Today, being a Friday, meant that the city would start winding down in preparation of the Shabbat. We did not plan an elaborate day, instead focused on regaining our energy and visiting Yad Vashem and some parts of Meah Sharim, the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem.

We walked to an open air mall outside of the old city, I believe it is called the Mammila shopping center and had some upscale shops. We found a cafe, got a cappuccino each, a veggie sandwich for Heena and a omelet for myself. The food came with potato chips on the side and was quite good. We sat in the cafe for a couple of hours, reading and writing. There were a lot of youngsters, most of them engrossed in their computers and fewer in books.

Around 11:30 we head out towards Yad Vashem. I had not realized that today being Friday, the museum closes at 2 pm! We took a cab and arrived around 12:15 pm which gave us less than two hours in a museum you can spend multiple days in! (I’m just going to have to go back to Jerusalem). We got the self-guided tour headsets and literally rushed in.

The museum is very well laid out. There is a lot of information about the life and times of Jews in Germany before and during the holocaust and personal memorabilia of the victims. It is impossible to go through the museum and not be touched by almost every exhibit. Each of them seemed to tell a story. Unfortunately, since we hardly had any time, the docents kept moving us from room to room. At 2, we just had to leave (we were the last people out). When we left the building and onto a balcony, we were greeted by a spectacular view of Jerusalem. We stood there, admiring the view, and thinking about the atrocities we humans commit against one another.

Our initial plan was to find a cab to drive us back to the hotel, find a restaurant and stock up for the next day since we had heard it is impossible to find food on Shabbath in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, after spending 30 minutes on the main road outside the museum we were still unable to find a cab so we waited at a bus stop where there were several other people waiting, and none spoke English. So I only said, “Kotel-Kotel bus, Church of Holy Sepulchure, Haraam-es-Sharif” hoping that one of them would understand I meant, the old city! A middle-aged lady hand gestured to assure us that we were at the right bus stop. It was getting quite chilly and after 20 minutes of waiting the bus arrived. The lady gestured us to get in and we did. I confirmed with the bus driver that we indeed will go in the right direction. Our visit to Meah Sharim would have to wait for another day. However, as luck would have it, the bus drove through Meah Sharim so we got a glimpse of it – lots of haredim dressed in traditional attire and speaking Yiddish.

The bus dropped us off near King David hotel and we walked the back alleys back to our hotel. It was almost 4:30 pm. All the shops on the way had closed down so there was no way we could even buy simple provisions! The menu at our hotel at absolutely nothing that was vegetarian, just a Shabbath dinner that was outrageously expensive. Luckily the concierge at our hotel suggested Foccacia, which is open on Friday and Saturday nights. We did not even bother to ask the type of cuisine or whether it’d have vegetarian. With a name like that you have to have bread and butter, and that was enough for us!

We went up to the room, refreshed and at went out on the streets. The generally super-busy streets were completely empty and people (ultra-orthodox and regular folks) were just walking right in the middle of the road! We walked in a random direction, through a residential district. The buildings were just like that of Matunga, the neighborhood of Bombay where I grew up.

At 8 PM made our way to the restaurant. It was dark and the walk to the restaurant was through some residential alleys. I simply love walking through such alleys since it gives you such a different feel of how people live in different parts of the world.

The restaurant was filled with many Israeli families. They had a brick oven and served fresh bread right from the oven to your plate! They also made pizza in the oven! Heaven! We ordered a pasta (gnocchi), foccacia bread with zataar, and a pizza on foccacia bread. We ended the meal with a tiramisu and strong coffee. The food, service and setting was simply excellent. We sat there for almost 2 hours chatting and enjoying the vibe; really feeling we were on vacation and loving it!

Finally at 10:30 pm, we made our way back to the hotel. This time it was almost pitch dark and we were extra cautious (not sure what that means, but that’s how we “felt”).

The next day we would scale up Masada and take a dip in the dead sea!