Friday, January 07, 2011

Pools of Sulphur

Now that I'm in Ein Gedi, I have access to a much nicer (and cheaper) computer. There are many things about the Dan Boutique that I like, but there internet service is not one of them. First, it's very expensive (35 shekels an hour or $10). Second the keyboard keys stick awfully, meaning that my fingers get a real workout when I type.

I left off yesterday on my way to Yad Vashem. I caught the bus from the German Colony and we wound our way through downtown Jerusalem. They are really remodeling the city; I can't imagine what it will be like when Jaffa Road is closed to traffic and the light rail system is up and running. We went past Mahane Yehuda, and I wished I had time to get off and wander through the shuk, but this was my only free afternoon.

Traffic was pretty bad, but suddenly the bus came screeching to a halt. Cries of "ma kara???" (what happened?) echoed through the bus. As people found out (a driver decided to grab an open parking space by cutting off a long, full tandem bus moving at high speed -- we barely missed him), I started hearing "azeh teepesh!!!" (what a fool!) "ayn milah l'teepesh k'mo zeh" (there is no word for such a fool).

I got out at the Calder statue on Mt. Herzl, and that really brought back memories. When I first came to Israel in 1984, I lived for three months in a youth hostel in Moshav Bar Giora, located on the road from Bet Shemesh to Jerusalem, via Ein Kerem. Our bus came into the city past this statue. I wish I could smell the pine scent that always was so strong here, but in winter, it just wasn't there.

I walked down to Yad Vashem to see the remodeled museum. Since I had so little time, I could only do the main walk through. It's really improved over the original. It still has the zig zag pattern walk, but now it's much longer and more nuanced. They really have a much better presentation, one I think strongly reflects the influence of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. I realize this is probably heresy, but I still think the D.C. museum is better, but it isn't as stark a contrast as it was in the past.

One big addition is the use of video testimony. I wish I could have stayed and listened, but I ran much too short of time. One thing that hasn't changed is the underlying Zionist message of the museum. The main path still exits on to a view of the Jerusalem hills, implicitly creating a narrative of resurrection. This implicit narrative is even more explicit in the quote one sees as one exits Yad Vashem. It's from Ezekiel's dry bones vision (I think) and it is the prophecy that God will resurrect the Jewish people.

I only had time to peak my head into the exhibit on Holocaust art, which looked quite good. I saw a sketch for the staging for The Kaiser From Atlantis, an opera composed in Terezin, which one of our students will perform in two months as part of his master's project.

Any way, then it was back to the hotel. As we passed the Mamila Mall, I saw I a little more time than I thought, so I jumped off and walked through it. This has been rubble since 1948, and I've been wondering for years what they were going to do with it. Originally one of the main commercial streets in West Jerusalem, it became a no-man's land between the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the city. Finally rebuilt, some of the buildings have each stone numbered, marking how the moved the building when it was restored and put each stone back where it came from.

I wasn't really interested in the stores, but stopped into the Steimatsky's in the hope they had the guide book I couldn't find in the German Colony. No luck. Several nice and expensive-looking restaurants line the street and it ends just before the Jaffa Gate. I decided to walk the rest of the way and made it back to the hotel in no time.

Earlier, I told my parents that I would like have my last dinner in Jerusalem in Shanty, so we met around 7 pm and took a taxi. We were the first people in the restaurant, but it soon filled up. Located in a back alley in Nahalat Shiva, my roommate had turned me on to it 12 years ago, and I had taken my father here a couple of times when he visited. It was a little cold when we arrived, but it warmed up quickly as it filled up. It's not mentioned in a lot of guide books, and it seems to mostly attract a secular, Israeli clientele, but if you're looking for it, just follow the signs to Tmol Shilshom, and then turn right.

The starters were enormous. My French Onion soup was good and hot. Very hot, in fact, and remained so until I finished. Mom had the liver salad and was amazed again at how good the liver is that she's had in Israel. "No veins at all!" For the main course, mom had the burani rice with chicken, while dad and Rochelle had enormous t-bone steaks. Dad said this steak was better than the one he had in Jaffa (when I stabbed myself). I decided to risk the entrecote, but neither stabbed myself again, nor had any difficulty cutting the meat.

I told everyone that I didn't want to have dessert here, because there was one other place I wanted to visit. Back on Yoel Moshe Salomon Street, we found the small hole-in-the wall placed called Hagigat shel Babette (Babette's Feast). They specialize in Belgian waffles. When I came to Jerusalem in 1998, several people had told me to visit the "waffle woman" in Emek Refaim, but I had found to my disappointment, that she had moved. I eventually found the new location at the Rehavia Mill, but then they moved again to Nahalat Shiva.

I ordered one with whipped cream, while Rochelle ordered one with powdered sugar. She treated me to the dessert, and later changed her order to sugar and halvah, when she saw that was an option too. I forgot that you get two waffles with one order, so I had difficulty finishing mine. Rochelle split hers with dad.

After that we managed to squeeze our now-bloated bodies into a taxi and make our way back to the hotel.

This morning, dad and I went to pick up the rental. The clerk who had made the order forgot to tell us which agency, so I had this morning's clerk check for us. It turned out to be Hertz. After picking up the car, dad and I returned to the hotel where, with difficulty, we managed to cram all our luggage into the subaru (and this was a midsized car). After that, I told everyone to pray, and we managed to get out of Jerusalem in one piece and make our way down the road to the Dead Sea.

We managed to get to Ein Gedi in less than two hours. When we arrived, however, our rooms weren't ready yet, so they suggested we go to the spa and have lunch and rest. The spa restaurant is basically a cafeteria, so I got my Israeli cafeteria standard: schnitzel. After that, I went into the spa, and I think that mom, dad, and Rochelle almost immediately left.

I soaked for 20 minutes in the sulphur pools and when I came out, my skin was really red. Then, I went down to the mud pits and covered myself (as best as possible when one can't use one's left hand) with dark grey mud. After it dried, I washed off with the sulphur water. That stings when you get it in your eyes, so I made my way to the sweet water showers (which are cold). Then it was back to the sulphur pools.

The second time you go in, it tends to sting. That because all your pores have now been opened. I floated in the water for a half an hour, and when I got out, my skin was red again and itched from being in the hot water for so long. But it's really good for your skin. Then I went back to the mud pits one more time, and used the mud to exfoliate. I let it dry and then washed it off one more time. Then I got dressed and went back to the kibbutz to move into my room.

We're meeting for dinner in an hour. Everyone else is napping. My skin smells faintly of mud and sulphur and I feel a little light headed (the pools can dehydrate you, so I'll have alot of water with dinner). I had a small kafe hafukh in the outdoor bar, watched the hills of Jordan turn red (they're called harei edom for a reason) and even saw a rainbow over the Dead Sea.

Dad just came in, dressed for dinner, so I'll let him go online and check his stocks. I'll update again tomorrow afternoon.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Remember looking at the lights of Jerusalem from Amman, Jordan as we made our way down to the boder to cross from Jordan into Israel on our trip to Petra? Then getting in that Arab taxi and praying as we went through the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and ending up at the Damascus Gate and "civilization?"

Oh and that death defying trip to Petra, pounding on that taxi driver's back to keep him awake as he nodded off to sleep on the road down to Petra (A "dark desert highway" as the Eagles would have sung?)