Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tour guides in Israel

What we have learned.  A Jewish guide cannot take you to Area A which is Muslim.  An Muslim guide cannot get you into Area C which is Jewish.  An Arabic Christian (catholic) can probably get you in to both.  But not always to the Jewish sites.  An Israeli guide might not take you into the West Bank.  You cannot rent a car in Israel and drive it into the West Bank.  A car with Palestinian license plates most likely cannot enter Israel.  Are you confused yet?

This is quite valuable information in searching where you want to go, and who you hire to get you there.  Our Jewish guide 2 years ago was shocked that we had been to Nablus to see Joseph's tomb.  Someone else was surprised we had been to Mt Gerizim to where the Samaritans live.  I remember on our first trip here we would see things and were told we couldn't go there.  It wasn't that "we" couldn't go - our guide wasn't allowed to go.

Today we went with Sam Salem.  He is an an Arabic catholic.  He grew up in Bethlehem, speaks 7 languages, contracts with the UN, and has become our friend over the past years.  He has taken us to so many different places and even acted as a private taxi for us.  We had never been to Hebron and wanted to see the graves of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and Rebecca.  

It was not what I expected.  Because it is the Sabbath, the Jewish side is closed and we went to the Arabic side.  We had to put on these robes.  Of course we just laughed...what else can you do?


This is what Isaac and Rebecca's graves look like.  However these are only monuments.  The graves are about 25 feet below in a cave,  Herod built a huge building over them.

This is the monument to Abraham.  Sarah's is identical.


From there, we hiked up to where an old spring exists that used to provide water to Hebron.


There were some young soldiers there and they agreed to have the photo taken with their "grandmas"!  LOL!!


So then Sam takes us straight up the hill side!


It really was a terribly steep incline.  I'm feeling it tonight!  Might just be getting too old for this much adventure!!


Another steep climb up the next hill, more steps, and we arrived at tel Hebron, the ancient site and dig.  They built a house on top of it, preserving the original dig site.


An ancient road.


From here you could look back and see the tomb of the patriarchs (about the center of this photo).


Coming back thru a field, we found some pieces of Roman Glass.  Well, probably just soda bottles.  LOL!

Walked back to the tombs and the Jewish side was still closed.


A group of young men assembled in this park just outside.


Next we had an Arabic lunch and then home as this was just a half day tour.  It is always great fun when we are with Sam.  Today, he definitely took us off the beaten path.  Very few tourists go to Hebron and I'm going to say only a handful climb to tel Hebron.  I should mention that we saw plenty of armed military protecting the sites.   From the IDF to UN troops.  Sam said the only time there is a problem in Hebron is when there are problems in Gaza which is only 40 miles south.

Tour guides.  We highly recommend Sam. But we don't use him exclusively.  With google and gps on your might not even need a guide these days!  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Climbing upwards

Today was one of those days.  We had wanted to walk from the HAAS Promenade to the City of David, but after doing some research, we decided that probably wasn't a safe thing to do.  So we decided to do Rampart's walk.  Went to get tickets and because Friday is the Muslim holiday, that section is closed.  But we seem to have an endless list of things to do, so we headed to Teddy Park.  There's a new interactive video program that truly explained how he, Teddy Kollek, who was the mayor here for years, truly developed and built this "new" Jerusalem.  On the way we saw this sculpture which I think is incredible.  The oceans have been cut out - only the land shows.

Below it is the bunting - 3 globes or 3 clover leafs - a map of the origins of the world.  You will often see the 3 globes in a triangle in buildings here.  This is the cradle of civilization.


I guess I should back up and say that we probably had the best breakfast yet at a place inside Mamilla mall called Ramon.  It was a great buffet and you could order your omelette the way you wanted it.  I love the fresh fruit they serve for breakfast here.  It is the largest meal of the day here and then lunch and/or dinner are simply snacks.  It just makes sense as you need more of your energy earlier in the day. This was a great place!


This is a multi-layered fountain at the north end of Teddy Park.  


And the digs....of a typical home in the area.  Imagine living in this!


