Noah and Eitan woke up at 3am to watch the all star game, so I let the kids sleep in a bit thins morning. We left around 10:30 to go to the Underground Prisoners Museum, which is in the Russian Compound. On the way, we stopped at the King David Hotel. There was a limo with tinted windows outside, and when we got into the lobby there was some kind of army official (not Israeli) dressed in a fancy uniform with lots of metals and ribbons on it. No idea who he was. Haven't read a newspaper in weeks. We were looking for a display about the Irgun's bombing of the hotel in 1946 but instead found fancy shops and beautiful lounges and photos of lots of dignitaries and celebrities taken at the hotel, and a small display of historical photos of the hotel, including one from just after the bombing. From there we continued on to the Underground Prisoners Museum, an actual prison where the British held members of Irgun and other Israeli freedom fighters, as well as criminals and some mapillim (illegal Jewish immigrants). The prison was originally a hostel for Russian women making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so it is not built like a prison and is not as creepy as the prison in Akko. We met Faye, Earl, Yedidya, and Noam at the gates, and pushed the button as directed to get into the gated compound. After the gate automatically and slowly creaked open and we walked in we were accosted by a security guy dressed all in black who asked to see our passports. Kind of strange as that had not been our experience at other museums. And it may not have been such a serious request as none of us had passports with us and he let us all go in on my driver's license. The museum starts with a movie that describes the experience of the prisoners there, and then leads you on a self guided tour through the prison compound. Most of the the rooms are set up as they were when it was a prison -- cells, workshops, the kitchen, a shul, solitary confinement cells, and a death row gallows that was never used. They had a scavenger hunt and activities with lots of interesting info and though Ilana was the only taker, I really enjoyed it too. We saw the spot where the prisoners dug out of their cell and through to the courtyard. 12 of them then climbed through the tunnel and then dressed like maintainance workers and walked out of the prison. We also saw the cell where Moshe Barazani and Meir Feinstein killed themselves with explosive smuggled in inside an orange rather than be executed by the British.
After the museum we all headed to Mea Sha'arim to find a shofar for Eitan among other things, with the exception of Noah, who walked back to the apartment to sleep. We found ourselves so in the heart of it that we could not find a atore with shofrot, the streets were tiny alleys, and they were filled with people dressed in garb from the shtetl -- we clearly stuck out as tourists. After we found a way to the main street we looked back at the alley where we had come from and their was a big sign hanging over it that said something like, "This is our neight borhood, where we live. It is not for tourists. Please do not enter if you are not dressed in accordance with modesty." One we found the more touristy area with lots and lots of Judaica stores, Earl and Eitan blew many many shofrot looking for the perfect combination of quality and price. Earl was a diligent and patient shofar buying guide. Our search and walk in the heat made the kids very hungry, but it took us a while to find a main drag with food. we finally found a pizza store that had -- I'm not kidding -- separate lines for men and for women, and a men's only eating room (but there were two young women sitting in there with all the men so I have no idea what the story was.) After lunch, Faye and her boys took a cab back home, and Earl and the remaining Oberlanders finally made their purchases. Earl headed home, and we walked over to Ben Yehuda to get some frozen yogurt. One of the kids didn't like it as it tasted too much like yogurt. If you want to know how Eitan's shofar sounds, just ask anyone who was walking on Ben Yehuda this afternoon as he practiced his skills and startled passersby. Chen was in the area and came by to say hi, she looks great and sounds great and is a rosh bus on mach hach, which starts tomorrow. We were so glad to see her! After lots of hugs, Chen headed back to her office and we took a bus back to the apartment (the kids rebelled and refused to walk).
Then another real treat -- Sarah and Carl Ashkenazi and Yacov and Noa came to meet us for dinner! They seem to be so well adjusted to life here; it is hard to believe they came less than a year ago. Carl is working from home, Sarah is working 5 days a week to get her Israeli medical certification, they are loving life on the yishuv. Yacov is speaking Hebrew fluently, and we can't believe how big Noa is! We really enjoyed seeing them and catching up, though our time was much too short as we had to leave for a previously scheduled tunnel tour at 8pm. Dinner was great -- we ate at a sushi place in Emek -- it was incredible. Ilana ate all of her sushi and most of mine!
Naomi was not feeling great -- totally exhausted -- so she skipped dinner and Noah stayed home with her. After dinner we switched and dropped off Ilana and picked up Noah, and the boys and I went to the tunnel tours at the kotel. We were running super late so we decided to take a cab. Riding a cab through the old city, winding our way to the kotel, gave me another perspective on the city. I'm glad that we got something out of it as the ride sure wasn't cheap. I don't really understand how cab fares work here -- one cab we rode in had a meter, but most don't and it seems that the driver just makes up a price and then you are supposed to argue over it until it is all resolved. Too stressful for me, I'd rather walk.
The tunnel tour was definitely worth doing again (we did it 4 years ago). First because it is just plain old cool to be in the depths of the Western Wall, and second because they have added to the tour -- a very cool model of the time of the second temple that can or remove the current structures that are built again the outside of the wall, and add or remove the Roman promenade that ran next to the wall. Also they have excavated a huge mikvah that may have been used by the Cohanim, and a large reservoir at the end of the tour after the walk through the aquaducts. The entire area was bustling even though it was 9:00 on a Wednesday night --It is emboldening that so many of us make an effort to be there and experience. After the boys davened maariv at the kotel, we walked home. Though it is sometimes a challenge with the bickering kids, I am trying to savor every moment. We have so few left...