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Israel Four weeks in Israel, November 2019


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We are heading to Israel this week and I will post a few notes and photos in this thread while traveling. This is our fourth trip to Israel. Our first trip was March last year, then we went for four weeks last November, then four weeks this March. We've fallen for this country! Plus it is a good off season destination for us, giving us an extra bit of sunshine.

Our itinerary:

Jerusalem - 7 nights. I've rented an apartment from Colony Suites. We've rented from them twice before and are trying a different apartment this time. It is in the German Colony, just a few blocks from apartments we rented on the 3 previous trips.

We pick up a rental car towards the end of our week.

Ein Gedi (Dead Sea) - 1 night. We've stayed at the Ein Gedi Hotel twice before, both time for 2 nights. This time 1 night only to make the rest of the schedule work.

Eilat (Red Sea) - 3 nights. We've been here once, last November. I am not sure how much I like the town, but I love the area. I rented an apartment through Airbnb. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/33909319 I did not like the place we stayed last time, so am trying another place. This is an apartment in complex of apartment buildings. The owner has several small apartments in a large house nearby but this is a larger apartment in an apartment building.

Mitzpe Ramon - 7 nights. We spent 1 night here last November and liked the town and the area (and the roaming ibex), so this time I booked an apartment for a week on Booking.com. https://www.booking.com/hotel/il/lev-midbar.html It is a cottage beside the owner's house. It is a bit expensive but the choice seemed to be either very cheap places in rundown looking apartment buildings, or a few expensive places. It is also on Airbnb but at the time I was booking it was cheaper on Booking.com. Plus it is easier to cancel if you have to on Booking.com.

Zikhron Ya'akov - 10 nights. We spent our first night of the March trip here and loved the town and area. @Amy recommended this location to me when I was planning our first trip. It is on the coast, about 30 minutes south of Haifa. I love Haifa but it is a large city. I want to try being in a smaller town in the area. We can take the train into Tel Aviv and do day trips into the Galilee. I found a nice cottage on Airbnb, right in the town center. It is a cottage behind the owner's house. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2364529 Again, it is a bit expensive but Zikhron is an expensive town.

We drive to the airport tomorrow and have an early flight on Wednesday.

I am still having a problem with my knee (I strained the ligament). We are bringing our hiking gear but may not do the long hikes that we want to do. We will see how it goes. My physio said it should heal in 6 weeks and that would be about half way through the trip. It is getting better this past week. I can walk 5 miles but a bit slower than usual and if I do too much climbing it hurts. Hopefully I will improve.

I was worried that the UK would crash out of the EU on October 31 (no deal Brexit) and we would return to chaos, but now it looks like we won't be Brexiting just yet.
Looking forward to reading your new posts about your travels in Israel. I have found out through genealogy research and DNA testing that I have relatives there! My great grandmother's name was Kaplan and some say that it may have originally been Cohen! Steve & I may be very distantly related! Someday, perhaps I will get to Israel. I hope your knee heels and cooperates for you!
Wednesday October 30 2019

We have arrived in Jerusalem! The flight went well and got in early. There was no huge crowd in front of the passport control area and we waited only 10 minutes in the passport control lines. We took the 3:31 train to Jeruselem and it arrived in 22 minutes.

BUT the train! We lined up for tickets, not sure if we could just go through the automatic entrance with our RavKav cards. The ticket line was not long and the woman took our RavKav cards and took the payment, then told us the platform and time for the train. I will find out if we needed to line up at the ticket office.

The train was at the platform but there were a lot of people not sure what to do. Eventually people started getting on. It was a double decker train but there was nowhere for luggage and we all had some. We were the first on our car so we took the lower deck (only a few stairs down). We sat in a group of four seats and put one bag between us and the other two on a single seat. Everyone did this.

No luggage racks on an airport train! What were they thinking?

We are traveling with 2 25” rolling suitcases and one smallish duffel with our hiking gear. Plus a small carryon each. We were fine handling the luggage.

The train was very fast. It goes between the airport and Navon Station in Jerusalem, beside the central bus station.

