We returned our rental car. YEAH!! Now we are either on foot or bus. Today we set out on foot with no real plan. Since the car was returned near the YMCA, we went through it and climbed the stairs to the top for a photo shoot of the Old City. Next on to the King David Hotel.....oops...time for lunch...so we are back at the YMCA. Now this is unlike any YMCA I've ever been too. Take a look at the decorated ceiling--and the food was fantastic. In fact, Stan is even having dessert!! On foot to the Jaffa Gate, and we walk in just in time to pick up an afternoon tour! So, that settles it; we tour the Old City and then head home for dinner, a bath, and we're ready to hit the bed!! Lots of walking for our first day out.
Seeing that my wife and I were walking tentatively through a crowded section of the Old City, a genial old Jewish man popped up to give us some advice about how to maneuver through the maze of alleyways. He soon began chatting about where he lived and asked us where we were from. We warmly responded. As he was leaving us, this friendly soul mentioned that he was retired. I said that so were we. Then came the unexpected kicker: he needed a few shekels for supper. Go figure! He might have tugged at bit at my heartstrings, but he wasn’t going to tug at my wallet.
Not Exactly a Stairway to Heaven My wife and I went with a tour group for a three-hour overview of the Old City of Jerusalem. Throughout our walk, we had to climb up and down hundreds of stairs between and within the Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Quarters. I was getting pretty well adjusted to this regimen by the time I took my last bathroom break down yet another stairway. On the way back, I trod up the stairs until I noticed that a couple of women had stopped to let me through a gate at another level. I unthinkingly passed through it, closed it, and then began climbing once again. Suddenly, I realized that I had wandered too far away from the exit where my wife was awaiting my return. As I descended to open the gate, I grabbed onto the handle. It wouldn’t budge, whether I jerked it up or down. No one was nearby to help me get through, so I hollered for my wife. She promptly arrived. Used to my endearingly bumbling ways (I once locked myself in a men’s room in Paris), she wasn’t surprised at my predicament. Sometimes, she encourages me to extricate myself from the fixes I get into; sometimes, she takes over and frees me. Before she had a chance to decide which option she’d choose, a man came towards me from above the landing. He gestured for me to press a button a few feet up the stairs. I hurriedly did so, but the gate would not open. This guy was obviously messing with me. I was convinced that I needed a key to open the gate from the inside. And he certainly wasn’t going to let me use his. I was beginning to feel a bit queasy being trapped behind bars with a man who liked to taunt me. But then he shook his head and said to press the upper part of the button. How was I supposed to know that the button had two different pressure points? I did as he indicated. Immediately, there was a buzz, and the gate opened as I pushed the handle. I was tremendously relieved; the man smiled, and I thanked him as I left with my wife. For three hours, I had adroitly maneuvered around myriads of steps, never making a false move, never getting lost. Every time that I pat myself on the back, I do something foolish the next moment. Usually my self-congratulation leads to self-flagellation. But not today. I was an intruder on the stairs of someone’s private residence. Yet after the resident heard me shout for help, he quickly came to my aid, even though I was a clueless tourist—and he had probably seen plenty of them over the years. The tour guide often remarked that he hoped that the conflicts in Jerusalem would ultimately be peacefully resolved and usher in a happy ending to an age-old bitter saga. Well, I’d like to think that today a stranger and I made one small step in that direction.