It seems as though we are always climbing up.  April even said that if we aren't climbing up, we aren't going in the right direction.  I'm certain that applies to our walk with Christ as well as everyday living here in Jerusalem!  When I say we walked 12,398 steps....just imagine that most of there were like this - not flat on the ground.


We explored the "Dutch" windmill - a gift from the Netherlands.  It is definitely a landmark here.


Back to Mamilla Mall.  They always have the most unusual sculptures and today I found this guy tucked into a corner.


We went back to Teddy Park to walk through the Artist Colony and see the water dancing.  A full 30 minute show.  Some night next week we'll do this after dark to see the lights and hear the music.


These 2 cuties were fun to watch as they chased after the water.


Looking up at the walls of the Old City


A view from the Artist Colony looking towards the Old City


Some days it's not so bad when all you are doing is climbing (and looking) \\\\\upwards!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Covering Jerusalem one step at a time

We are definitely walking.  Over 7 miles today!  Started the morning by going up to the top of Temple the rain.  Very few people there so I could get some great shots.  I don't think I've ever seen the plaza this empty....but not sure who would go in the rain other than me.  The stones that you walk on are slicker than ice when it rains.


I just decided to walk and take different shots.  I didn't follow our normal "path" - took a different route.


Most of what's here has been built in the last 300 years or so.


This is looking from the west to the east, straight across from the Golden Gate.  It is the site where many believe the next Temple will be - right across from the Golden Gate.  Not a thing there now.  Is there a reason for that?


I counted this gate as being at least 40 feet deep on the intside and we know that it jets out on the other side of the wall.  It's sealed.  This is the Gate the Messiah will walk through.


There are plenty of these small domed buildings on the exterior of the Mount.  Makes for an interesting skyline.


It looked as thought the Olive Groves on Temple Mount have been plowed.  I have said for years that they store stones here.  These are just too big to have been "plowed" up.


Next up was the Church of the Holy Seplechur.   A lot of people believe this is where Christ laid.  They come, neal down, and kiss this stone.  Think about that for a moment.  13,000,000 tourists per year kissing this stone.  And you wonder how germs, disease and more gets spread.  No, I have not and will not kiss this stone!  :)


Normally, there are throngs of people inside and outside this place.  If you come, get up and go early.  Nearly deserted on the outside, but a couple of tour groups on the outside.  One of the shop keepers told us that the Sweeds were in town today.  


This is Skull hill where Christ was crucified.


And he was buried in this tomb next to that.  Well, upon further inspection, it would appear that this "grave" is about 4 or 5' long.  Did they think he was a short person?


The opening to the tomb.    Like I've said, there are always 2 or 3 places where something happened.  No one knows for sure.  I decided today that you could just put down a rock, build a church over it and say something happened there.  If you are good enough at marketing you would soon have a crowd visiting your site.  


Yet another spot where people get down on their knees and crawl under the alter to kiss a spot.  What I note here is the paganism of the site.  Scripture clearly tells us to not have idols....and there are 2 on the wall beside this spot.  The rituals are also to be avoided.  But this place is full of rituals from lighting candles, burning incense, chanting, etc.  Interesting to observe if nothing else.


Next we walked out New Gate and found the Star of David on the exterior walls of the city.  Mom had painted this several years ago and we wanted to take some photos of it.  She did an incredible painting of something she only saw in a newspaper photo.


Then we took the light rail to the center of Jerusalem and found this wonderful place for a late breakfast.  The freshest bagel I have ever had with an egg omelette on it.  Yumm!


We walked back to the Old City  and our next stop was at the Hurva Synagogue.  The stones are from a prior synagogue that was destroyed in 1948.  The white plaster is from the rebuilding which was completed in 2003.  It stand to show the struggle the Jews have had to go through in order to live in Jerusalem.  A gorgeous monument!


From there, we explored a few alleys and took more photos of arches


These are tiny little alleys and imagine my surprise when a car started down one.  I thought for sure it would have to stop, but it kept coming so we stepped inside a doorway so it could get past us!