Getting from the train to street was not easy. Everyone with luggage waited in a crowd for the elevators up. Once at street level we followed the signs for taxis but there was no obvious taxi stand. There were lots of taxis driving by. We tried flagging one but no luck. I tried the taxi app, Gett, which has worked well in the past but it kept searching for cabs and not finding any. We went back towards the station and tried a different area. Finally we found a taxi stand with taxis.

Then we spent 10 minutes with two taxi drivers and their phones and mine trying to find the location of our apartment. I had the address printed out to show the driver, but it was in English. I needed it written out in Hebrew. We found it by me typing in English into his Waze app.

45 minutes from when the train arrived until we got into a cab. Next time will be easier.

Thick traffic and the 10 minutes that Google Maps promised when I was routing this at home was over 20 minutes. The fare was 65 shekels (just over $20) which included extra charges for luggage. When we started he wanted a set fee of 70 but I was positive he was over charging us and said to use the meter. Turned out he was close and I was converting shekels wrong. 70 just sounds so expensive!

Taxi drivers, in my experience here, love to talk. He was born in Jerusalem in 1950 and has seen a lot of changes. His family came from Spain and spoke Ladino, sort of the Spanish version of Yiddish that the German Jews spoke. They are Sephardic Jews. There are so many different types of Jews here. Some of his family live in Brooklyn and are ultra orthodox. We got a long discourse on why he doesn’t like the ultra orthodox (usual reasons, they don’t do military service, they take government money). He wanted to know about us too and was very surprised that we had left the US.

It was getting dark when we arrived, just after 5pm. We checked in. The apartment seems nice. A bit of street noise. Ground level and I can hear people walking around above us. Small, but usable, kitchen.

We walked out to Emek Refaim. This is our fourth time staying in this area. Everything feels familiar. We went to the new vegetarian falafel place and had fabulous falafel for dinner. There will be no problem going to bed on time even if our body clocks are 2 hours earlier!

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Thursday October 31 2019
Sunny and 77F high. Dark by 5pm and cooler.

Breakfast at Bagel Cafe where we usually go a few times each trip. I had their country breakfast - eggs, salad, roasted potatoes, bagel, cream cheese. If I’m eating salad for breakfast I must be in israel.

Walked along the Trainline park to First Station which has a very good natural foods shop. Picked up the basics for the week. In the afternoon we set out to do a 5km hike on the Jerusalem trail from our neighborhood, around the Old City, up the Kidron Valley to Mt Scopus - but we never got to it.

First we wanted to add money to our RavKav cards, the cards you must have to use the buses here. They can be used on trains and in other areas. Everyone says you can add money to these cards in many places but it is not obvioius where you can do this. I found a RavKav Online website which tells you where you can do this, so we went to the nearby Super Pharma to do this. Their machine was broken. They sent us up the street and we found a small blue ATM-like machine. No instructions in English and we got an error message when we put our card in.

We walked to First Station where more machines are located and had the same result. I stopped a guy to ask for help but he did not read Hebrew. Finally found another of these machines in a gas station and saw a young guy who was doing nothing but sitting on a motorcycle so I dragged him over to help. He could not figure out the error message but said we should put our credit card in first. We did this but it all fell apart because it was a US credit card and I don't know the pin. He left. We started again with Steve's card because he knows the pin and got further this time, even some English, but they a cancelled message.

Now we officially gave up on the hike and walked to the very modern Mamilla Mall where we found another Super Pharma and their machine was working and we did it! Okay!

It is Thursday afternoon, which is like Friday, and things were getting busy. We took the city train north to Ammunition Hill, which is up towards Mt Scopus where we had planned to walk to. Ammunition Hill is where the Israelis defeated Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967 when they gained territory and took over control of the West Bank. This hill was used during the British Mandate when they controlled this area in the early 20th century. They stored ammunition here. There is a museum but it was closed by the time we arrived after 3:30pm. We walked around the site, saw the trenches and old jeeps and guns.

I wanted to take the bus back from there because the route goes through the Ultra Orthodox neighborhoods and I thought it would be very interesting to see. Google Maps kept telling me a bus was coming but it never came, then the time of the next bus would change. We waited 30 minutes but when the other guy at the stop gave up and left, we did too. We took the train back to Jaffa Road.

