated the fifth anniversary of Gilad's abduction by the Hamas on Israeli grounds, now, he will be coming back home to his mother.

"@IsraeliPM (The PM of Israel)  
the agreement to release #Shalit was signed in initials last Thursday and today was signed formally by the two parties"

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Jaffa, bats, shopping and food.

Before leaving Tel Aviv for Jerusalem, I went to Jaffa. I didn't spend too much time there as everything was closed, I think it was Shabbat and I was leaving first thing the next morning to Jerusalem, but I still got to see many beautiful things that made me want to go back. And I did later during my trip.
I must say I really fell in love with Jaffa. When I went back there I stayed at the Old Jaffa Hostel which was great, I enjoyed their rooftop lounge with the open air kitchen, it is a really nice place.
Right across my hostel was the nicest little shop, Hasadna, where I bought many things. They do a lot of art objects with recycled materials, it's very interesting. A little further in the street, I discovered a very good restaurant where, for some strange reason, the waitress offered me a home made cookie and home made iced tea and I know I was the only customer to get that treatment. Puaa it was called, they have a french and english menu but I took the Hebrew one because I'm cool like that.
About here in the Old Jaffa, I heard weird loud squeeky sounds, so I approached the building where the sound seemed to come from. I arrive in front of an old abandoned church, the door has been replaced by bars so automatically I stick my head between them and I saw about a dozen giant bats flying around the black ceiling. A couple of minutes later I realised the ceiling wasn't actually black but covered with hundreds of giant bats, I've never seen bats that big. Go see them!!

One thing I didn't like to see in Jaffa or at Hof Iafo (Jaffa beach) was all the muslim ladies sitting in the shallow waters  all dressed, head scarves on while their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands swam the sea with a small bathing suit on. I felt warm in my summer clothes, I could not imagine how the felt! But that's another debate.

And then,...
And then I hit the road to Jerusalem. I have so much to say about Jerusalem, it deserves it's own post!

The traveler's prayer:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ וֵא-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָלוֹם וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָלוֹם. וְתִסְמְכֵנוּ לְשָלוֹם. וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָלוֹם. וְתַגִיעֵנוּ לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵנוּ לְחַיִּים וּלְשִֹמְחָה וּלְשָלוֹם וְתַצִּילֵנוּ מִכַּף כָּל אוֹיֵב וְאוֹרֵב וְלִסְטִים וְחַיּוֹת רָעוֹת בַדֶּרֶךְ וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פּוּרְעָנִיּוֹת הַמִתְרַגְּשוֹת לָבוֹא לָעוֹלָם וְתִשְלַח בְּרָכָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵֹה יָדֵינוּ, וְתִתְּנֵנוּ לְחֵן וּלְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים בְעֵינֶיךָ וּבְעֵינֵי כָל רוֹאֵינוּ וְתִשְמַע קוֹל תַּחֲנוּנֵינוּ. כִּי אֵ-ל שוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה וְתַחֲנוּן אָתָּה: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', שוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Israel, benches and hotness.

So the first day I was in Tel Aviv I met Igal who owns a luggage shop on Rehov Ben Yehuda (74). I met him because I had blisters and I had to sit down to put plasters on my feet and on the first bench I sat on, there he was. It is so weird to arrive in a country where you expect to not understand anyone and out of the blue, someone starts talking to you in your own language then of course I told him I speak a little Hebrew and he lost me in a very long discussion that was in fact a monologue.
Why was I talking about him ? Ah yes, he expanded my Hebrew vocabulary, not very much but there are at least two words I clearly remember: devek ve'misparaim, glue and scissors, the first two items I remember buying in Israel. And why did I have to urgently buy these on my first day? So I could make the object of this post: my notebook (my preciouuuuuusssss).

I must say I hated Tel Aviv at first because it was my first day in a country I didn't know all alone and I had had such a bad experience with the airport security and all that, the people in my hostel room were just the most terrible, disrespectful people there is, I was tired, etc. so of course I wasn't really objective. But I later went back to Tel Aviv and I had great experiences so I can safely say I quite like Tel Aviv. I have discovered many cultural sides of the city and I really enjoyed wandering in the streets. There are many many street artists in Tel Aviv who each have their own style and add colours to the sometimes derelict buildings and houses that you can often find in the White City.

I quite liked this artist's stencils. You will find them in the most random places!

On June 10th was the Tel Avivian gaypride parade. I still wonder how they do it to walk and dance in such heat. I don't know if it was because it was my first day and I was not used to the heat but one thing is for sure I hurried back to the coolness of the hostel living room after two hours.
The parade was all fun, I just wish I'd known a few people to enjoy it with. It's funny how when I tell some people about the Tel Aviv gaypride many of them ask me "There is a gaypride in Israel? It's the last place where I would have imagined there would be one!" they think Israel is only home of the devout.

White City?

If I'm not mistaking, this is the fountain at the center of Merkaz HaIr (Literally The City Center) which is, so I've heard, a common meeting point for Tel Avivians.

Hoping all went well if you fasted for Yom Kippur yesterday!
Have a nice day!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

And finally, as promised...

I have finally found the time  to publish parts of my travel notebook. Many of you have not seen it yet as I must admit I have not been seeing a lot of people this past summer. Anyway, I will not publish it all in one go and will certainly not publish it all because firstly there are just waaaaaay too many pages and secondly, some pages are just not worth it.

I will also add some pictures I took and I will take the time to write personally to everyone I have met and got their info during this journey.

I want to thank everyone that made this trip possible et plus particulierement ma maman who made everything possible to make it happen.

Thank you all for having followed me during these six incredible weeks, here's to you:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

More good news, Kings, women's rights, and Steve Jobs.

Last night Steve Jobs died but I couldn't care less so instead I'll write about something else.
Last week King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced women will have a right to vote in the 2015 local elections (not the elections that were running this week as this would be too big a shock and way too sudden, you gotta give it time so people can get used to the idea).

I read the news on the BBC on Tuesday last week and the article was just very dull and reporting facts and that's probably how the news should be reported but I read this and my mind went "wait, this is really funny in a way, they fail to mention such and such". Then I went home in Belgium and bought the weekly "Le Canard Enchaîné" which expressed my point of view in a way I couldn't have formulated better myself.

Saudi Arabia is supposedly run according to the Sharia Laws but I find it a bit hypocritical to say that since it is the only country in the World where women don't have the right to drive but guess what, cars did not exist when the Koran was written. So they say it's to be cautious blah blah blah. And I've heard the argument it is to protect women because driving is dangerous, cooking is also dangerous, I once burnt my stomach with boiling water. Apart from Saudi, all Islamic countries do allow women to drive...

So they can vote, but not drive.

But seriously, it is still a big step, women will be able to vote. That is if their male guardian will be kind enough to accompany them. Now we'll have to see if their choice is not imposed on them.