TL;DR: We had an unpleasant experience at our Jerusalem lodgings, so we picked up and moved to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.
Yesterday we did Masada!!! And floated in the Dead Sea. It was so marvelous, and I have sooooo many pictures to look through and decide which to post. But first, we’ve had an few unusual experiences that have caused us to switch things around a little.
The neighborhood (Giv’at Sha’ul) is a strictly Orthodox neighborhood in an Orthodox suburb of Jerusalem. Strictly Orthodox Jews (it’s considered in some areas to be offensive to call them “ultra-Orthodox”) are very observant—little TV or media consumption, separation of the sexes, extremely modest clothing, strict Shabbat rules, etc. The women cover their hair after marriage, most of the skin from their shoulders to their toes is covered (with the exception of their forearms, which I imagine is nice in the hot summers); the men wear the top hats and long coats and have the curly sidelocks. They are trying to keep themselves separate from the world. The streets are blocked off on Shabbat, and for a while they tried to enforce segregation on the buses that served the area. (Sometimes violently.)
We have been conspicuous, to say the least; I have a new appreciation for anyone who gets stared at often—it’s an uncomfortable sensation. My capri length loose trousers, for example, attracted a lot of attention. When someone makes an about face instead entering the elevator when you are in it (happened to many of us several times) or the whole group of men standing outside the synagogue staring at us as we tried to quietly leave for church last Shabbat, it gets uncomfortable fast. When we returned from church later that same day, barriers across the road in the “back” way had been shoved out of the way (by someone not us), but from the stares of everyone we drove past, it seemed like they were affronted by our presence.
I think that was the hardest thing. We tried nodding and smiling to people we saw, using our three words of Hebrew—“shalom” (hi), “bokor tov” (good morning), “toda” (thanks). Always met with stares and sometimes glares (mostly from the younger boys). Bradley and I felt intensely awkward and feeling like we were intruders.
The apartments themselves have been okay—as Zee put it, 3.5 out of 5. They are mostly clean (the tile floors in our apt was slightly sticky and dirty, and there is black-colored mold on the ceiling of one of the bathrooms), but the apartments are…threadbare. Worn. Uneven tiles, doors that don’t quite close, holes in the linens. Some parts were nice—the couches, the fridge, the countertops. Sadly, the apartment complex (it’s HUGE) is dirty and there is a lot of garage everywhere.
All of this wouldn’t have been that big of a deal—after all, we are here to have new experiences, and we are almost never the minority anywhere. But there was an incident yesterday morning that changed that calculation.
We wanted to get to Masada pretty early in the morning, to beat the heat (only partially successful, it was hot anyway), so we gathered at the van at 6:30am. While loading up, Bradley noticed what he thought was construction debris under one of the back tires. It was a wooden board with two nails sticking sort of wedged under the driver’s side tire. He picked it up and thought, I should ask the kids to check that there isn’t any other stuff under the van. But he didn’t want to freak them out and I was upstairs locking the apt door, so he didn’t say anything.
Bradley then started backing out of the parking spot so everyone could load, and that’s when I saw a piece of wood, with a few nails sticking out, wedged under the front passenger tire. I wasn’t sure if we had driven over the nails, but I picked them up and threw them away. We checked our tires before everyone piled in, and they looked fine. I mentioned it to Bradley as we were driving away, and that’s when he told me about the other nails.
It’s sort of hard to imagine that those pieces of wood were put there accidentally—one, sure; two? Under opposite tires? When there wasn’t other construction debris around?
As we drove to Masada, we discussed our next move. Should we contact our host? Yes! He was shocked and totally surprised. He couldn’t imagine anyone in this very friendly neighborhood doing such a thing. He suggested we call the police and make a report. (He lives in NYC, so it’s not like he could really do anything.)
We looked into making a police report, but, honestly, it was super intimidating and exhausting looking and what are the police going to do about it? As far as we can tell, no actual damage was done.
After a lot of discussion, we decided we weren’t comfortable staying there longer.
There isn’t much chance to get money back from our host (though we will start that process), so we looked for an inexpensive place on the Sea of Galilee. Crazily enough (since we couldn’t find anything cheap before), we found a great place for just over our budget! We are just a little bit away from the sea, and we are already much happier and more comfortable.
That meant today was an unexpected moving day, and so I am exhausted. I will have to write all about Masada and our adventures tomorrow.