I met my friend at the central bus station in Jerusalem. A mixture of cultures started revealing itself to me. As in every time I visit Jerusalem, I notice the co-existence of secular Jews, traditional Jews and Arabs in this city of three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English.
We sat down for some brunch, my friend verified once again which bus we need to take to get to the ice festival – and we existed the station.
As we did, I noticed the buildings made out of old stones.
I knew they’d be there, yet had no idea I would be so excited to see them again, or be in Jerusalem again. The joy of travel embraced me and, before I could turn to my friend and tell her, “Maytal, I’m in Jerusalem!”, I noticed she was a couple of steps ahead of me. She noticed the same, turning around, asking where am I, and I answered – “in Jerusalem!”
This is when I also noticed a lion on the trash can. Jerusalem is known for its lions. A lion is Jerusalem’s symbol, signifying courage. Approximately 20 colorful statues of lions are spread throughout the city. Lions were also sold in North America with the intention of bringing more funds for care of Jerusalem’s children.
As we walked through the street, I noticed more art, this time on an outside wall of a building:
My friend, Maytal, has lived in Jerusalem all her life. She knows the city well and loves it, and often, as we talk on the phone, she stops to give people directions. She found our bus station just in time, as the bus arrived. We sat down and I started taking photos, yet the window was dirty.
After a short while, my friend started suspecting something was wrong. Could we have taken the bus in the wrong direction?
She called her fiance, asking him to go online and verify. Yep, we took the bus in the wrong direction – but that was the least of our problems. As she hung up, she told me, “take photos, we’re entering Arab territory”.
Many people might feel scared at this moment. Individuals are individuals, regardless of their religion or nationality. I believe most people have good intentions and they want peace. However, there’s no denying some tension does exist in the area and there are places that feel safer than others. I learned that when a friend of mine was visiting from Europe a few years ago. She stayed in East Jerusalem and asked me to meet her there. Hardly any cab driver agreed to take me there or from there, telling me that another cab driver got stones thrown his way there. I was treated politely and generously by several people who live there and had an amazing experience. So anything can happen.
Since I would not go there by myself – or with one friend – at this day in time – I was actually excited we took the bus in the wrong direction! To my friend’s credit, she did notice the mishap fast enough for us not to get into any real possible trouble.
We got off the bus close to a train station, and looked back at the highway leading to Jerusalem.
It was fascinating for me to be there.
On one side of the road there were Jewish houses. On the other, Arab houses.
Surprisingly, the houses on the right, which are closer to Jerusalem, actually belong to Arab people.
The houses on the right belong to Jewish people, and they are separated by a road from the Arab houses.
We skipped the first train that stopped by to take more photos, and we made sure to have proof that we were there:
When we got on the next train, I noticed once again the mixture of languages.
We passed through places like Beit Hanina, Giv’at Ha-Mivtar, Ammunition Hill.
There was no Hebrew on the streets for a while.
Women’s clothing was solely Muslim apparel.
A sticker left on one of the train’s large windows brought the complexity of Jerusalem to life. It was a Hebrew-written sticker that is given to children and adults in the memorial day for soldiers who died and for people who died as a consequence of terrorist attacks.
The train continued through Old Jerusalem, passing alongside Damascus Gate.
People’s clothes changed, now including all cultures of the city.
The buildings, though made of stone all the way, now seemed to be more massive.
We got off in downtown Jerusalem, at “Jaffa – Center” station. Will we find the ice festival now?
Have you ever taken the wrong direction and arrived in a completely unexpected place?