We left our bikes on Friday afternoon at Beit Immanuel guesthouse in Tel Aviv-Yafo, and six team members went up to Jerusalem for Shabbat, where we stayed at the Christ Church guesthouse, a beautiful and peaceful refuge right inside Jaffa Gate in the Old City. After dark we walked ten minutes to the Kotel—the Western Wall—to pray and hear some Erev Shabbat stragglers chanting their prayers in melodies both familiar and new.
On the way back from the wall we encountered a band of young Yeshiva students descending in ranks, in black pants and white shirts, down the steps to the Kotel, singing together a joyous and lilting prayer of the evening liturgy. I was tempted to turn on my heel and follow them back down.
The next day, we walked again to the Kotel, via St. James street through the Armenian Quarter, and then past the Cardo, the Hurva Synagogue, now rebuilt and majestic in the heart of the Jewish Quarter after being destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948, and then down the steps, viewing the Mount of Olives and the hills of Moav far beyond—the spot from which Moses looked upon the Promised Land before his death.
At the wall we first just blended in with the Kotel vibe and then formed our usual prayer circle for a very late morning Shema. We exited via the Dung Gate, turned left to see the Southern Steps to the Herodian Temple from a distance, and then continued eastward looking out at the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and ended up at the Eastern Gate, walking right up near it through a Muslim cemetery that flanks the whole eastern wall of the Temple Mount. We returned past the City of David, where we could look down into an ongoing archaeological dig right next to, or within, the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. In the house bordering the dig, some Arab girls were playing on the veranda and clothes were on the line, swaying in the breeze.
Finally, we turned back through the Zion Gate and spoke of its role in the 1948 battle for the Old City, which the Israelis lost, only to regain the Old City in 1967. From there, it was just a few blocks to Jaffa Gate and an afternoon of rest for the Shabbat.
Later, when we went out again for the end of Shabbat, we ran into a big Havdalah ceremony conducted by Chabad rabbis in the new Mamilla Mall across from our guesthouse. Then home again to rest up for a big ride tomorrow.