When we lived in London (1987-1992; I was 10-15 years old), we traveled as a family — a lot. Every long weekend and school holiday would see us heading off to another city in what my kids call “Yurp.” Over the course of many such visits, our family developed some guidelines for how to travel together without losing our minds. Lindsey and I were consulted for ideas (I remember lots of Sound of Music sights in Austria). Dad would present the “non-negotiable” things we had to do (usually these could be abbreviated — ADC — “Another Damn Cathedral”). Once those were done, pretty much, it was: “Do what you want. Stay safe. See you back at the hotel.” Which is how Lindsey and I spent a night in Berlin, watching TV in our hotel room instead of attending the Berlin Opera with my parents and their friends. The only English-speaking station was showing live coverage of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s trial for slapping a policeman. We watched for hours. In retrospect, perhaps a bad call by Lindsey and me, but my parents picked their battles, bit their tongues, let us choose what to do.
Hannah and Margaret are obviously too young to let loose in Jerusalem (though don’t think the fantasy hasn’t occurred to me). Still, I’m trying to adapt some of the Mead family travel guidelines. The “pick your battles” aspect of this is accepting that everything takes ten times as long as it should, and that our kids need a lot of time to lie on the couch or play in the park to recover from any adventure. I’m also trying to incorporate their interests and wants. In Delaware this summer, we took out every library book we could find about Jerusalem or Israel. Hannah was totally obsessed with “the gold dome” — the Dome of the Rock. On our first several visits to the Old City, we never made it that far as meltdowns or exhaustion (parental and child) struck first. But on Sunday we were determined that Hannah should see her gold dome. Terence mapped out a great bus route (including squeezing through Jaffa Gate and the Armenian Quarter on bus #38). We hopped off and started walking, whereupon Margaret made her discovery: a playground! Set down below the path, almost right against the old walls of the Jewish Quarter. As I told her, kids notice things that grown ups would walk right past.
We headed up to the Haram ash-Sharif by a walkway near the Western Wall. To make a most unoriginal point: it’s crazy how close together these places are to each other. So thanks to Hannah’s choices we spent the anniversary of 9/11 in the holiest of Muslim and Jewish places. Perhaps fitting, as we are praying for more mutual peace and understanding in this decade than we have had in the last decade. p.s. Margaret wants to see “Jesus’ cribby,” so Bethlehem may be our next family adventure.