When I arrived in Jerusalem, it was almost 7pm. The new bus station (Tachana HaMerkazit) is very nice and modern, looking like a pretty fancy mall. The last time I was in Jerusalem, the bus terminal had not yet been built and the old terminal was entirely outdoors. The old terminal had its charms, including an excellent bus-side Schwarma (lamb gyro) salesman/haircutter. Talk about business synergy! The only problem I had with the station was the mislabelled location of the Bank HaPoalim ATM machines, which are on the 1st floor, not the second (after doing an exhaustive search for them on the 2nd floor, where the signs had suggested they were). When I left the station, I took a cab to the parking lot outside the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, because it was the closest place I could be to my cousins apartment before having to travel by foot.
The apartment is on a side street/corridor only steps from the Kotel (Western Wall), with an amazing picture window overlooking the Kotel and access to a rooftop with an amazing view as well. I was incredibly glad to finally be in Jerusalem! Here are a few quick photos of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount at night from the apartment:
After showering and changing into clean clothes, I travelled into town with my cousin Chani, who has been leading tours around Israel for quite a while now (and is subsequently a Jewish History major at Hebrew University in Jerusalem). I had the chance to quiz her on some of the books I have recently picked up in leisure covering topics from the Ethiopian Jewish community and Jerusalem during the 2nd Temple period. It was very nice to see her and hear about her thoughts on these issues and the future of Israel and the Jewish nation. We stopped off for a quick dinner at a Schnitzel (breaded chicken cutlet) place, named Schnitzi, near Ben Yehuda Street (I had the "Spanish" sandwich, which had some chili powder or something... I must say, quite tasty). On the walk back, we went through the Jaffa Gate, near the Tower of David (Migdal David):
As part of my master plan, I had negotiated an unofficial tour/prayer session at the Tunnel Tour at the Kotel with Chani. Since Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount has traditionally expanded upwards (with new construction built on top of old construction), the Tunnel Tour allows one to see what the Temple Mount looked like many thousands of years ago, prior to the relatively recent construction of the Dome of the Rock by the Muslims. The plan was to go during unofficial touring hours (prior to 9am) and try to sneak a tour in. Unforunately, the next morning at 7:15am, we found out that only women are allowed in during early mornings, since there are women-only prayer groups in there. Instead of the tour, I decided to pray at the Kotel instead. Here's the Kotel, the opposite side of the Kotel and the "street" to my cousins apartment: