Today was our day of exploration of the Old City of Jerusalem. We started with a trip to the Zion Gate from which we walked to the Dung Gate and then down into the City of David. We spent the next couple hours learning about the layout of ancient Jerusalem and how and why David conquered it and built it up so Solomon could build the Temple. We walked through the tunnels below the city that David used to infiltrate the walled city and that were also used to relocate the spring from one valley to another. With all the rain of the last week the tunnels had some pretty cold water flowing through them.
Once we emerged from the tunnels we returned to the Dung Gate where we met our soldiers and then proceeded through security to the Western Wall. This was the part of the trip I was really looking forward to. I spent some time just sitting and watching people before actually walking up to the wall itself. It’s a more intimidating experience than I figured it would be. There were loads of people in the plaza there so I didn’t have a lot of time next to the wall. Fortunately we were coming back to the Wall for the opening Shabbat services.
With the evening to think of we left the wall and walked into the Jewish Quarter for lunch and some exploring, though not much. I plan on spending more time exploring the quarters of the Old City far more extensively during my 10 day extension. Dani hustled us back to the hotel to change for Shabbat and we returned to the Wall just in time to join some rather rambunctious soldiers and rabbis singing and dancing to get things started. Over the course of the next couple of hours I flitted between various groups, from Chabad to Hasidic to fairly secular, and all in all had a very enjoyable time. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel and had a very chill evening.
Tomorrow should be very low key with a late wake up call and only some group outings to the park in the afternoon. We’re going to sample the Jerusalem night life after Havdalah tomorrow as well. It should be a nice relaxing day.