Monday, 11 June 2012

Israel - the Holy Land

Before I start on our Israel trip I wanted to wrap up last month's Magnum moustache.
Magnum styling his 60's Miami mobster hat.  He would have preferred wearing his fetching Redskins straw hat to Israel but it was left home.

Now onto Israel, country number 8.5 since we left the states.  What an amazing trip.  I figured this would be my favourite trip so far and I was correct.  Not only was it my favourite trip it was everyone's favourite trip.  I can't say it was a life changing trip but I absolutely loved all of it.  Four days of biblical sights was beyond fantastic.  Plus we learnt a few Hebrew words - ken means yes, toe-DAH means thank you, shalom means peace and is used as a greeting, lo means no, and anee lo meiveen means I don't understand.  We also learnt that Israeli's are very prompt and usually early, drivers of all vehicles LOVE using their horns, and the locals are urgently pushy almost to the point of being annoying.  But before I babble on anymore I'll get to the pictures.  I was going to list all of the bible verses that correspond to the pictures but that will take to long so I will only mention some of the biblical references.  Enjoy. 

Day 1 - Tel Aviv/Jaffa.  Weather was 80's and sunny which was great.  Warm walking in the city but there was a cooling breeze along the beaches.  Slather ourselves in sun tan lotion, grab our back packs, don our hats and we are off!

Our two star dump, or our college hotel as Lori called it.  Good location, bad breakfast and no hairdryer is not enough to make the boss happy.  I selected it because the local three star hotels were quadruple the price but I found out that a super expensive hotel is worth it as long as it has a hair dryer.  Eran did confirm for me later that there is a big difference in price between good and bad hotels in Tel Aviv so I felt a little better about not being able to find a good hotel at a reasonable price.

Our room - cramped but had a great air conditioning unit.  No bedbugs so it wasn't a total dump.  Christy S., Marie D. and Kathy E. all have stayed in worse so Lori can't complain to much. 

Interesting architecture in Tel Aviv.

Beautiful view of Mediterranean Sea from outside the hotel.   

Breakfast - hot dogs with mushroom, onion, sauerkraut, olives, ketchup and mustard.  Pretty good although olives was a new topping for me.  I figured olives go on everything there so why not?  Plus I am sure the other Fat Boys would approve of olives on hot dogs.

View of Old Jaffa from Tel Aviv beach.  Jaffa was a thirty minute walk from central Tel Aviv.  Tel Aviv beach looked great but we didn't have time to soak up any rays.

Clock Tower in Jaffa.  From the pamphlet this tower was one of one hundred towers erected in 1900 during the Ottoman Empire to commemorate twenty five years of the Sultanate of Abdul Hamid the Second. 

View of Tel Aviv from Old Jaffa - Tel Aviv beach area reminded me of Miami.

Old Jaffa dates to 1800 BC.  We've been to Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circles (see the Stonehenge and Bath entry from a couple of weeks ago) which dates back farther but I still though this was impressive.

The house of Simon the Tanner from the Book of Acts (ignore the brown wooden box hanging off of the building).  You can see the red and white lighthouse on the roof which is the roof where Peter prayed and saw the vision from God about unclean animals. 

Typical block wall construction - Eran told us it is made from sand, salt and mud.  I guess the pores grow bigger over time but these blocks were very common in the area.

Old Jaffa Harbour from Jonah and the Big Fish from the Book of Jonah - this is where Jonah boarded the ship to flee from God's direction instead of going to Ninevah.  Also in the harbour is the Andromeda Rock from Greek mythology.  It is hard to see but it is the largest rock on the left.  You can read about Andromeda on Wiki here.  This also about the time that the constant smell of Jaffa (urine and old building earth) started to bother us. 

St. Peter's Church in Jaffa, built between 1888 -1894 by the Franciscan Church (a LOT of Franciscan influence on our trip).  Per one of our guides this is only one of three churches in the world to not face East.  It faces West to face the Vatican.  The other two churches are in Jerusalem which you'll see later.  I'm not sure how true that statement is but I will start paying attention to what direction churches face from now on.  I should have asked him how he defined "church" but didn't think to ask at the time.

Lori and Karl at The Wishing Bridge.  According to legend you are supposed to hold your constellation, look at the sea, make a wish, and it will be granted.