From there we walked into Rehavia, an older neighborhood between the German Colony and the downtown area. This looks like a very nice area. We walked along Azza Road which has a nice few restaurants and shops. We stopped at Tomers Bakery for bread. We've been to their branch in Katamon on other trips.

By now it was dark and Steve noticed a star under the slip of the new moon in the sky. It was Jupiter! Visible yesterday and today.

Not much Halloween stuff arond which is good. Not my favorite holiday.

It took about 20 minutes to walk home.

A disorganized but nice day. It was cooler by the time we got home. We went out again in the evening and I wore my light puffy jacket. I had hesitated at bringing that, thinking I would not need it.

We walked 8.3 miles. I am walking slower but with my compression sleeve on my knee I don't have much pain. It mostly feels stiff.

Sounds like a good day!

Re the problem with the train and taxi yesterday, and the RavKav today: Glad you finally got it worked out.
@ItalophileNJ - that supermarket on Emek Refaim, across the street from the French Bakery, the supermarket you told me about for our first trip, has been completely renovated! I was in shock when we walked in there. Lovely open area with fruit and vegetables nicely presented. Wider aisles. A new area at the back. Very upscale! Not the dingy shop with very narrow aisles from before.
Friday November 1 2019
Sunny and warm (70F).

Well my victory over my sore knee yesterday was short lived. It was painful in the night and I woke up with it painful and stiff. Now I am getting more serious! I avoid taking drugs but was taking paracetamol ccassionally. Now I will take it 2 - 3 times a day to deal with the pain. And I will wear my knee compression sleeve even when out for short walks. I have been faithfully doing my new exercises, plus my usual ones.

Because of this we stuck to the neighborhood today and walked just two miles. Friday is a special day in this neighborhood so it was good to have an excuse to stay close. We went out in the morning and joined the crowds on Emek Refaim. First we went to the French Bakery and got Challah (bread). People ahead of us in line were buying boxes of pastries. The staff were chatty and wanted to know where we were from. They loved that we live in England because the guy on the register spent two years living in Manchester. He even did a Manchester accent.

Next we got some prepared foods for dinner. Religious Jews do not cook on Shabbat. For those that do not want to cook, there are prepared meals sold in various places on Friday morning. We went to the Foccacia restaurant and got a few things. We got a few prepared vegetable dishes, fish for Steve and then I cooked rice to go with it. People purchase full dinners. Thinking it over, they must sell only meat and vegan dishes. There was a table with a lot of meat dishes, which we skip, but everything else was fish or vegan.

Last night we bought a chocolate cake at Tomer's Bakery and the choice was between one made with milk, which if you are kosher can only be eaten with a dairy meal, and a vegan one which can be eaten after a meat meal. We got the vegan one (and it is great).

Our apartment is only a couple of blocks from all these places so we took everything back, then set out again. We got takeout coffee and walked over to the Trainline Park, sat on a bench and had our coffee. We rarely do this! We are always wanting to be walking but now, since we can't walk as much, we are doing more lingering. We still want to be outside, so sitting in the warm sun on a bench was perfect.

Back to the apartment for lunch, then out again for a short walk on the Trainline Park to my favorite juice stand where I had my first pomegranate juice of the trip. By now it was 3:30pm, the sun was getting lower in the sky and it was getting cooler. Things were starting to quiet down for Shabbat. Such a peaceful feeling.

The whole day was about food - eating it and purchasing it - and sitting.

I've been reading and elevating my leg and it is feeling much better. I am reading Ann Patchett's new book, The Dutch House. Another one of her incredible epic family dramas. I am glued to it. The other novel I have going is Anna Burns Milkman which I listen to on audible while knitting (finishing a sweater for Steve). Milkman is set in Northern Ireland in the time of the troubles and is the perfect thing to read while in Israel which has its own troubles that are also very hard to understand.

