Day 3: Temple Mount and miscellany

Our morning started off with a bang when Jeremy was three whole minutes late for the bus. The driver was picking us up at our hotel before picking up everyone else at the Jerusalem Center. I thought our guide was going to have a heart attack right there and then when the clock ticked past 8.00 to 8.01, 8.02, and finally 8.03 before Jeremy finally showed up. Of course, the point became moot when we got to the Jerusalem Center and the students were about ten minutes late.

The first stop on this Thursday morning was the Western Wall, highly crowded because of the large number of Bar Mitzvahs going on. I can only imagine how awesome it must be to have that take place in Jerusalem. The women's area is separated from the men's, which is why you can see all the moms and sisters peeking over the edge of their dividing wall.

I didn't find out until later, but the fact that we were allowed onto the Temple Mount is apparently moderately extraordinary. Nevertheless, we were not allowed into the two mosques, Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock. It's too bad, too, because I was hoping to see what I suspect is the one exception to the "mosques are more interesting on the outside than they are on the inside" rule.

We tried to get inside. We really did. But the guy in charge explained that to get inside Al-Aqsa these days, you have to be a regular, local Muslim or else a Muslim American or Jordanian Christian (go figure).

The Dome of the Rock was closed to us simply because the guy who would be in charge of making that decision was on holiday.

The Golden Gate to the Old City is no longer used. The Muslims walled it up long ago when they found out that according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter through this gate.

Just as Jeremy took this photograph, the guard you see plopped a big hunk of trash onto this pile. Right underneath the sign. Priceless.

We went to the City of David ruins and at the end, there was a place where we could see an ancient pool that was only recently uncovered. At that site, one of our professors read from the New Testament where Jesus heals a man by telling him to wash in the water. It was around that time that a young Jewish family got the heck out of there, whereas before they had been quietly listening to his presentation.

I took this photo during a massive traffic jam near the Western Wall. I was impressed by the variety of materials this family used to fashion a wall for their rooftop terrace.

We were all casually eating our lunch on the bus during this traffic jam when all off a sudden, the guide told us to exit the bus immediately. We all had to scramble to get off the bus in the middle of traffic. When you're traveling with a toddler, you need at least five minutes' warning for exiting the bus.

So when we got to the Ophel Archeological Park (that's where we were going), we realized we had forgotten to take any spare diapers. And of course, almost immediately afterward, Miriam pooped. Fortunately, there was a bathroom nearby. Not that we needed it - we have long since mastered the standing-up-diaper-change technique. But I cleaned her up in there among a horde of female Israeli soldiers. I hope Miriam wasn't too embarrassed.

In any case, she had to go diaperless for the afternoon. For most of it, she was asleep in her stroller, which worked out well.

And as long as I'm talking about diaper matters, I'll tell you that after making a few t-shirt purchases in the Old City, we changed Miriam's diaper in a quiet spot on the end of Christian Quarter Street nearest the Jaffa Gate. More on that tomorrow.

We bought Miriam some fake Crocs near Damascus Gate for five bucks. More excited about that purchase, I could not be.

That evening, after dinner and playtime at the Jerusalem Center, we walked down the grounds to the gate that leads onto a main road so we could catch a taxi to our hotel. Miriam was diaperless again (this time we had run out completely) but so far, we had been lucky as far as accidents go.

But wouldn't you know it, we got down to the gate and it was locked. And no amount of buzzing the doorbell could rouse a guard up in the security center to open it for us. After waiting for a few minutes, Miriam peed her pants. That only added to the hilarity that ensued five more minutes later when we all had to climb the fence. I went first. I almost didn't think I'd be able to do it, but somehow I managed. Then Jeremy climbed halfway up and perched Miriam on the top of the fence. He asked if I could catch her and I said (honestly) that I didn't think so. Then he said, "Well, you have to," and tipped her to my side. Fortunately, I caught her OK. Then he lobbed our bags over and finally himself. Miriam still mentions climbing "up" and "down" the wall from time to time.

Day 4: Gardens, a close call, and the Western Wall, again

Day 2: The Old City