The Mark Elliott pic - On our way to lunch we walked through the Jaffa Flea Market where I found these beauties.  The two on the left are Maccabee and the four on the right are Goldstar.  Pub glasses from Israel - how cool is that!

Lunch was at Dr. Shakshuka (link), a Tripoli restaurant.  Good food but we didn't understand what we were getting into.

The Dana Johnson pic - We ended up eating a Tripoli lunch spread which was HUGE and very good.  The shakshuka is the egg and tomato sauce dish in the middle of the pic and on the left.  Course one was veggie dipping dishes, bread and salad.  My fave of this course was the thick salmon fillets in a beef gravy type sauce which is on the right of the picture.  

The Dana Johnson pic - Course two of the belly buster.  Mostly meat and bean dishes with soup and cous cous.  This course was tasty as well.

The Dana Johnson pic - Dessert was hot tea and baked rice pudding with cous cous.  Tea was okay but I didn't try the baked pudding.

Typical Tel Aviv side street view.

I had to take this picture for my fellow Yoopers. 

Independence Hall in Tel Aviv (Wiki link).  We happened to stumble into a student tour which was very informative, so informative that history indifferent Kalle mentioned this as one of the highlights of the day.  Israeli independence was declared in this room on May 14 1948.  

We heard about the fight for independence firsthand but you can read about it (The 1948 Arab-Israeli War or War of Independence to the Israeli's) here on Wiki.  Herzl's picture is between the two flags, more on him later.  A short stop but we thought it was great, mostly because of the speaker.  I believe this is the second Independence Hall we have been inside, the first being the US Independence Hall in Philly.

Next up was Migdal Shalom (Shalom Tower), see WIki link, which was a little adventure in navigating.  I had the address and we found the spot on the street but all we found was a tower of commerce shops, not anything displaying the history of Tel Aviv which is what we were trying to find.  After asking a couple people we found the lobby of the tower which housed a couple wall mosaics and a room of photos chronicling the cities history.  The photos were less than interesting but one wall mosaic was fascinating. 

Fascinating wall mosaic that "tells the tale of the first days and development of the town [Tel Aviv] by means of more than one million small stones and glass fragments on a mosaic wall covering about one hundred square meters."

Explanation of the wall mosaic and the first street lamp in Tel Aviv.

We did a lot of walking this day.  This view was through Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market).  Markets are huge there with some markets being streets of stores while other markets are streets of small shops sandwiched next to each other.  This market seemed to have a lot of clothing, material, house decoration, restaurants/cafes and similar stores. 

By now it is almost evening so we decided to head back to our blow dryer-less dump for a bit until our dinner with Eran.  Eran lives near Tel Aviv and someone Lori worked with many years ago.  They trade Christmas cards and keep in touch so when we decided to go on this trip Lori arranged to meet him one night for dinner.  He picked us up from the hotel and took us on a walking tour of Neve Tzedek which he said was old Tel Aviv.  Interesting sights and he told us some of the local history (see block wall construction above).  After the walk we met his wife and another couple for an entertaining dinner that was one of the highlights of the day.  No dinner pics though, sorry.

The Jim Seppanen pic - this is a cactus tree, or cack-toos as they call it, taken in Neve Tzedek.

Sun setting over Mediterranean Sea from Tel Aviv beach.

Close up of setting sun.

Reminded me of watching Miami Vice when I was a young buck.

Day 2 - Qumran Caves, Masada, Ein Gedi Spa at Dead Sea.  The first of our three days with a guide.  We had a mini-boos (minibus to us) pick us up from our Tel Aviv dump and drive us around all day long.  The weather ended up being in the 90's without a breeze but the air wasn't humid so it didn't feel oppressively hot although we still did our best to avoid the sun.  Our driver was pretty funny and knew some English so we enjoyed his company.  Our guide ended up being from Detroit, she grew up there and went to the University of Michigan.  She is Jewish and wasn't religious growing up but was spiritually awaken in college.  On her first trip to Jerusalem she met her Canadian Jewish husband and twenty years later they are living south of Jerusalem with their five children.  She did a pretty good job but my "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" was that she only knew Jewish history, she knew very little Christian history which is what we wanted to hear.  She did do a good job working with us on our packed itinerary since the two Jerusalem days were both fast paced.  We could have used another day in Jerusalem but honestly I have not been to a place yet where I couldn't have filled another day with sightseeing.  Cons of travelling on a budget but we always manage to catch the highlights which we are all thankful for.  Overall I would not have wanted to tour without a guide, just such a different environment over there.

