This morning, Zee and I made an early field trip over to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It had been so crowded and hot and uncomfortable two days ago, so I wanted another chance to experience it. So we left at 7am and arrived around 7:20, and there were so many fewer people. It was marvelous. Mass was being said in two of the areas, one with the organ playing, but all the small chapels and shrines and niches were blessedly mostly empty.
We wandered and quietly chatted, and sat and contemplated and sketched (well, I sketched, Zee journaled), and it was a lovely experience.
Church was at 10:30 at the Jerusalem Center, and Bradley was worried about parking, so we decided to have Eva and LaDonna and Bradley taxi up to Mt Scopus, and the rest of us to walk 10 minutes to the bus station, catch a bus, and then walk 10 more minutes to the Center. Bradley and I researched the bus pass system (they no longer take cash, only the bus app and refillable cards), carefully read all the official literature online, and set up accounts for ourselves on our phones so that everything would be smooth and lovely on Shabbat morning.
The kids and I made it to the bus station, all right, in great time and quite cheerfully. The problems only began when we tried to board the bus and pay with the app.
“No, sorry, app is broken. Cannot pay that way. Only ravkav (refillable card) or cash.”
I didn’t have either one.
Now, remember, it is Shabbat. About 2/3s of all the stores, and all the official stuff, around us is closed. I had no idea how to find an ATM (turns out my pin is wrong, so it didn’t matter anyway), no way to get shekels, no idea how to buy ravkav cards. And we had six people, and Gee’s wheelchair, so I didn’t think a taxi would work.
Problem solving time: okay. Find a vendor who speaks English. He tries to help, but everything useful is closed. I hurry around the corner, looking for any store that perhaps takes cards, and will let me either buy shekels or a ravkav card. Finally, I find one. He lets me buy six cards, but then tells me he can only put money on one of them per day. Sigh. The bus, he says, shouldn’t let me pay for more than one person per card, but since I am from out of town, they will probably let me.
Oh! And the buses don’t run on Shabbat. Except they do. Or maybe the intercity ones don’t, and the innercity ones do. Depended on who was talking. I don’t know. I do know that there were buses coming and going the whole time we were trying to figure it out.
Finally, we were able to get to the bus with our one working card, and they had NO problem adding 6 fares to it. It was fine. We all finally sat down, exhausted. And late, but fortunately only by 10 minutes.
The hike over to the Center from the bus stop was HOT, and perhaps a little grumpy. Finally we arrived, and Bradley was waiting outside for us. Hooray! We quietly filed into the GORGEOUS chapel/auditorium that overlooks the Old City, just as the sacrament hymn started.
Fast and testimony meeting was lovely–there were no BYU students there, because they are off on a field trip this week. But with the regular branch members and the tour groups and people like us–sacrament meeting went over about ten minutes. The branch has enough youth to have a separate Sunday School class, which was lovely for my five youth; and I really enjoyed in the adult Sunday School class.
After church, we hiked back down the Mount of Olives trail (!!!) to catch different bus to take us to the Garden Tomb. We arrived 30 minutes before it opened, so we bought some fresh squeezed orange juice and bread from the Muslim vendors in the area to keep us alive until two pm, then entered the Garden Tomb.
It was far more crowded this afternoon than last night, and that, combined with the heat, made it a less-spiritual experience for me. But we did find a lovely place to sit and have a little devotional, where LaDonna and Eva bore testimony about how the Spirit speaks to them. We spent a little time (again, crowded) at the actual tomb, and then headed out.
LaDonna and Eva got caught by the gift shop, and waited in line to purchase some things. The rest of us waited outside in some (dubious) shade. There was a little old man there, selling a few things of inexpensive stuff. He called over to the kids and I (Bradley was waiting closer to the Grandmas):
“Hey, Mormons! You buy!”
I walked over to him. “Did you just call us Mormons? How did you know?”
“I just know, you buy a nice bracelet? A nice bracelet for the Mormons?”
Hahahahahahahaha. I guess we have a recognizable look.
I did end up buying a cool card of old Israeli shekels from him, for 5 shekels, which was probably a ripoff, but I’m okay with that. The kids are excited about it, and my sister LaDale is always looking for coins from other countries. 🙂
Finally, we were back together, but only to separate one last time–the moms to their apartment with Bradley to guide them, and the rest of us tiredly, hotly, home. Tomorrow we check out of these places, and drive down to Eliat on the Red Sea (where it is 105 degrees at noon, yay?) to spend some time snorkeling and watching for dolphins and maybe–hopefully–taking a day tour to Petra! We will be altogether in our apartment there, which will be lovely.