Even after all this we still walked to the market to get some supples.  Another great day in Jerusalem....I am loving every moment!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Meeting the artists and telling the story

Our hosts for the day were just incredible.  I don't know why, but every time we visit, they feel like we need to be entertained!  This trip, we visited east Gush Etzion and learned much about the area.  It's dry.  The end of the watershed and beginning of the desert.  And they always introduce us to artists.

The view from Yakko's back yard was spectacular.


He built is own house.  He now makes sterling, gold and copper jewelry.  His friend trades in diamonds.  Interesting young men.


On the way, we walked from Zion Gate to First Station - a former train depot.  Look closely and you can see where they left the old train tracks and created a wood platform on top.  It wasn't open yet, but lots of vendor stands.  The metal arched frames will house canopies this summer to keep the heat away from visitors.


New this year was a carousel, and a children's playground.


Then to the Gush Etzion Community center where I told the story of the Jews who tried to farm in Cotopaxi.  I have to say, I was more relaxed than anything - I just felt like I was "home".  And the people loved the story.  Some were descendants and some just came to hear.


Our friend Haim gave a wonderful introduction and a great close.  There are over 200 descendants of the colony living in Israel today.


Probably 50 - 75 attended.  Their comments were so heart-warming.  I think they were mostly amazed that a gentile family is doing this research and preserving the Jewish graves at the cemetery.  But I am most amazed by these people who are pioneers in the West Bank, who build houses and settle there against all odds, whose lives have to be just as difficult as the Jewish pioneers in Colorado.


We returned to walk past several more bands from the "Sounds of the Old City" - 3 night musical event.  Incredible acoustics in this place - echoing between the tall buildings.  Hundreds upon hundreds of people in attendance.


That was yesterday.  Today, I needed to rest a bit!  

We started the morning at the Western Wall.  Then the Temple Mount Institute tour.  We totally lucked out and were the only 2 people in this tour.  Amazing.  While photos were not allowed, we could walk right up to the display and not fight a crowd of people.  They have rebuilt all of the items to be used in the next Temple.  A very good explanation and I would highly recommend that if you come to Jerusalem, you visit this place.  

Then we decided to take the Via del la Rosa - haven't done that in 12 years.  Started at St Anne's which is the Bethesda Pools - ok, the most commonly accepted site for that.  You have to wonder if they dug down another 10 stories what they would uncover!


We did most of the 12 stations.  It is truly sad to see so many people who believe that "this rock" or "this spot" is where something actually happened.  That they do not stop to consider 2000 years of history.  I think our visits to archeology digs have opened my eyes.  If an earthquake can topple and entire city and the winds can blow in the sands and completely cover the ruins, how can you be certain that the same thing didn't happen here?  If you are right next door to and archeology dig such as this church, it is nearly impossible to believe that the event took place up on this site, and not several layers below.

The courtyard is gorgeous

The church was constructed in the I doubt it's the actual site of Mary's birth....just a supposed site.


Some of the archeology digs behind the church.  


Saw this t-shirt in the Arab market.  Problem is, it's so true.  If you are with a tour guide, they will only allow you to stop a certain shops.  Ever wonder why?  It's because they get a kickback from any money you spend in that shop.  The same thing with restaurants.  When we did our tour in 2010, we refused to sit down to lunch in the guide's cousin's mother's restaurant.  Instead we just walked down the street and found something we could eat.   We later saw our guide talking to the guy who waited on us and sadly, that guy had to give him money, even though they didn't have an arrangement.  I hate this aspect of a tour.  Love that we can enjoy the freedom to do what we want, when we want to!


Lunch today at yet a different place.  Tried fried sheep cheese.  Probably won't do that again.  It was greasy and salty.  Not sure what was in the roll!  I tried it and did not like it.  Some kind of ground lamb and beef with red cabbage and pretty juicy.


And I "think" this was a Diet Coke.  LOL!!!


After lunch, we came back to the room as I wanted to research the Noahides - righteous gentiles.  I fell asleep.  LOL!  Suppose I needed to just rest today.  This evening we made our way out to dinner.  Excellent chicken kabobs with leftovers for tomorrow.  Then a short stroll through the music as tonight is the final night.  It's been another fantastic day in the Old City and I am just loving every single moment!