Latrun Monastery overlooking the Ayalon Valley where God made the moon stand still in the Book of Joshua.  It is also thought to be the home of the good thief crucified next to Jesus in the Book of Luke.  We met our guide near here.

Picture of the Ayalon Valley (link).  This road is also the major roadway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem which was heavily fought over during the Israeli War of Independence.  Our guide gave us some history - millions of Jews were surrounded in the Jerusalem area so the Israeli's tried making "tin can" vehicle shells that were meant to protect the vehicles from the Arab rifles as they tried bringing supplies to Jerusalem.  The shells were not effective and we saw about twenty of the shells alongside the road turning to rust.  The area was finally relieved thanks largely to Colonel David Marcus (link), a Jewish American officer who helped Israel in the War of Independence. Per our guide he is one of the few people interred in Arlington that have served in a foreign army.

On the drive between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Note the vegetation is started to disappear.

We are past Jerusalem now and approaching the Dead Sea area.  Vegetation is few and far between now.

Finally we are at the Qumran Caves (read about the cave discoveries here), site of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Scrolls Wiki link) discovery.  Paraphrasing from our Qumran National Park pamphlet, the Essenes were an ultra religious sect of Jews who moved there towards the end of the second century BC and also wrote the Scrolls at some point.  They were there until 68 AD when the Romans chased them out.  This is the time that the scrolls were thought to have been hidden by the Essenes from the Romans.  The scrolls were found in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds looking for stray herd animals.  Interesting stop but a little underwhelming for me. 

Cave number 4 is at the bottom.  This is the cave where all of the Old Testament books except for Esther were found.

After Qumran was Masada (link), a last stand fort for a thousand Jews against the Romans.  The fortress was built by Herod, one of the Roman puppet king of the Jews with an Arab upbringing.  Per our guide the historical view of Herod by the Jews is mixed.  He supposedly converted to Judaism but was always appeasing Rome.  He also built beautiful temples but was paranoid of losing power so he kept killing anyone of power - remember he was the king who the wise men visited looking for newborn Jesus then he killed all the male infants when he couldn't find Jesus.  Fast forward about 74 years and the Romans are killing and enslaving all of the Jews so one thousand Jews flee to Masada and make a final stand.  Eventually the Jews killed themselves once the fortress was breached instead of becoming slaves.  Slavery was especially brutal for Jewish men and women - the men were worked to death and the women were used as sex slaves.  The young and old were killed as soon as they were captured because they were considered useless to the Romans.  Overall Masada was fascinating to see and the pictures will not do it justice, we could have spent all day there exploring.  One interesting point about the Jewish defenders is when they decided to kill themselves they burned everything but the food stores.  They burned everything so the Romans couldn't use anything but left the food to show the Romans that they could have fought on if they wanted to.  We were so impressed with the site we bought a book, The Jewish War by Joshephus Flavius which tells the Jew-Roman Masada battle story.  Flavius was a Jew who turned into a Roman to stay alive.  It sounds like Jews are a little sceptical of his intentions (basically stay alive at all costs) but this book recounts all of the Jewish battles per our tour guide so we bought it. 

Map of Masada.

Herod's Northern Palace - the famous three tiered northern edge of the fortress.  Dead Sea in the background. 

View from Masada of the mountainside - what a view!  The remains of the Roman siege camp are on the left.  The Romans believed that an army should never be idle so they were always fighting, training, or building.  No wonder they conquered everybody within marching distance.

Top tier of Northern Palace looking northwest.

Top tier of Northern Palace looking northeast - the Dead Sea is in the background and the Moab Mountains of Jordan are on the other side of the sea.  The white line on the edge of the water is salt.  As the sea recedes and the water evaporates it leaves salt deposits.  The brown "land" next to the white line is salt deposits also except those have a layer of sand on top of them which is why they are brown.  Supposedly the Dead Sea is receding at a rate of one meter (linear) per year so scientists are trying to figure out how to put water back into it.

