Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Part 8

We didn't have to be anywhere until 10:45 today, so my roomie and I checked out of our room early and joined some other friends to tool around the Old City a bit and to explore a place that only seemed like it might be a dream.

That particular place was our first stop.  We had heard tell of it but refused to believe it until we saw it for ourselves.  You go to Stations III and IV on the Via Dolorosa and there you will see a plain wooden door.  You ring the doorbell and are buzzed in.  You next come to a large black metal gate, which in our case was open.  You continue up several flights of stairs until you reach a beautiful garden.  You enter the lovely building and ask for the coffee, and are told that the cafe doesn't open until 10:00am.  You hold back tears but go to the roofdeck to take in the view from there.

Since we couldn't get our coffee and apple strudel there, we hopped around until we found another place to sit and relax.  I got some Arabic coffee. Yum.

We shopped some more, and then three of us went back to the hospice when the cafe opened.  It pays to check out early.  The coffee was fabulous and the strudel tasted like angels had made it.
Then we went back to the hotel to load up our stuff and move out.  We had afternoon activities, but we weren't coming back to the hotel except to eat before catching our flight out.

We stopped first at the Garden Tomb.  Our teacher told us that there's no archaeological reason to believe that Jesus' crucifixion and burial took place anywhere other than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but this was helpful for allowing us to imagine what a garden tomb might look like.  We also celebrated communion there together, and it really was a lovely setting.
Then we went to the Holocaust History Museum, which was not lovely.  But it was important.

Our final stop was Ein Karem and the Church of St. John the Baptist, where he was likely born.  I didn't take my camera with me so I'll have to wait until others post pictures.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and some final words about leaving the country, and then hit the road!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Part 7

Today was an optional day: Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea.  We all opted in.

On the way to Masada, our guide, Munzer, insisted on a detour to Ein Gedi to see the ibexes and the hyraxes.  I have never seen or heard a grown man so excited about wildlife. But here's a hyrax:
When we had seen all the wildlife there was to see, we headed for Masada.  You can read more about it, because it's far more complicated that I have time, space, or brain power to explain.  It's essentially the Mother of All Herodian Palaces that then became important in the Jewish Revolt.  It's also a bear to climb, but I did it anyway because it was there.

Since I climbed instead of listening to the lecture I missed a great deal of the historical significance, but I needed the climb for my mental health.  Here are some other pictures that I took, though:

When we finished at Masada we spent some time in Qumran.  It's right on the Dead Sea with lots of caves for hiding, so overall a good choice for the Qumran community.  Here's Cave #4

We ended our day at the Dead Sea, coating ourselves in black mud and floating around, but NOT DRINKING THE WATER!  Eight ounces of Dead Sea water can kill you.  It's a nice float, but not someplace I'd need to stay all day.  Definitely worth the trip, though.  After a shower and dinner it was time for bed!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Part 6.2

After lunch we went to the Western Wall, which may have been my favorite part of Jerusalem.  We got to spend some time there, which I enjoyed so much.  Here are some of my favorite pictures:

So, the Western Wall wasn't actually part of the Temple, but actually a supporting wall of the Temple Mount. When Emporer Titus laid siege to Jerusalem he left it to remind the Jews of Rome's power.  Sounds like a great guy.  The part that you can see is the upper part of the wall. It actually goes down 45 more feet.
The left side is the men's side and the right side is the women's side.  Here's a little guy hanging with his mom while she prayed.
We went next to the Davidson Center, which is an archaeological park in Jerusalem, centered around where the southwest corner of the Temple was located.   This is the area where the ritual baths would have been located, as well as the royal stoa (the administrative offices of the Pharisees).
Then we went out to the teaching steps where we can only assume that Jesus taught his disciples.  Interestingly, when Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees," he would have been sitting right under the royal stoa.  When he said "You are like whitewashed tombs" the disciples would have only to look to the left to see this:
Here are the teaching steps; one long and one short to intentionally disrupt one's stride and make them slow down:
Our next stop was the Upper Room, which isn't really the Upper Room, because that was destroyed be Emperor Titus when he laid siege to Jerusalem.  This particular structure was built in the Crusader period, and then it became a mosque.  But the original Upper Room might have looked something like this (with or without James):

Final stop:  Tomb of David, which also probably isn't David's tomb, but this is the traditional place.  It's considered a synagogue, so men and women have to go into separate parts of the burial place.