Following prayer at the Western Wall, I ventured out to the city for a few hours prior to Shabbat. The plan was to spend until roughly 12:30 in the city, then travel back to Ra'anana to visit with my cousins (both from Jerusalem with their parents and siblings and my cousins from Bet Shemesh) there for Shabbat. My first stop was the Jaffa Gate again, since my plan was to walk to Machane Yehuda Market, Ben Yehuda Street and then Meah Shearim. Here's the Jaffa gate during the day, including the Tower of David in the backgroung:

The view of the new city from outside the gates of the old city is quite pretty. Check it out below:

After walking for a few minutes up and down the hills of Jerusalem, I came upon Ben Yehuda Street. For those who do not know, Ben Yehuda is somewhat of an outdoor mall, with many specialty shops, eateries and a beautiful plaza in the center to eat and schmooze with friends, colleagues, etc:

On Ben Yehuda Street, I found the "Steve's Pack" store, which had the water reservoir for my backpack that I so desperately needed for the last few days here (hot and humid = not so fun). From here, I walked up a few more blocks to the infamous Machane Yehuda Market, where Jerusalemites travel on Fridays to pick up fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, and baked goods L'chvod Shabbat (for the sanctity of the Sabbath). As you can see, its a serious market, with many many merchants marketing to even more customers. A bit of a madhouse, but the produce is amazing, and at great prices...

After making some purchases at Machane Yehuda, I traveled to Meah Shearim, a section of Jerusalem occupied by Chassidic Jews stemming from multiple communities in Europe. I went there to find some specific Judaica, since it is really the best place in the world to find obscure books as well as essentials. To respect their wishes, I did not photograph the block, as per the sign below (which incidentally, I did photograph).

I don't believe they intend to be mean by their asking outsiders to keep out of their neighborhood. Their focus is simply on maintaining the traditions, and limiting their people's exposure to outsiders who might require them to stray from their daily activities. They live a simple life of Torah study and would like to be left alone to this pursuit. While I certainly do not live that way, I completely understand their goals on this level.

After Me'ah Shearim, I rushed back to the Old City to meet Chani for a ride to Ra'anana. On the way, I ran into an Israeli clothing shop "Zip" ( and picked up a few shirts for the hot climate...

Shabbat in Ra'anana was quite lovely. I played a fierce game of table tennis with my cousin Aaroni right before Shabbat, then went to synagogue with Aaroni, Ephraim, and my new cousin Donny (through marriage to my cousin Baila this past year). The synagogue my cousins go to is enjoyable and efficient, with a service that has singing and spiritual elements packed into a short time frame. After synagogue, we met with the rest of the family (Uncle Mark, Aunt Riva, Chani, Rivki, Boobie, and Baila) and had a wonderful Shabbat dinner, with singing and great conversation.

This morning, we went to synagogue again (starting around 8:30) and returned around 11:15. We had a festive Shabbat lunch - ate, drank and sang. Following lunch, we played an intense game of "Bang", a european (Italian) card game similar to the game of "Mafia" that I used to play with some of my friends on the Upper West Side. At the conclusion of Shabbat, everyone went their separate ways, but I stayed around, since my meeting is now at 9am in the morning with the Israeli recruiting office.

I hope to share some new insights tomorrow with all of you...