Soldier barracks in middle, Western Palace in the back right.

After Masada we went for a dip in the Dead Sea (Wiki link) before the spa closed.  The Sea is referred to as the Salt Sea in the Bible and was used as a refuge for King David and as a resort by Herod.  The sea is over 1200 feet below sea level which makes it the lowest elevation land mass in the world.  One cool fact about the sea from the locals is that it is so low that you can not get sunburned due to the 1200 feet of extra atmosphere layers.  So we stopped at the Ein Gedi Spa (link) because we were told that "you have to float in the Dead Sea" during dinner with Eran's group.  And was it ever neat.  The sea is over thirty percent salt and mineral composition so everything floats in the water.  Plus it is so high in salt content that nothing lives in it.  The Spa itself allows access to the sea, showers and has a swimming pool. 

Me with the classic "reading the paper in the Dead Sea" picture - you can see Jordan in the distance.  All you have to do is slowly sit back and you start to float - such a weird and amazing feeling.  You can stand in the water but I had to forcibly push my legs down to keep them from floating.

Also at the Dead Sea - the mud is supposed to have healing powers but it just felt like I was rubbing mud on myself.  Sucker born every minute you know.

The view from the spa swimming pool.

Sample Date Palm Tree forest as we drove in the Dead Sea area.

Not only was our driver funny to talk with he also bargained us a deal on the way back to our hotel.  We saw a couple of camels sitting by the side of the road so we decided to stop for some bargain price pictures.  Not only is it expensive there nothing is free. 

The Steve Frey pic - how's this for a domesticated animal pic Steve?  You won't see these babies in Merry Old England. 

Another Steve Frey pic - camels have double jointed knees so when they stand up they lurch forward then backward which feels very unsteady. 

And Steve Frey scores the natural hat trick.  I have to admit sitting on a camel was a neat experience.

The Sarah Anderson pic - part of the much different experience was driving through armed checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West Bank.   

View from our three star hotel in West Jerusalem.

Inside the room, much nicer than the Tel Aviv hotel.  Plus they had a blow dryer so we're good.

After checking into our hotel (Hotel Shalom) we ventured to El Gaucho, an Argentinian Grill.  We didn't try one in Amsterdam so when we saw this we had to try it.  It was pricey but the steaks were easily the best tasting steak we've tasted since leaving the States. 

The Kevin Coleman pic - one liter of liquid pleasure named Goldstar. 

Mushrooms, chicken wings, and bread with dippy stuff.  Tasty. 

Best steaks in 8 months.  So worth the money.

Night view from our hotel.  I took the pic to show the haze that drifted in the horizon all day long.

Day 3 - Jerusalem - Masada, Dead Sea and the camels were awesome so I was hoping Jerusalem would be better and I was right!  A full day of biblical overload and I loved it.  We were joined by another guide for Mount of Olives and Jerusalem Old City for security since our guide was a woman.  The other guide lives in Israel now and is from New York.  I liked him better because he know more Christian and Muslim highlights then our guide.  Plus he carried a concealed weapon.  temps were in the 90's and low humidity so we stayed in the shade as much as possible.

Wide view of Jerusalem from Mount of Olives.  What a great way to start out the day. 

Closer look at Jerusalem. 

The gold plated Dome of the Rock (link) is in the middle, dates to 691 AD and is also the oldest Islamic building I believe.  Muslims believe Mohammed's horse ascended from a stone in the ground in the Rotunda as it rose to heaven.  Jews and Christians believe that is also the Foundation Stone which is the site where Adam was created, where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Isaac in the Book of Genesis, where Solomon erected the First Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant in the 1st Book of Kings, and where Jesus overturned the table on the money changers in the Book of Matthew.  Unfortunately that is in the Muslim Quarter which is "to political" for us to visit - "to political" there means you will get rocks thrown at you or be shot at if you are in the wrong area.  Again, a slightly different world.  Before the Dome was erected that spot housed the First and Second Temples.  From The New World Encyclopedia (link) and Wiki, the First Temple was built in 957 BC by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  The Second Temple was built in 536 BC by Cyrus the Great, a Persian king, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.  According to ancient belief, the Third Temple will be built when the God of Israel returns to rule forever.  I can only imagine the problems Israel will have if the Dome is demolished in order to built the Third Temple.

