We landed in Israel and found ourselves in a hot and humid environment with lots of people speaking a language we didn't understand. Culture shock was pretty intense, although for Liam (who had just left the snow in Orange) the weather was more of an issue. Being the first delegation to arrive (at 4am local time mind you) it was just the nine of us on the bus. So we played “Corners” like the mature young adults we all are until we realised shoving each other into walls was not a great experience when no one had washed in a day at least.
It is incredible to imagine that we drove the width of the country in half the time that it takes to drive from Newcastle to Sydney. According to the Israeli delegates I met in the afternoon, the length of the country only takes eight hours! This place is tiny.
COOL FACT: It is law in Jerusalem that all buildings must be made out of sandstone. That's why our hotel looks like this:
|Our Sandstone Hotel at 4am!|
Since we had nothing planned for the day, we started our by enjoying nice warm showers, celebrating being clean again. Then we went off to experience the markets at the Bazaar. It was intense. Being Shabbat tomorrow, everyone was stocking up on fresh produce for tomorrow when all the shops will be shut. As such, it was noisy, crowded and full of great sights and sounds. There was such a variety of locally grown and fresh produce with fish, spices, fruit and vegetables. People were everywhere and the prices were all so low. We had an excellent time.
|Piles of fresh spices at the Markets|
We returned to the hotel just after lunch as the midday heat started to become apparent. So, with nothing better to do, we jumped into the outdoor pool. It is amusing how despite being in a country with Hebrew as the main language and despite all of the local hebrew pop music we had heard on the plane, that the pool party's soundtrack was exclusively the same songs that fit in the Autsralian Top 40.
Nicole took us to the Old City at Sundown, as Shabbat began. We all wore modest clothing and Nicole told us how the “correct” way to dress is for girls to cover their knees, elbows and collarbones! Married women also have to hide their hair, either with a scarf or with a wig. Despite the extremely long walk, we had an extremely enjoyable time exploring Jerusalem and when we made it to the Western Wall it was amazing. In both sections of the wall (being gender segregated) there were people singing and dancing, praying for peace on earth! It was incredible to see all the different people coming together to celebrate Shabbat at this one place.
Unfortunately, because of the practices of Shabbat and the religious significance of the occasion, taking photos was forbidden. So whilst there are no pictures at the moment of the Western Wall, hopefully where we return on Wednesday, I will be able to show you this wonderful and historical site.
It was a very full evening and we all gained a few blisters from the walk, but it was a night well spent. I cannot wait till tomorrow when we will visit the Dead Sea and Masada! See you all tomorrow!