After packing up, settling the bill, and rushing our breakfast down, we flew out of Pina Barosh like a bat out of hell at 9:30 am. We were on a mission: to return our rental car to Thrifty in Jerusalem by 1 pm. For the benefit of non-Jewish readers, Friday is Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest and seventh day of the week. In Jerusalem, a more conservative town than Tel Aviv, businesses close down from lunchtime onwards on a Friday. Normally a 2 and a half hour drive from Rosh Pinna to Jerusalem, we allowed ourselves three hours to factor in the busier roads, as Israelis rushed home in time for the start of Shabbat.
Our air-condition seized up only 30 minutes into our drive to Jerusalem - so much for the upgraded car from Thrifty. With the temperature clocking up a scorcher at 37 degrees, we were sweating buckets. While our GPS didn’t conk out on us this time, it couldn’t find the exact road that I programmed into it. We were used to this sort of predicament by now and we didn’t panic. Programming “Jerusalem City Centre” into the GPS, we planned on using Peter’s trick of flagging down a taxi driver and engaging his help when we got to into town. The cabbie that we got this time couldn’t have been more helpful. While his English wasn’t the best, he understood our situation and did whatever he could to alleviate our troubles. That included transferring our luggage to his car, taking us to the Thrifty office near the King David Hotel, waiting while Peter completed the paperwork, following our car as Peter drove it to the bowels of the King David Hotel (where all the rental cars were parked), and then driving us to our hotel, all by 1 pm. Relieved to have made it to our destination in one piece, we left our cabbie a very substantial tip.
Over the years, we have stumbled upon a few accommodation gems, and the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem would have to be one of them. For starters, Jerusalem accommodation is not cheap. Dotted with the five-star variety, there was no way we would be paying $500-600 per night during our 4-night stay. Then a friend, who travels to Jerusalem regularly, recommended the Harmony, on Yoel Moshe Salomon Street. Small, cute and extremely affordable, it is brilliantly located in the midst of all the bars/ restaurants and a 10 minute walk to the Jaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem.
Walking the streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat is a surreal experience. Totally deserted but for the cats and a handful of tourists, we strolled along the empty main streets of Jaffa and Ben Yehuda, listening to the chanting and singing coming from people's homes as they celebrated the start of Shabbat. For just a few hours of the day, we had the sensation that Jerusalem belonged to us.