We are looking for a place to sleep in Jerusalem. We find an apartment surrounded by a terrace looking out over a very old world. Stumbling over local customs, we are then frightened by a screeching alarm. What to do? Where to hide?
Mahane Jehuda market
A small synagogue to nourish the rich inner life of mrs. Nomad, a pub for the ever so thirsty mrs. Villager and the market Mahane Yehuda around the corner make it the perfect location.
The apartment is equipped with a dozen modern gadgets such as WiFi, a washing machine, a gay couple and a cat. So one sunny morning we turn up at the doorstep of Barak and Idan. Actually it is only Idan because Barak is on a trip. Idan is just about to leave for work. Right, it Sunday, we forgot, a working day in Israel.
Overnight in Jerusalem
Before he leaves, Idan points at Shimi. “Cat”, he explains in case the Dutch ladies are unfamiliar with this furry phenomenon. After that he demonstrates the technical aspects of his home: a switch we have to turn in case we want hot water (not difficult), an espresso machine, in case want coffee (very complicated)
And then we are on our own with the inquisitive cat. The bedroom has a modern double bed. Two lights flank the bed and there is a huge chest for Mrs. Nomad extensive wardrobe. Strangely enough, the bed is made with first a blanket and than a sheet on top of it.
Strange? Acording to Idan it isn’t strange at all. “First a blanket is much warmer, don’t you think? We definitely came across our first local Jerusalem ways. Mrs. Nomad, whose hosophobia creeps up, sniffs the blankets for a moment but can’t find anything strange. Right, overnight in Jerusalem.
Idan told us we could use the kitchen so we hit the espresso machine. Before we get too homey and ready to start baking cookies, we find a box of triangular sweets that our host left for us. Ears of Haman, is the name of the cookies and they refer to the traitor Haman, who had it in for the Jews but lost in the end. The cookies are the symbol of the victory of the Jews over their enemies.
It is celebrated during Purim. Since we can’t seem to get the machine working, we decide to skip the coffee. Wine! A much better idea. On the balcony of our bedroom.
We peep at our neighbors across the street, who are also enjoying the sun. Maybe they are tourists just like us? Sipping our kosher wine we look at the people in street. Men on their way to work, their briefcases tucked tightly under their arms. Soon our first Ultra-Orthodox Jew walks by, dressed in black.
On the other site of our block, past the gas station, the Knesset is set in a park against a hill. In front of it young girls in school uniforms, their hair hidden under scarfs, are playing volleyball. Sometimes they get entangled in their long skirts and fall over in the grass. In the bunker behind them resides Benjamin Nethanyahu.
We doze off in the sun. All of a sudden a screeching alarm goes off. Like the emergency alarm drill in Holland every first Monday of the month. However it is Sunday, 11.20 am. An assault on the market? On Nethanyahu?
Israeli school drill
By the way, what are we supposed to do in case of an attack? Where do we go? Mrs. Nomad has turned white. The cellar, mrs. Villager suggests. But where the hell is the cellar? We haven’t seen anything that looks like it.
The screen of the mobile phone lights up. Text message from Idan: Israeli school drill, no need to hide under the table. Right, the table. Mrs. Nomad is already hiding underneath it. The only table in the house. Relieved we uncork another bottle. We are safe.
‘On the staircase near the entrance”, says our Israeli host that night when we ask where we should hide just in case. After a wonderful humus and fattoush salad in a local restaurant around the corner, it is time for us to go to bed. We feel safe with a host watching over us. And to be quite honest: it is nice and warm underneath a blanket first.
Text: Anneke de Bundel – Images: Shutterstock