@ItalophileNJ - that supermarket on Emek Refaim, across the street from the French Bakery, the supermarket you told me about for our first trip, has been completely renovated! I was in shock when we walked in there. Lovely open area with fruit and vegetables nicely presented. Wider aisles. A new area at the back. Very upscale! Not the dingy shop with very narrow aisles from before.
Yes, nice. But I had gotten so accustomed to the forced fellowship of those narrow aisles... I think I had read about that a while back from one of Shaul's posts. Shaul is the TA regular who is British (I think he's from Sheffield), is a translator and had lived in the German Colony for a few decades. I really need to get back to Israel.
I think that market (it was a "macholet" before, a small place for buying groceries) is somewhat more expensive that a Supersol but I've always gone there for the convenience and there's only so much that I can carry. Even my cousin, who lives a bit further away in the San Simon neighborhood and is generallhy pretty thrifty shops there for special items.
I thought the French bakery, the one that had grown in to a restaurant, was out of business.
Saturday November 2 2019
Sunny and warm (70F)

We took another easy day, walking only 2 miles in total, and my knee/leg is feeling better. Buses don't run today so that was a good excuse to stay in the neighborhood. We walked out along the Train Track Park (I keep calling it the Trainline Park) to First Station. Our neighborhood was quiet - people walking, but no cars, all shops closed. At First Station about half of the restaurants were open and a lot of people were there. Lots of families. We continued on past to a point where you get a good view of the Old City, above the Begin Heritage Center.

I've been reading about the Hinnom Valley because the Jerusalem Trail goes through it and was not sure where it was, but it is that valley between where we were and the Old City. A buzy highway runs along it. Turns out we walked that part of the Jerusalem Trail on our last visit. From the Hinnom Valley you go into the Kidron Valley which runs between the Old City and Mount of Olives.

I checked Google Maps and you can take an Arab bus, #236, from the highway just below the Begin Lookout, through the Arab neighborhoods, to the City of David area where you can do a short walk to the Dung Gate into the Old City (where the Western Wall is). We thought we would do that and went to the bus stop Google Maps indicated. The 236 was not listed but we waited anyway and it came but drove past us. I flagged it and the driver did some hand jestures to show us where to go but we did not figure it out. From the map we could see it goes to First Station and turns around, but when we walked there and looked at the bus stops, the bus was not listed. So we gave up. We had done enough walking with all this.

Our second bus disappointment - but I was not as organized as I should have been. I think you cannot totally trust Google Maps for buses.

We walked back home for lunch. In the afternoon we did a walk around our neighborhood. I love this neighborhood.

Back home in Dorset there is a huge storm taking down trees. It took the roof off one of the small buildings that sell ice cream in West Bay (Margaret's - famous because it has been there forever and Margaret recently retired). Roads were closed because of downed trees. I texted my neighbors and they will see how our trees are doing. We only have one big tree. The other smaller tree came down in a wind storm two years ago.

On this trip I am using my new iPhone XR with a dual SIM. I changed my UK plan to use the eSim (not a physical SIM but done with software). I purchased an Israel SIM from SimtoIsrael (they mailed it to me in the UK) and inserted it into the phone the night before we flew, then kept the phone in airplane mode on our travel day. I turned it on when we arrived, did a simple setup making the Israel SIM my main number and now I have both SIMs in the phone! My neighbor can text my UK number with no charge. I pay 60p to text her back - well worth it to keep in touch. Someone can phone my UK number or my Israel number. All my data works through the Israel SIM because my UK provider, O2, does not offer any good travel plan for Israel. It is working well and Steve has the same setup.

I like our apartment. This is our third apartment from Colony Suites. The first one, Levant, was nice enough but was dark and off a parking area. The second one, Colony, was a bit lighter but I could hear steady traffic from nearby Rachel Imenu and the windows were not clear so you could not look out (must have been for privacy). The next time I booked through Airbnb and liked the apartment but did not like the people who managed it. Its main problem was that there was nevery enough hot water. You could override the solar panel and run the heater but they had big warnings about doing this and if you left it on too long it would burn out.

So I went back to Colony Suites. This apartment is larger than we need (2 full bedrooms, 1 smaller single) but is not huge - 700 square feet. It is very light. The hot water is great. The kitchen has very little counter space. No dishwasher. The only creepy thing is the master bedroom window. I opened the shutter and it looks out on a corner of the neighbors balcony with a big pile of bird shit! I closed that shutter and have not opened it since. The location is fantastic. I would rent this again, but they have one more apartment which was not available when I was booking this trip, and we will book that next time. It has a dishwasher :) Not that I do the dishes - I do the cooking.