To the left of the Dome is a smaller gray dome which is the Al Aqsa Mosque, originally built in 705 AD.  The gray dome to the left of the Dome of the Rock is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, much more on that later.  The blocked in gates to the right of the Dome of the Rock are the Golden Gates from the Book of Acts.  The City of David is to the left of the picture and the Lions Gate (entrance to Via Dolorosa) and Dominus Flevit (site where Jesus sat and wept for the Temple) are to the right of the picture.  The valley in the foreground is the Valley of Jehoshaphat as mentioned in the Book of Joel.  It is also considered holy to be buried there by Muslims and Jews as you can tell by the number of tombs.

See the white tarp, stone wall and walkway bridge?  That is the City of David location - currently they are excavating and have found artifacts dating back to Canaanite times (around 1800 BC) per our guide.  It is also the location of Hezekiah's Water Tunnels (Wiki link) which dates to 700 BC and is mentioned in 2nd Book of Kings in the Bible. 

See the gold plated top of the Russian Orthodox Church?  To the right of that is teardrop shaped grey roof with white walls, that is the Dominus Flevit (link).  It was the site where Jesus wept over the Temple in the Book of Luke.  Now it is a church and is the second church in the world not facing East per our guide, it faces West to face the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Courtyard of the Pater Noster (Wiki link), the site where Jesus instructed his disciples the Lord's Prayer.  You can see the walls are covered with the Lord's Prayer in different languages. 

Inside the church is a grotto and cave where Jesus is thought to have spent the last week of his life.  It is gated off but even still.  Wow is all I can say.

English version Lord's Prayer.

Next up on the Mount of Olives tour was the Mosque of Ascension.  Supposedly after Jesus ascended to Heaven someone went into this little place and saw his footprint in the sand, i.e. the last place Jesus touched on earth.  This place is more myth than archaeological fact so we looked at it from a distance instead of paying to look inside.

In the courtyard of the Dominus Flevit was this unearthed cave which held ossuaries.  They believe these are from around the time of Christ because some of the names on the boxes are from Jesus' time.  According to Jewish tradition people were buried in caves until the bodies decomposed into bones.  The bones were then collected and placed in the ossuary.  The ossuary box sizes differed but the basic dimensions were as wide as the pelvis and as long as the femur.  This is from the security guide which some of the info he had which I liked. 

1600 year old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, this is thought to be in the general area that Judas betrayed Jesus and also where Peter denied knowing Jesus.  The building in the background is where Jesus stayed the night before he was betrayed.

See the upside down funnel building?  That is a Second Temple era (536 BC - 70 AD) tomb.  On the right of the tomb is an older looking wall with a brown curved top door.  That is a First Temple era (957 - 586 BC) tomb.  Simply amazing seeing these sights. 

Outside the Lions or St. Stephen's Gate which leads to the Via Dolorosa inside Jerusalem Old City.  It is called the Lions Gate because of the lions on both sides of the door.  It is also called the St. Stephen's Gate because Stephan (link) was the first Christian martyr, outside this gate is where he was stoned to death.  More info from our security escort.  In case you don't read the link, Saul the future Paul is in the watching crowd and will convert to Christianity a few months later. 

Location of the Pool of Bethesda in the Bible, where Jesus heals the cripple.

The start of the Via Dolorosa.  

Along the Via Dolorosa are these Second Temple era stones.

Station III - where Jesus fell for the first time.

Station IV - where He meets his grieving mother.

Station V - where Simon of Cyrene "volunteers" to help Jesus carry the cross in front of a Franciscan church.  The large cross inside the four smaller crosses is the Franciscan symbol.  The crosses and two arms are their coat of arms.  The bare arm is Jesus', I forget who the sleeved arm belong to.  Large Franciscan influence in the area.

Supposedly Jesus staggered here and his hand touched the wall in this spot so we all stopped and touched it.  Not sure if it is true or not but such an indescribable feeling to be able to walk the path of Jesus.

Typical view of the walk - it did feel a little commercial with all of the shops selling their goods which did detract a little from the experience.

