We spent the day in Yerushalayim today for our own personal tiyul. Unfortunately, we tried to do too much and didn't get to do everything we had planned. By the time we got off the RBS bus in Geulah and started walking up Strauss, it was already after 10:30 a.m. Then we ran into Yocheved Bienenfeld and spent some time speaking about their recent aliyah. It seems like more and more St. Louisans are arriving here all the time!
Our next impromptu thought (actually, my thought) was to go to Talpiot again to the drivers' license bureau, but it turned out to be a wasted trip. There were 47 people ahead of us (after we waited in another line for the first ten minutes), and we didn't have all the right paperwork with us, anyway. So we got back on the #14 bus and headed back to King George and Yaffo Streets. By then it was already 12:30 so we just went to lunch at Cafe Rimon. There we ran into Karen from our ulpan class and her husband, Al. We love running into people we know! Just as they were leaving, Avital showed up to meet some friends! She sat down with us for a few minutes and told us she was leaving Israel the middle of January. It's hard to believe she's been here a whole year. But now it's time for her to move on; after a 2 week visit in St. Louis, she's heading to Flatbush, in New York. I hope we stay in contact.
After lunch we walked down Agrippas Street, stopping at the Chofetz Chaim butcher shop to meet the owner who hails from Chicago (34 years ago). They deliver to RBS and I wanted to see what they had there. As we continued our way up Agrippas, I realized I hadn't stopped in the little girls' room before we'd left Cafe Rimon so we stopped at a mall we'd never seen before. It was mostly empty; the front of it faced Yaffo Street. Well, folks, let me tell you that there is a definite seamy side in the Holy City. I'm not going into detail, but the bottom floor of this building had some shops that had no place in Yerushalayim, much less anywhere else in the state of Israel (in my own humble opinion). And the blatant signs on the doors left no one unsure as to what was inside. How sad that places like those are allowed to operate here.
But we put it behind us as we entered the shuk. It's the first time I've been there since we moved here, and we had such fun. We lamented that we lived so far away; it would be nice to shop there every Thursday for Shabbos. If you don't know what the shuk is, you need to come to experience it yourself. It's a huge outdoor market that extendes from Agrippas to Yaffo Street over a wide area, and has stand after stand of fresh fish, huge fresh vegetables (you wouldn't believe the size of the radishes here!), barrels and barrels of fresh spices (I had no idea what any of them were; I need my friend Korey to come from America and go shopping with me), candies, toys, kitchen items, wines - you name it.
From there we headed to Geulah where, for the first time, we walked up and down some of the side streets instead of just staying on the main street that goes into Mea Shearim. David ducked into a bookstore for mincha near Uri's Pizza (bring back any memories?) where there are minyanim going on continuously, while I had a standoff with a kiosk (k-i-o-s-k) vendor selling snoods and scarves. I just don't have the haggling thing down yet. I found a navy beret I wanted and the guy wanted 79 shekels. I asked if he'd take 50. He laughed at me. He showed me the workmanship, the weave of the material, he compared it to snoods of inferior quality. I acted like the dumb new olah chadasha that I am (I'm sure he thought I was a tourist). He conceded to go down to 65 shekels. I said that I really couldn't afford it anyway. He continued to extoll its wonderful qualities. Then I said that I had to ask my husband who'd be there shortly. He got really angry and pulled it out of my hands and buried it in a pile, muttering to himself in Hebrew. Of course I came back, and ended up getting it for 60 shekels. Not too shabby, but I think I could have handled it a little better. You live and learn.
By this time it was getting dark and the temperature was dropping. It is definitely colder in Yerushalayim than in RBS. Shaina (our downstairs neighbor who watched Emma for us today) told me tonight that it was actually HOT in RBS today. Go figure. In the meantime, David and I took the #2 bus to the kotel and I was freezing. Everyone else had winter coats and I had a jacket. But I had a nice conversation with Hashem, said my tehillim, and inched my way to the Wall to give it a little kiss before backing out into the plaza (you shouldn't turn your back to the wall; it's not respectful). It's so beautiful at night; I'd forgotten. There were a lot of people there and it was just so nice to be there.
By then we were pooped so we waited for the #2 again to take us to Shmuel Hanavi to catch the #417 back to RBS. We waited a good 20 minutes in the cold for the 417. When we got home, we found a nice surprise. Emma is still a puppy. Even though I put the bathroom trash can in the tub where she couldn't see it, she pulled the roll of toilet paper out all over the bathroom floor and played with one of the bathroom rugs, actually dragging it out into the hallway where she pished on it! Not to mention that she also pished on the couch! She spent quite a lot of time downstairs playing with her friend, Coco, but obviously she was either angry with us for leaving her (we'd never left her for so long before) or she was really, really bored. I suspect the latter. She got a little potch, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't know why, even when I stuck her nose in it. We're going to have to leave the door to the back bedrooms closed when we leave her alone.
Our friends from Kochav Yaakov are coming to visit tomorrow. They sent us a link to some great video clips that someone on their yishuv made. Go to www.israeliliving.com and check it out. The video about Kochav Yaakov is great. The one about Ben Yehuda Street might bring back memories for some of you.
And for the next 2 Shabbosim, we have guests from St. Louis staying with us! None are people we know well, but they're visiting Israel and of course want to see fellow St. Louisans. Oh, yeah, I neglected to say that while we were eating lunch, we started to talk to the couple at the table next to us (who are visiting their daughter and her family for a couple of weeks), and it turns out they live in Baltimore right across the street from the Newmans who moved there from St. Louis, and who we stayed with on our Farewell Tour. Once again and not for the last time - it's such a small world.
As I'm sitting here writing, I glance out the patio door to my left and see our Chanuykia lit inside a little aquarium and sitting on our table on the mirpeset. We're supposed to publicize the miracle of Chanukah by lighting in a window, and many people here in Israel light outside. It was pretty cool on the bus as we passed apartment buildings in Geulah with the shining menorahs in all the windows, and again as we drove through RBS Bet and then Aleph (we're one of the last bus stops). What a wonderful place to live! I don't think I remember to thank Hashem every single day for this miracle. I feel so blessed to be able to be here.
I hope you're having a wonderful Chanukah!