Thanks for your updates; I am enjoying Jerusalem through your eyes.
Glad you are enjoying another Colony Suites apartment; as you say, the management is great and on site and everything is as represented.
I'm amazed that you walked several miles with your bad knee; I guess it was the original eight miles on it that did you in. And you are reminding me that I have some movies, originally on Super 8 film, that we took across the Kidron Valley. Really should look at those.
The French bakery --- I guess what's open is their original place on Rachel Imenu; the place they opened on the corner at Emek Refaim is the one that was much too much for them to handle. Enjoy your stay and keep on posting!
Article from The Jerusalem Post -
By EYTAN HALON, 10/31/19
From the article: “For Israel’s dominant producers, including Tnuva and Strauss, the government-set price for basic dairy items including butter has made continued production unprofitable.”

There was no butter in the local supermarket, only Lurpak (half butter).
Interesting, I haven't heard/read complaints from Israeli friends.

I know this is a tangent but.... I am thinking that, like say Sicily, Israel does not have proper grazing land for cows. In the Hebrew Bible there's a big distinction between the word for "small cattle" and "large cattle", which are sheep/goats versus cows, and the grazing lands needed. That's the end of my agricultural knowledge, but I know that when I'm in Israel I usually buy sheep milk yogurt and sheep or goat cheese.
..but I know that when I'm in Israel I usually buy sheep milk yogurt and sheep or goat cheese.

There are a lot of goat milk products in the supermarket still. I spoke to one of the guys in the supermarket and he said it had been a couple of weeks with no butter. This happened in France a couple of years ago and I don’t know the reason.

I’ve not seen cows here.
Sunday November 3 2019
Sunny and hotter, 77F.

Today the buses worked for us. We took the #36 bus that never came for us on Thursday, this time from Emek Refaim up through the center of town, through the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, by Ammunition Hill (that we visited on Thursday), to the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

I loved looking out at the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. These are just a few blocks from Jaffa Road but are very different. Small crowded shops, most men in black suits and hats, women in longer dresses and headscarves. After Ammunition Hill the bus goes through an Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood. All the women in Arab-style long dresses and headscarves.

Then you are at the university with young people in modern dress everywhere. I've read that many Palestinian Israelis (Arabs who live in Israel, not in the West Bank) are going to Hebrew University and we saw many young Palestinian women on the campus.

Hebrew University was built in the early 1900s and after the War of Independence in 1948 became a UN guarded enclave within the Jordanian controlled territories. There was a horrible masacre by Jordanian soldiers of a bus of doctors, nurses and students going to Mount Scopus. There was an agreement that they could travel from Israeli controlled area into the Jordan area, but it was not kept.

We went through security (they looked in our bags and asked us why we were there) into the university, then walked around looking for the Botanic Garden. On our way to it we found a large terrace with an incredible view towards Jerusalem. We could see the Kidron Valley below us, the Old City, further on to the Hass Promenade in Talpiot and the whole downtown area.

The Botanic Gardens were small but interesting. There were Roman burial tombs.

We left the university and came to more overlooks, some looking east towards the West Bank. We could see part of Ramallah I think, and the Separation Wall. We could see miles of dessert and mountains off in the distance. We had intended to walk up here from the Old City and found the marker for the Jerusalem Trail. I considered walking back down it, but it looked like a long and steep path - too much for me today.

The University is surrounded by high fences with only a few entrance points - high security. We walked for about 20 minutes to get back to the area where the bus came.

We got a different bus that took us back into the town center. We got off near Jaffa Road, on the edge of the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. We walked up Ethiopia Street (recommended by a friend) and a large group of Ethiopans coming from a wedding (that was our guess) was coming towards us. The women were dressed amazingly! They were tall, slender and very black, with their hair piled up high and decorated. Beautiful. We looked in to the Ethiopian Church but did not go in (people were still coming out).

We continued into the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and saw one of the big signs that I've read about, saying that groups of people walking into the neighborhoods disturb the residents, so don't do it, and if you do walk in you must dress modestly. We did not go further.