Finally at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Wiki link or non-Wiki link) which is the third church not facing East per our guide.  Because of the church layout and existing buildings when it was built (about 325 AD) it faces South.  All of Jerusalem was excellent but walking inside here was exceptional.  An experience we will never forget.  The final five stations on the Via Dolorosa take place inside the church.  Station X - where he is stripped of his garments takes place on the roof so we skipped it and went to Station XI.

Station XI - where Jesus is nailed to the cross.  At the time this was a rock quarry so they nailed him to the cross on the Rock of Calvary which was a large rock formation.    

Station XII - where Jesus died on the cross and Station XIII - where His body is taken off the cross.

Under the altar is a hole in the marble where you can reach down and touch the spot on the rock where Jesus' crucifixion cross rested.  WOW.  Directly under this spot is Adam the First Man's tomb but we couldn't see it.  Hard to see in the picture but the Rock of Calvary surrounding the altar is encased in glass. 

Distant shot of the above two pictures.

The Holy Sepulchre in the Rotunda - the spot of Jesus' tomb.  We waited in line to go inside the shrine.  The original tomb was gone but it still felt amazing to stand next to the place where Jesus' tomb rested. 

St. George and the Dragon is everywhere!  St. George was born in modern day Lod which is just south of Tel Aviv.  I love how our trips keep intertwining!  We first saw a St. George and Dragon sculpture in the Stockholm Cathedral, there is a St. George holiday in England, and now we are near his birthplace.  I also forgot to mention in my England St. George post that the English white flag with red cross on it is the St. George's Cross and is the second flag of England after the Union Jack.

On our way to lunch, lots and lots of shops in the Old City.

Lunch was at the Burgers Bar, a decent burger chain.  Better than English burger, not as good as US burger.

Another Sarah Anderson pic - all Israelis are required to serve three years in the military so we saw a lot of armed soldiers in the Jewish and Christian Quarters of the Old City.  I asked our guide if the women fought in combat and she said they used to until they figured out the Arabs became almost fanatical trying to kill the Israelis because of the eternal shame they would receive to be killed by a women.  So Israel moved the women non-combat roles. 

Our Burgers Bar burgers.

After lunch was the Burnt House (Wiki link), home of a Second Temple High Priest family whose home burned in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem.  They has a great video that gave some background on the fall of the Temple and the infighting of the Jews inside the Temple Mount.  Inside the house the excavation team found a person's arm proving that at least one person died in the house fire.    

More of my favourite info boards.

Remains of the Cardo, or Market from Roman times.  You can read about it here.  The Cardo was discovered during the War of Independence when a bomb dropped here blowing a hole in the ground thereby exposing the columns.

Broad Wall placard.  Hezekiah had the Water Tunnel from earlier in this post.

The Broad Wall.

Zion Gate on the way to Mount Zion.  All the holes in the wall are from gun fire during the War of Independence.

Statue of King David at Mount Zion.

The Room of the Last Supper.  This day was sight after sight of biblical events which was great.  I can't even begin to descibe what it is like to stand in the same room that Jesus and the Disciples sat.

Stained glass window in The Room of the Last Supper.

I guess we know where the Free Mason's came up with their logo idea now.

We also stopped and prayed at King David's Tomb which ended up being separate men's and women's prayer rooms facing an enclosed blocked in area.  I guess the tomb was inside the blocked in area.  No pictures allowed tho. 

The Western Wall (of Temple Mount), our final sightseeing stop of the day, read the Wiki link here.  The wall section is a remnant of the Second Temple Mount so it is considered a holy place by Jews and Christians.  You can see the Dome of the Rock behind the wall.  To the right of the picture is the remains of the Second Temple Mount steps.

Western Wall info board.

Karl putting his prayer note in the crack.  We all prayed there and put our notes into the wall.

Curly haired Kalle in front of the wall.  Hard to see but the wall had separate men and women praying sections.  She had her hair in a braid all day long so she finally took it out at the end of the day.

The Tower of David, read about it on Wiki here.

