After the short volunteering in Neot Smadar we take a bus back to Eilat. After Kathrin has recovered from the cold of the cold dessert nights, we go by bus to Jerusalem to spend the last few holidays in the Holy City. Traveling on public transport is a chapter of its own - it is rather cheap yet requires a so called Rav-Kav card. And, since long distance services are very popular, one should try and reserve tickets in advance.
Through the window, I watch the bus climbing up dessert roads, passing by forests and eventually reaching populated areas again. After 5 hours, we arrive in Tel Aviv. Navigating in the 7-storey bus terminal of Tel Aviv to the connecting bus turns out to be a challenge. However, we manage it to Jerusalem just after sunset. Our apartment is not far away from the old town, near Mahane Yehuda Market.

Tel Aviv Bus Terminal Jerusalem, on the way to our apartment Nachalot by night

Compared to the warm days in the dessert, it is rather cold in Jerusalem in the morning. We take a walk to the Jaffa Gate and join a guided tour organized by the Abraham Hostel. Joni, our guide leads us through the famous Armenian, Muslim, Christian and Jewish quarters of the Old City and pinpoints interesting facts. It is a cool hike that provides a great overview.
Later, we visit the Western Wall with all the praying Orthodox Jews. Afterwards we miss the time slot to visit the Dome of the Rock (and won't see it at all). The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is crammed with visitors. The Old City with its narrow cobblestone alleys and bazars and limestone houses is fascinating anyhow. Instead of queuing there, we just sit in front of the church and pet a smart cat that knows how to fetch some caresses.

In front of Western Wall and Dome of the Rock At the Western Wall

On the rooftop of the Austrian Hospiz we chat with a young couple from Palestine. The boy tells me something like, he'd never trust Palestine people.
At diner, we talk with some American students that study the Tora in Jerusalem. On the way back we stroll through the vivid Mahane Yehuda Market and listen to some street musicians. As well, we wonder about civilians wearing guns in the middle of the city.

Mahane Yehuda Market Mahane Yehuda Market Mahane Yehuda Market

Our trip to Bethlehem is not under a good star. At the bus station near Damascus Gate, a "student" named Amir from Bethlehem tells us that our requested bus 231 doesn't run on Fridays. Wouldn't we like to take a tour with him for 100 dollars?
Instead, we are on bus 234, which only goes as far as the checkpoint just before Bethlehem. Behind the checkpoint, dozens of "helpful" cab drivers are already waiting with their tour offers or false information (This way my friend). We continue stubbornly to the high border wall that separates Rachel's Tomb from the Palestinian territory. After a while, the cab guys finally give up. The border wall is full of more or less successful graffiti about the oppression of the Palestinians.
At the "Walled off Hotel" we just wanted a cup of coffee and go to the toilet. As the staff tells us, the hotel contains an exhibition. Thus, we'd have to pay the equivalent of 5 euros to go to the toilet.
The streets are very busy and the sidewalks are wildly parked up, which makes walking a pain in the bum. My interest in Bethlehem is already at rock bottom. Luckily, Kathrin agrees to drive back to Jerusalem immediately.
Back in Jerusalem we see the 231 bus, which would have gone straight to Bethlehem. At this point, many thanks to young Amir and the adorable taxi drivers at the checkpoint - you are no good advertisement for Palestine.

Walls in Front of Rahels Tomb Walls at the Walled off Hotel Walls at the Walled off Hotel

Back in Jerusalem, we enter the Old City through the Damascus Gate, walk the bazars in the Muslim quarter again. Today, there is not that much of a crowd in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. So we take the chance to visit the sacred place where Jesus was crossed and buried. It is a very special atmosphere in here, even for an atheist...

Behind the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Last day in Jerusalem, last day of the journey. In the morning, I visit a free Yoga class at some nearby hostel and actually come to cycle the Holy City. Later, Kathrin and I take a walk to the Israel Museum where we spend the rest of the day.
We take an early train to the airport on the next day, and I find a taxi driver who helps me to fetch the bike carton I left at my first warmshower hosts. The check-in procedure is a bit of a hassle, but at least I don't have to open the bike carton again. The flight to Istanbul starts with a delay, and with a lot of running and goodwill from the staff in Istanbul, we can still hop on the connecting flight back to Switzerland.

Model of Old Jerusalem in the museum

That was almost 5 months, and more than 6000 kilometers of cycling. Someone in Neot Smadar asked me, what I was looking for on this journey (instead of, where I was going to go to). I'm still contemplating on a reasonable answer. Shalom, salam, and many thanks to all the kind hearted people I met on this journey...

Hallo Welt