Back on Jaffa Road we went to a vegetarian restaurant, Village Green, for lunch. We've eaten there before and I like it because the food is simple, similar to what I cook.

From there we walked up Jaffa Road, which was very lively. It is pedestrian, lined with shops and the Light Rail runs in the center. We walked up to the Mahane Yahuda Market, the main market in Jerusalem, and had fun walking around looking at everything. We bought some roasted nuts and I had a juice from an interesting stand where they blend juices and list their health properties. They have a branch in the Tel Aviv market and I've had their juice there. Beside them is a Yemenite Falafel stand, where they make falafel on a flat round bread, then roll it up, like a tortilla. Different from the pita pocket used in more falafel places. I recently had a falafel in Bridport (Dorset) which was like that and I asked the guy where he was from - Syria (but lives in Dorchester).

We took the bus home. We walked 5.4 miles and my knee/leg is not hurting. I am still walking slow and am a bit nervous in crowds in case I get pushed. We probably won't go into the Old City on this trip for that reason. The market was crowded but not overwhelmingly. I don't have a cane but have considered it.

That juice stand in the Mahane Yehuda market is our favorite there. How authentic the juices really are is another question, but they sure are a tasty and refreshing drink in the heat of the day. The guy who started the place made his mark by selling juices with citronella and gat (Khat), which is still quite special. He has even put up a rather basic site since opening up a place in Tel Aviv as well (as Pauline mentioned).

About the lack of butter : it's pretty simple. There is a surplus of milk produced in Israel, so production had to be cut down (this is a regulated market). This led to less fat (butter) being produced as well. At the same time, the demand for milk fats like butter and cream has increased, and not only in Israel (margarine and similar products have lost their appeal). The gov't has allowed importers to bring in butter from Europe, even without having to pay import taxes, but the prices in Europe have supposedly made this only a partial solution : there is some imported butter in the stores, but at prices that most Israelis will not pay (and they have to get used to a different taste as well). So : not really any end in sight to this problem, other than perhaps seasonal changes for better or worse.
Monday November 4 2019
Sunny and hot (79F)

We took a bus to the Eldan Car Rental across from the King David Hotel and got our rental car. This is our second time booking with Eldan, an Israeli company that also represents Enterprise. On the last trip we picked up at the airport and got a fabulous small SUV car, almost new. Not so lucky this time! We got a small very basic Peugot that has seen a lot of use. It has many scratches and dings, stained seats, imbedded dirt in parts of the trunk. It must have been driven in the Negev. Oh well. It drives well enough. The rental we got on our first trip, from Hertz, was horrible and screamed when you touched the brakes or turned a corner. This one is not as bad as that.

We headed out of town, driving on the Hebron Road which has many, many potholes and rough patches, then onto highway 60 which goes near Bethlehem and into Area C of the West Bank, so through a checkpoint. We were not stopped either way. You come out of Area C and we went to Bar Bahar a well-known restaurant and start of a hiking area near the community of Bar Giora. We've been there on two previous trips and both times did a fabulous hike - Ktalav Wadi Hike from hike-israel.com. We would have loved to do this hike today but we reviewed our photos from it before we left and were reminded of the spots where you have to climb up rocks using handholds. Too hard in my current situation.

Instead we had a coffee and enjoyed the sun, then did a very easy flat hike for just a mile. I did not realize this before, but this area is the US Independence Park, a very large park area with a lot of hiking trails. The large Begin Park is close by, with more hiking trails. We will explore this area more on another trip.

The restaurant was busy and the parking lot almost full, and this is mid-week. We had lunch there on the last trip and you sit outside on a big terrace with a lovely view north over the Judean Hills.

We drove on to Hirbet Hanut which is a parking area beside some Byzantine Ruins. During Roman times this was a stop on the Roman Road running from the sea to Jerusalem. We missed this on our last trip. The ruins are small but have some mosaics. There were a couple of other cars. From here you can hop onto the Israel National Trail and hike down into the Zanoah Valley which looked beautiful. There are a few springs down there.