Touring Mount of Olives and Old City in Jerusalem was inspiring and breathtaking at times.  It was also extremely crowded and overly commercial at other times which wasn't so great.  We visited all of the quarters - Muslim Quarter where we walked the Via Dolorosa, Christian Quarter where we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jewish Quarter where we visited the Burnt House and Western Wall, and Armenian Quarter which we walked through on our way to Mount Zion.  I still don't know why the Armenian's have a quarter of the Old City although our guide told us there is a possible connection between the Crusaders and Armenians.  Supposedly both factions had similar religious beliefs and there is circumstantial evidence that Armenians aided the Crusaders so they were rewarded with a section of Jerusalem.  I do have to admit that I didn't feel very comfortable in Jerusalem, not that we were in danger but the diverse religious pockets and warnings to not cross the invisible boundaries were constantly in the back of my mind.  Lori actually felt more comfortable than me in Jerusalem which is usually not the case.

Dinner was at Rimon Bistro in a vibrant and hopping market area which was fun although I wish the bass playing street musician by our restaurant knew more than two songs.  He did know the first few chords of Smoke on the Water though.

View down the main market street.

The Kevin Coleman pic - a liter of Weissenstephen.  Tasty with a funky pouring pitcher, two thumbs up from me.

The Dana Johnson pic - the girls had spring (young) chicken with hummus.

The Dana Johnson pic - Karl had noddle with chicken skewers and I had lamb on a stick with tahina.  Tahina was a favourite food on the trip.

Day 4 - Jerusalem Museums - our last day was Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Mt. Herzl, Israel Museum, and Knesset.  It wasn't a repeat of the fantastic Jerusalem Old City day but it was much better than I expected.  Unfortunately Yad Vashem and Israel Museum didn't allow photos which was to bad since there was some interesting sights inside both places.  Weather was in the 90's again but we were inside more than outside so it didn't really affect our plans.

Dana Johnson pic - Shalom Hotel breakfast.  Eggs, honeydew melon, cheesecake (as Karl called it), OJ and coffee.  It had a big spread but not much that interested me.  Cold fish, vegetable salads, cereal, bread, cheese and other decent food on the spread but no pork.  I'm not sure I could live without bacon.

Front view of our hotel in the daylight.  We were on the 15th floor.

First stop was the must see Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial (official link or Wiki link).  What an amazing place but no pictures (sorry).  We have been in other Holocaust or European War museums but nothing like this.  It was a pictorial overload.  The main memorial had about twenty rooms full of pictures, mementos, personal artifacts, war posters, videos and a plethora of individual stories.  It was set up in a chronological order starting briefly with the rise of Hitler in Germany and ending with the people finally settling into their lives after the war.  I was about a third of the way through the museum when I started to feel the weight of the people as they hopelessly struggled with circumstances sometimes beyond their control.  What a powerful exhibit, a must see for anyone visiting Jerusalem.  A couple of  quick facts from the memorial - about a third of the worlds Jewish population died in the WWII years, and after the Jews were finally liberated from the death camps they were placed in more camps by the Allies because most of the countries they came from wouldn't accept them back without documentation.  Some tried going to Palestine (modern day Israel) but since it was still under Brit control there were immigration restrictions in effect which forced many Jews to smuggle themselves into the country.  It wasn't until 1948 that Israel declared itself a country which allowed Jews to freely enter the country.  To much information to absorb in one visit but such a grim reminder of the dark side of humanity.  On a side note Kalle was able to tell our guide about the Anne Frank House which we toured a few weeks ago.  Anne had two placards in the memorial.  On a side note our guide's husband works here documenting the victim's stories.  The main goal of the memorial per our guide is to not forget the people killed in the Holocaust.  Huge, huge job documenting the lives of six million people dead seventy years.

View of the West Jerusalem countryside from the Yad Vashem. 

The Warsaw Ghetto Square Garden, one of the many smaller memorials on the site. 

Another memorial, the broken columns in the background symbolise the lives that were broken (killed) in the war and will never have reached their potential.

From the Yad Vashem we walked The Connecting Path up to Mt. Herzl.

View of the Yad Vashem site from The Connecting Path.  The triangular building on the left is the main memorial that I described above.

Along the path were these information boards telling an abridged version of the founding of modern day Israel.  I took this pic because the second photo from the top is taking in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.

Tomb of Yitzhak and Lea Rabin, you can read about him here.

Tomb of Golda Meir, you can read about her here.

Herzl's Grove, his is the picture hanging in Independence Hall and is considered one of the Founding Fathers of Zionism.  You can read about him here.

