Initially, as the Blog is primarily to record our “Lower 48” odyssey, we had not intended to do a posting about our Israel trip; the journey was so enjoyable, enlightening and educational that we decided that we must share our experience.
Having celebrated Hannah and Adele’s birthdays in the UK a few days earlier, we travelled to Tel Aviv on September 21st and arrived to a delightful welcome from Rina and Ami and were immediately whisked on the road to Jerusalem where we spent a few nights. The following morning we headed out from the hotel, walking of course, to the Jaffa gate of the Walled City where we met Dvri our guide for the day. Entering the city we were struck by the hustle, bustle and vibrancy of the place as we walked past King David’s castle on our way to the Temple Mount which is venerated by the three monotheistic religions: Jews, Christian and Muslims, it is said to be where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. The Temple Mount encompasses the Western (Wailing) Wall recognized as the world’s largest Synagogue, the Dome of the Rock whose western foundation is the western wall of the last Temple, is unbelievably large (think multiples football fields) includes the 7th century Al Aqsa Mosque.
Security was extremely stringent to access these historical religious sites. As we had decided to undertake a private visit to the Western Wall the following day, Dvri “knowing the scene” was able to circumvent all obstacles for us to gain access to the Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to enter the mosques – there are two of them – we were, however, glad to be able to see the Al Aqsa Mosque up close, its blue/gold dome is immense.
From there we walked to the palace from where Pontius Pilate ruled and where he condemned Jesus to be crucified; here we encountered numerous groups of Christian pilgrims - mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe – devoutly walking the Via Dolorosa, some bearing crosses. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is remarkable as it is shared by so many Christian denominations, each with its own church within the church.
The next day we returned, with Rina and Ami to the walled city and found our way, via some spectacular underground excavated walkways to the Western Wall, Jerusalem must have been an amazingly beautiful place in ancient times. Having spent some time at the wall we headed for Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) which was, without doubt, the most emotional experience of our trip. Words cannot possibly suffice to describe or give expression to this recording (mostly by the Nazi’s) of documents, photo’s, movie clips and other artefacts of man’s unbelievable inhumanity to fellow man. Without shame or apology we both admit that we were overcome by emotion and cried throughout our visit. Other places we visited in Jerusalem were King David’s Tomb, the almost next door upstairs room where the Last Supper was held and the Chapel of the Ascension.
We traveled north the next day to Rina and Ami’s home in Timrat which was our base for our further exploration of Israel. From there, over several days we visited: the site of the Baptism at the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, St Peter’s house, Tiberius, Capernaum, the Golan Heights (from where we overlooked Syria and Jordan in the distance), Nazareth, a Druze village where we had lunch with a family, a Kibbutz where again, we had lunch and Haifa which has a spectacular Baha’i Temple. Our final trip was to the ancient port city of Caesarea – think Rome’s Coliseum multiplied by a huge factor, awesome!
After having celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Rina, Ami, Limor, Ronnie and little Barkai we left Israel with the commitment to return again as we had only scratched the surface of exploring this fascinating, historical land.