On the Way to Jerusalem’s Ice Festival: A Slight Error in Direction

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 took the train from the other direction in order to make it back to Jerusalem.

Arabic on the train back to Jerusalem

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.

This was closer to the end of our ride, so if you look carefully, you will see a sign in both Hebrew and Arabic at the top left of the picture. I don't know Arabic, but in Hebrew it says, "Room of Medicines".

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?



    • I hope you will, they’re really cute 🙂 And I, too, love the discoveries that come with unexpected turns in travel 🙂

    • Absolutely, humans fight too much, especially in this region. I don’t say that with a lack of sensitivity to people’s emotional and other wounds, I say this because I think that after all these years, there “should” be peace and peaceful co-existence in the region by now.

  1. I adore this post. Even though you’ve lived in Israel your whole life, your eyes are still wide open, seeing things from a fresh, excited perspective.

    It’s so interesting to hear you say that you felt going into East Jerusalem was a little dangerous. I know it is for you and other Jews. But for someone like me it is not dangerous at all. No one in all the months I’ve spent in Israel has ever, ever thought I was Jewish – or at least they’ve never asked me if I am – so apparently I look Western enough and Christian enough to always be safe. One time I was hitchiking back to Tiberias and talking to a Jewish Israeli girl who was hitchhiking too. A Nazareth bus lines bus drove by, and I told her if it stopped, I would get on it. She said there was no way she would ever get on a Nazareth bus because she’d be killed. I don’t think that’s necessarily true because it’s not 100% Arabs who ride that bus line, but it really powerfully illustrated to me the fear that Jewish people have right inside your own country. It must be a very difficult way to live.

    I think people around the world just don’t realize how dangerous it is for Jews to live in their own country. Just today I was reading a newspaper article about two Arab women who had American citizenship but were from the Middle East, and had arrived at Ben Gurion Airport only to be denied entry, held overnight and deported. They were just outraged at their treatment, which didn’t sound bad at all. The article presents yet another negative picture of Israel to the world – one that, as always, ignores the fact that Israel has to protect itself. I love your country.
    Sabina recently posted..Simplicity is Delicious – Baking Bread in Dahab, EgyptMy Profile

    • Thanks for your warm words, Sabina 🙂 I think that sometimes, the focus on security serves as an excuse for the government not to deal with issues such as social issues, yet it is true that fear exists inside the country. I was just talking to a friend from another country about wanting to move from the area in which I live as central Israel is expensive, and yet I need to take under consideration that the more north or south I go, the greater chance I have at being affected when the next war or rocket comes.

      Even if 100% of the people who rode that bus were Arabs, it doesn’t automatically means that she would be killed. I believe that most people really do want peace. I think both “sides” grow up to fear each other and hate each other way too easily, which intensifies when war or semi-war exists on a perpetual basis. I still feel safe most of the time in Israel in terms of security (which partly has to do with where I live and partly because things on this front are relatively calm now) and I will gladly go travel all over the country tomorrow if I didn’t have classes, and would not be concerned beyond the usual personal safety issues when one travels alone. It doesn’t mean long term fears don’t exist. Real peace would be a big dream come true. I believe that most people suffer because of this situation in this region, regardless of their religion or nationality.

    • It’s so sad that this is reality, yet I guess, in a way, you do need to see it to believe it.


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