We walked on the Derech HaKaiser (Caesar's Route) trail which follows the Roman Road down a long hill. In March we did the lower part of this trail and saw Roman milestones and a wonderful stretch of Roman steps carved into the stone, but we did not have time to do the whole trail. Today we did the upper part which also has some Roman steps, but not as good as the ones on the lower trail. The whole trail is only about 3 miles one way, so you could easily park at Hirbet Hanut and walk out and back. We walked 3 miles going out and back on the upper trail. The trail is good - a bit rocky - and is a gentle slope. You are walking parrallel to the highway and can hear the traffic, but not see it. The mid point of the hike is where the trail crosses the highway. There is a Roman cistern there.

By the time we finished all this it was 3:30 and time to head home because driving in Jerusalem is bad enough, we didn't want to do it in the dark. It took us about 50 minutes to get home. There kind-of is parking with this apartment - really 6 spots randomly around the building that I am sure the people who live here are counting on using. There is a huge free parking lot, in a field, just a block from here. It is impossible to park there during the day but by the time we got there, there were two free spots (out of 100).

Jerusalem traffic seems worse. We had a car when we stayed here in March for 11 nights and did several drives out for hiking. One time coming back we were in a huge traffic jam for an hour. Maybe we had more patience with it all then but this time I think we will just leave the car parked tomorrow and do a few more Jerusalem things. I had planned another hike but we leave the city on Wednesday and will be in small towns for the rest of the trip, so plenty of easier hikes to get to.

It was hot today but it really cools off starting around 4pm.

We loved the walks we did. It added up to 5 miles and my knee/leg was pretty good. It is not hurting much now and did not hurt that much on the walk. I was walking slow at first but then was able to pick up the pace.

Tuesday November 5 2019
Sunny and hot (79F).

We did not use the car today and had a lovely last day in Jerusalem. We had breakfast out and Bagel Cafe. Excellent as usual. Then we walked around our neighborhood a bit. Took the bus into town and walked to Jaffa Gate of the Old City. I still wanted to avoid the crowded small lanes in the Old City, so we did the Ramparts Walk. This has been on my to do list for all our trips. It starts at Jaffa Gate (you buy your tickets there) and you climb stairs up to the top of the wall and walk either the Northern Route from Jaffa Gate to Herods Gate (the one past Damascus Gate) or the Southern Route from Jaffa Gate to Lion Gate (Western Wall). You can exit at several points but you can only enter from Jaffa Gate, so you can't do a on/off tour of the Old City from this walk.

My information said the Northern Route went further, to Lion Gate, but the guy at the ticket office said that last part had been closed by the government six years ago.

We spent over an hour walking the Northern Part. The views out over the city were very good. The views in were mostly of rooftops, but that was very interesting. We saw the Franciscan Garden, planted in the 16th century (St Francis of Assisi visited Jerusalem in 1219). We had good views of the domes of the Church of the Sepulchre and of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer that we climbed on an earlier trip (great views). As we got closer to Damascus Gate we had a good view of Temple Mount with Mount of Olives beyond it.

I thought it might be too hot to do this but most of the walk was in shade. The stone that you walk on is uneven but the walk is very safe with stone wall on one side, iron railings on the other, and many hand railings. There were hardly any other people on the walk.

We exited and Herods Gate and took the bus to Dung Gate, Western Wall Plaza. We went in and looked at the Western Wall. Neither of us went up to it this time. The women's section was very crowded while the men's section was not busy.

Back to the bus area and got the bus to Jaffa Gate, then walked up to the Light Rail and took it up to the market area on Jaffa Road. I had to go to a knitting store because I brought the wrong needles for my current project. I've been to this store before because of a similar situation on another trip. I really need to spend a few more minutes thinking about my knitting project when packing. I had to buy needles that I have at home. That's 18 shekels that I will never see again :) As they did last time, they tried to talk me up to the 45 shekel version of the same type of needle.

We had a boring falafel at the market (boring!!) and took the bus home. We stopped at the natural foods shop and picked up a few things for our stay in Eilat, in case their natural foods shops are not as good.

We are getting packed up and we head out in the car tomorrow, driving to Ein Gedi. I would be sad at leaving Jerusalem if we didn't have 3 more weeks of this trip.


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