Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, May 9, 2016

Israel 2016 Day 2

After spending the first half of the day absorbing some of the materials for the study we're going to do, I ventured out onto the streets again. 

One of the peculiarities you'll see in Europe and the Mideast is the proximity between pedestrians and vehicles on the road. Most of the inner cities are not only ancient, but very crowded with narrow streets and alleyways. There are few street signs, fewer stop signs and turn signals are almost non-existent. Traffic moves along at a much slower pace but it mingles easily and comfortably with people on foot. Here's a small example of what I'm talking about. 

Later, I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe, enjoying an espresso, on a very narrow street when this small truck/tractor came driving by. 

No one gets upset, there are no horns blaring, people just move out of the way or the driver just slows down while someone crosses in front of him.  

Of course, out on the highways and in suburbs, traffic moves much quicker and there are more signals and no people walking in the roadway. But, deep in the city and in Jerusalem, inside the walls, everything moves at a much slower but much smoother pace. 

Aside from the fascination of the traffic, it's pretty incredible that you can gaze at cars coming and going on the street, then look up and see the Tower of David, looking much the same way it did nearly 3,000 years ago. 

As exciting as the streets and scenery can be, there are drawbacks. Jerusalem is absolutely filled with gift shops, bazaars, street vendors and a myriad of ways for you to spend money. The shops get more numerous and closer together the closer you get to the center of the Old City. The streets and the alleyways surrounding the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are an incredible maze of gift stands, snack shops, juice bars, name it, they sell it. All of them are manned by hucksters eager to talk you into coming into their booth, many of them quite adept at asking just the right questions to get you to slow down long enough to look at their stuff, which is usually just like the stuff three doors down, or maybe even next door. These booths and small shops go on for, literally, miles. 

The shop owners are constantly imploring you to come into their shops merely because they "like you." I'm serious! I've already heard it dozens of times, "Come in, my friend. I like you." These are some of the friendliest people on the face of the earth! Once you show any interest, you're doomed. They will follow you down the street, negotiating every step of the way, saying anything to get you back to their booth.

I watched a lady make an offer of fifty shekels on a scarf. The shop owner turned it down. The lady walked away saying she wasn't interested but the shopkeeper followed her saying, "OK, fifty shekels. Come back." When she returned, he handed her the scarf and said, "You have great taste. I like you. For you, only seventy five shekels!" 

There's no relief out on the streets. Hucksters want to be your tour guide, take your picture, give you directions, get you a cab. Cab drivers will stop in the middle of traffic to lure you into their cab. 

Cabby, "Drive you to the top of the Mount of Olives, only five shekels!"  
Me, "No. I don't want to go to the top of the Mount of Olives, thanks." 
Cabby, "Bethlehem, only fifty shekels!" 
Me, "I don't want to go anywhere in your cab." 
Cabby, "City of David only ten shekels." 
Me, "No!" 
Cabby, "You are American?"
Me, "Yes."
Cabby, "Well where do you want to go then? I like you."

I think they may be a bit more aggressive because I'm alone. One of the shopkeepers told me I have an "American tattoo" and everyone knows Americans are rich, "So, why not come into my shop and spend some money." 

I have one more day on my own, then I join up with the group from Masters Seminary. I'm eager to begin the studies but having a few free days has been wonderful. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to walk the "Ramparts", the tops of the walls around the Old City.  I'll be taking plenty of photos.


  1. What's an "American tattoo?" If they're that relentless with single men, I wonder how it would be for a woman traveling alone. Guess you need to make sure your yes is yes and your no is no. Thanks for the updates. It's been fun traveling with you, even if it is only cyber travel. It's less expensive anyway.

  2. Grace and I love to watch the show Travel with Kids. They don’t have one for Jerusalem, so thanks for sharing your travel adventures there with us, especially with your Christian view and knowledge. Diane’s right…this is very economical. Glad to hear that everyone likes you there!
    ~Wendy & Grace

  3. Sir, you are a man with no shoes... And I like you... - Ernest

  4. John, I'm guessing your "American tattoo" is your neon colored shirts!

  5. Thanks for the updates John! It looks amazing there! Happy you can spend a couple of days with a slower pace soaking up the atmosphere!