After Mt. Herzl was the Israel Museum (official link) to see The Dead Sea Scrolls.  I thought this museum was great with all of the archaeology exhibits ranging from Roman times to one and a half million years ago.  No pictures which was a bummer but this was a world class museum.

Rodin was here.

Placard explaining the impressive Second Temple Era Jerusalem model.

This was more impressive than seeing The Dead Sea Scrolls.  I loved this model. 

Close up of Temple Mount.  The Temple in the middle of the picture is where the Dome of the Rock is today.  The Antonia Fortress on the far right corner of Temple Mount is where the Via Dolorosa starts.  The far Temple Mount Wall between the Basilica and the Temple is where the Western Wall still stands.  On the left is the Second Temple Mount steps.

Placard explaining the model construction.

Next up was the Shrine of the Book (Wiki link), a wing built to house the Dead Sea Scrolls and explain their discovery and importance.  Once again no pictures which was getting frustrating but we are seeing the Scrolls so how can I complain?  The Isiah Scroll was the longest scroll displayed in the museum and was impressive.  The ink was as dark on the scroll now as it was was when it was written per the display.  Somehow the Essenes made a special ink that doesn't fade, not bad for being written 2,000 years ago.

White top of Shrine with Knesset in background.  We'll be at the Knesset shortly.  The shape is to mimic the bottom shape of the jars holding the scrolls. 

Black top of Shrine.  Our guide explained to us the meaning of the white and black coloured tops but I forget.  I also forget why it is shaped in a rectangle.

After the museum was a trip the the Knesset (official link or Wiki link) which is the legislature building for Israel.  Our guide talked some more about Israel and Judaism which was fine since we are in Israel I guess.  One interesting tidbit was about the Israel flag (Wiki picture).  The white flag with blue stripes is for the Jewish prayer shawl which is white with blue string sewn into it.  The Star of David in the middle has six points to symbolise the four elements (earth, wind, fire, air) plus heaven and earth.


The huge Knesset Menorah, a gift from the British.  She had a paper explaining all of the symbols but I didn't take a picture, sorry.

Dinner was at a kosher place called Siam in the Mahane Yehuda market which is one of the older market areas in Jerusalem. 

View down one of the market streets.  We ate at the building with the mural on the side of it.

We ordered our meal then they brought out this first course spread which we weren't expecting.  Very good but we still don't know what we are ordering after four days.

I had spring chicken with kosher mashed potatoes.  It tasted like they used oil instead of milk.  Not bad but tasted a little oily.

Lori had chicken breast with bean and lentil.  Kal had chicken breast with rice and green beans.

After dinner the guys had Turkish coffee (20% grounds/80% water) while the gals had mint tea with tea leaves.  I didn't like the coffee, not because it was to strong but because I didn't like drinking the grounds.  The grounds were about half an inch thick on the bottom of the cup when I finished the coffee. 

Everything is available kosher over here.

Overall it was a fantastic trip that we hope to repeat one day.  Lori would like to go back while we are here but not me.  Maybe in a few years.

Jay - liked Independence Hall, Masada, Mount of Olives, Western Wall, Room of Last Supper; loved floating in the Dead Sea, Church of Holy Sepulchre sites, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Second Temple Model
Lori - liked everything but museums day, Tel Aviv hotel was horrible 
Karl - liked the biblical places, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial was heavy - not sure if it is a like or dislike 

Kalle - loved Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Dead Sea, Tel Aviv hotel was horrible, liked our guide and touching crucifixion cross stone in Holy Sepulchre

Thanks for listening,


  1. Great stuff as always, Jay. I can really tell you guys enjoyed this one (apart for the first dump you picked of course). Great sunset photos. I liked your sucker mud bath too. Good thing you have some adventurous eaters in the family.

  2. Thanks guys. It was a great trip indeed.

  3. The food looks awesome! That's one thing I focus on whenever I am in a new place. My parents have been planning a trip to Israel next month and I've been doing my research on Israeli delicacies. Of course, I still wouldn't forget the very reason of our visit which is to check out Jerusalem.

    Constance Todd

    1. We loved the food there. I agree on trying new food from the different travel locales, especially when we are farther from home. It seems like the more different the culture is the more different the food styles, flavors, options are which we all love. Israel was awesome.