Israel Museum, a set on Flickr.
I am learning that one can spend most of their life in traffic here in Jerusalem. Though not a large city compared even to Canadian cities, Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city in both land size and population (less than 800,000). But it feels like a crowded, big city because of the traffic. Case in point, I was stuck on a full bus yesterday for nearly 30 min as it crawled down a street that would have taken me 5 min to walk. This bus, or should I say – this traffic, made me late in meeting a friend disrupted our plans to go to the Israel Museum.
After showing up 45 min late at the appointed café, I had obviously missed her. Then came the task of figuring out where to catch the bus to the museum. There are no bus maps so visitors are left to fend for themselves. Being lost in a place makes for great opportunities to meet people. I met a girl who just so happened to be waiting for another bus that went to the museum. She was even kind enough to pass me her email if I needed help in getting around the city.
The Israel Museum is impressive, especially for any history or archeology nerds (you know who you are). Known for having some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Museum also houses plenty of prehistoric artifacts, and two tiny silver scrolls with the earliest biblical writing ever found (predates the dead sea scrolls by 400 years). Unfortunately, like many other museums, no photos were allowed inside. Outside is permissible. There are a few sculptures and the model of Jerusalem during the second temple period. ‘Course, while taking photos of Jerusalem in miniature the Monty Python quote, “It’s just a model” came to mind.
I spent numerous hours in the museum, walking and walking. I had planned to attend an evening church service (also hoping to see there the friend who I missed) which started at 5PM. I came out of the museum a quarter after 4, and just missed the bus. And so I waited.. and waited. Soon, others joined with me in waiting. And it became apparent that no one else knew the buses or the schedule. Finally, close to 5, the bus arrived.
I eventually made to the building where the church met (about 5:15 at this point)… only the building was a tall office building with commercial shops on the first few floors. When I went in, I saw a couple of other lost-looking ladies talking to a young woman who seemed to be directing them. These ladies were also looking for the church and had been searching for the last 15 min. They heard that the church meet on the 9th or 14th floor.. but they couldn’t find the elevators that went to the upper levels. I joined them on the hunt. The young woman got directions to the necessary elevator and we thanked her for her help. Up we went to the 9th floor and… nothing, just closed offices. 14th floor: nothing again. We got down to the main floor and wandered and encountered a couple who was going to the church (which meets DOWNSTAIRS in the plaza).
In stark contrast to the rest of the building, the church was newly renovated and had a movie-theatre-like auditorium. The place was full (now it’s about 5:45PM); it seemed like it was full of foreigners like myself. Finally, I was able to sit down on a comfy seat and I was taken on another ride. Here was a western-style, evangelical/charismatic church service in English. I don’t know who the speaker was (wasn’t the regular pastor who was away), but he delivered an awful sermon. Full of pithy sayings, horrendous exegesis, and mind-numbing jokes… but the congregation was eating it up. He even made a joke about how people didn’t smile on buses here, and still don’t. Buddy, if people were blown up on buses, I wouldn’t smile either. By the time the sermon was over and it was time for prayer, the speaker was applying all the tricks of trade to work up an emotional response (cue the music, raise the voice, lay the guilt trips, and call for repentance)… which ended in a 2 minute “crying out to God.”
I left feeling rather bereft.
On the way home, instead of waiting for the bus that would take me into Ein Kerem, I decided to walk down from Mt. Herzel. I had enough of buses, even though my legs were tired from being on my feet all day. I also needed the time to digest all that I saw, and try to forget some of what I heard. It was a relief to come “home” – and I can take comfort in knowing that at least here, I know my way and I can get to it with no hindrances.