The Scriptures have a lot to say about Yerushalyem. Writers throughout the ages have struggled to find the words to capture the essence of this city. Words just can't convey the feelings that have come upon us at our first sight.
As we try to take it all in, our emotions well up and overwhelm us. More than a few tears are shed in those opening moments. Silence seems to fill the bus or maybe I'm just to overwhelmed to hear.
Our approach is from the north and traffic is heavy as the Shabbat rush is already well underway. Friday is the time of preparation and students are let out of school early. People hurry from their places of work to the markets to prepare for the Shabbat meal and a welcomed time of rest. There is no other city in the world to experience this complete focus on keeping Shabbat. Even those that aren't religious must make some preparations for soon the markets will close.
Our skilled bus driver, Armon, works his way through the narrow, crowded streets in order to drop us off at the entrance to a busy street market as we've arrived too late and the supermarket has already closed their doors. People are frantically trying to finish their shopping and get home as we play "tourists" and wander about the market trying to make sense of it all.
Fortunately, the vendors are patient as we fumble with the strange variety of coins that some of us must contend with for the first time. U.S. dollars cause confusion for many as this is a market used primarily by the locals. I was grateful for my many years of experience living and traveling abroad as time was short and we needed "supplies" to avoid finding ourselves hungry or thirsty during Shabbat. (This is kind of a joke as we were extremely well-fed to the point of being over-fed throughout this trip.)
On Saturday, we were also given a day of rest and no touring was scheduled. It was a welcome respite from the constant on and off the bus, walk, walk, walk, of the prior days. We enjoyed sleeping in and sampling the various dates, nuts and other dried fruits that we had found in the market. We were finally in the midst of the city that had long occupied our thoughts and yet the view from our hotel window gave little indication that we were anywhere special. The Old City was out of sight and what lay before us were construction sites that matched those of any city. The streets lay quiet and nearly empty throughout the day. Sundown would come at it's own pace in this holy place and life would soon resume.