Today is the day we are staying at the David Citadel hotel overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. The hotel is apparently listed as one of the 10 best in the Middle East. A night at this prestigious abode was Arleen’s Christmas gift from one of her clients in Ottawa.
We prepared to indulge. We left the hostel and walked the short distance down Jaffa street to the hotel. On the way we met an American guy from Half Moon Bay, California, who somehow got chatting about his life changing vision – how he was shown a church hall with two men inside, two men named Bruce. He recognized the place and sought it out because, according to his vision, he would get help for his drinking problem. Bruce #1 apparently was obliging, but when our storyteller suggested he would come back the next day (because he really wanted to drink the cold beer in his van) Bruce told him salvation would happen that day… or never. They prayed, dumped out the remaining beer and the story teller been alcohol free since. His deliverance has included multiple visions and voices. He spoke quite matter-of-factly about how God had commissioned him to reunite the 12 tribes of Israel, which is why he was in Jerusalem. He informed us he was directly descended from Jesus’ line (Judah) and is one of the last prophets. He was heavily tattooed and proudly showed us the intertwined Greek letters alpha and omega engraved on his sternum (ouch!). This is the third person I’ve met who has made similar claims – one a young guy in Hawaii who regaled us with tales of his divine manifesto, of how he could turn back tropical storms among other feats. The second is a homeless person back in Edmonton that Fraser and I know.
As usual, I thought I would remember everything he said because it was quite the mend bending story. But by the time we were at the hotel his mystical, or more likely schizophrenic experiences had slipped my mind. Instead I became immersed in another world, one of hot showers, thick white terry robes, 1000 thread count sheets. Despite us looking like street urchins, the hotel staff treated us royally. An extra bonus was access to the executive lounge for 2 days. This included all sorts of free food and drinks as well as the breakfast buffet the next day. For 2 days we ate napoleons instead of nan bread and sushi, olive purée, all manner of fancy salads, tuna balls, cappachino, – you name it, it was likely on the menu ( though almost no meat). Because it was Shabbat, the city was shut down. We had no qualms about lounging in our swanky hotel room and eating to our hearts’ content.
The following day, Sunday, we ran errands. Arlene needed a new cell phone package, I required an insurance paper signed. We had to buy camping gas and make arrangements for a rental car. These errands took most of the day, after which we availed ourselves of the lounge once more where we met some American tech workers and Joe Biden’s entourage – already soaking up the ambience of Jerusalem and the American tax payers’ dollars a week before Biden’s arrival. Nice work if you can get it.
We also learned there are many strange Shabbat rules. For example you can’t run any electrical appliance on Shabbat, hence no coffee makers. You are not allowed to paint recreationally as it is considered working with your hands. This also includes painting your face, much to the chagrin of young girls who just plaster the makeup on on Friday morning and hope it lasts until Sunday. The same with their hairstyle. Of course women still lay out all the goodies for Shabbat dinner and presumably change dirty diapers etc…Not sure how the line gets drawn.
We picked up the rental car around 5pm and decided it would be a gesture of gratefulness to find the botanical gardens where Arlene’s hotel benefactor has a plaque commemorating his on-going contributions to Israel. We did find the park eventually, but it had closed. The gates to the trails were locked, darkness was falling, coyotes were howling somewhere in the park. All we could do was take a few pictures to prove we’d been there. Afterwards, we were faced with the monumental task of navigating out of Jerusalem, on roads that were anything but straightforward. We headed in a general easterly direction, drove down some twisty winding hillsides, following the heavy traffic out of town. After about 40 minutes we decided that if we didn’t turn off the highway, we’d end up in the urban sprawl of Tel Aviv, so we ducked off an exit into some dark, unknown place. I was about to stop at a gas station when Arlene said she’d seen a campfire across the road. Positive she was hallucinating, I turned the car around and behold! I entered some kind of picnic area where there was indeed a massive bonfire, surrounded by 35 pre -army youth on a hiking trip. But even more amazing was the fact that as we drove up the dirt track to find a good camp spot what should we see on a rock but the Shvil sign!! We had intersected that old familiar orange blue and white sign! Somehow in the dark, with no clue where we were, we came to the place where that narrow ribbon of trail crossed! It sent a shiver up my spine. A sign? Probably just coincidence, but it will stick in my mind as something more than a random event.
We were invited to join the hikers, eat from their barrel of noodles and sit by the fire. These fine 18 year olds were suitably impressed by our desert experience, which reminded me that though we are a bit incapacitated now and driving a car, we did indeed have a marvellous desert adventure!!