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Two Weeks in Israel, March 2018

Pauline

Forums Admin
At any rate, there are lots of warnings about as to tourists being hassled there, and safest route either going up or going down —— but maybe you’ve already checked this.
We did this today with no problems. We took a taxi to the Hotel of Seven Arches. The taxi drove through the Arab village on the top of the Mount. From the car we could see down the other side. He dropped us in front of the hotel where there is very large viewing area. There were lots of people here, many parked tour buses and a camel that you could pay to ride. The view was outstanding, over the graves and to the Temple Mount.

We easily walked down. It was very busy at the bottom - cars, people, taxis, tour buses. From there we walked up to Lions Gate and into the Old City.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Another wonderful day and fresh pomegranate juice #3.

We took our first taxi in the city. We arrived by taxi from the airport and were suffocated by the air fresheners, so have been reluctant to jump in a taxi again. I used the Gett app, which is for taxis in Israel, and a cab came in a few minutes. He drove us to the top of Mount of Olives, through the Arab village up there, to the viewing area in front of the Hotel of Seven Arches.

We arrived around 10:30. There were a lot of people and tour buses. Many guides were explaining things to their groups, in many different languages. Steve said today that he has heard Hebrew, Arabic, English, German, French, Italian, Russian - but no Yiddish (which he grew up with). When Israel was formed Yiddish was replaced with Hebrew.

The temps were mid 60sF and we had bright sun today. This is the weather we’ve had all week, except yesterday which was a bit cooler. It gets quite cool at night so we are happy we brought thin wool sweater, light fleeces and light jackets. We wear all three in the evening. We’ve been wearing our sun hats after forgetting them the first two days.

The view from the Mount of Olives was incredible. The hillside is covered with graves, some from Roman times, many from the Middle Ages. There are 70,000 Jewish graves. Read more. Below the hillside of graves is the Kidron Valley. On the other side are more graves, some olive trees, and the Old City walls with Temple Mount. Beautiful!

There is a staircase just before the viewing area that takes you down to the Tomb of Prophets, said to have the graves of three Old Testament prophets. We went into the tomb. The man looking after it gives you a candle and you walk along the tombs (stone wall with some small doors in it). It is really dark.

Back in the light we walked downhill on a small road. There are many churches along the way, and lots of people visiting them, but we skipped them all. There were only two, at the bottom, that I wanted to see. Many of the churches are modern built over the remains of historic churches. Half way down we saw a sign for Path of Cohanim, which relates to Steve’s last name, so we took that. It took us along the graves down to the main road. I can’t find out what this path is, but Cohen’s have special rules about being in graveyards so maybe it is to do with that.

The main road was busy with slow moving traffic. We walked along to the Garden of Gethsemane, beside the Basilica of the Agony, named for the rock on the garden where Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. Nearby is the spot where he was betrayed by Judas. In the garden are centuries old olive trees, which is what I wanted to see. The garden is small and you can only walk around the edge, but the trees are beautiful.

We continued on to the Tomb of the Virgin, said to be the burial tomb of Mary. This church is Byzantine, 4th century, and the tomb is 1st century AD. We walked down into the crypt but there were a lot of people crowding to get to the tomb, so we turned back. Too crowded, too much underground.

Back in the sunshine we walked up to Lions Gate and went into the Old City. We followed the first few stations of the cross, saw Homo Ecco Arch (Roman), then headed for the Damascus Gate. This is the Muslim Quarter and shops and restaurants were open, while in the Jewish part of the Old City, and the city, everything was closed for the Sabbath. We stopped for coffee before leaving the Old City, I had my first Turkish Coffee which I really liked.

They call them quarters - Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Armenian - but they are not equal sizes. The Muslim Quarter is much larger than the others.

It was still early so we decided to do the 90 Minute Walk around East Jerusalem from the Eyewitness guide. This took us into the Arab area, up Nablus Road. We stopped in the Garden Tomb, a small garden with a tomb that they say is where Jesus was buried but it isn’t. We had the lunch we brought with us. Then we walked to the American Colony Hotel to see its beautiful courtyard, then walked back along Salah Ed-Din, a busy shopping street. We bought a bag of nuts from As-Samman, excellent.

We decided to walk back home. Near Damascus Gate we stopped in the shade to eat a few nuts and were hasseled by three young Arab boys. They were around 10 yrs old and stood close to us laughing at us, speaking to us in Arabic, pointing at us with their hands saying click click. Who knows? We told them to go away, they didn’t, so we left. One followed me still pointing so I turned around in grandmother style and told him to go away. He left. They were not being friendly but were not a threat and not acting as if they might steal from us. They were making fun of us. Nice! Strange that they do that when the area is heavily patrolled by Israeli military.

We see military everywhere around the Old City. Not in our neighbourhood, but in the tourist areas. Young Israelis doing their national service, carrying serious guns.

As we got back to the Jewish area it was quiet. Not much traffic, nothing open. Even the Hertz office was closed. But First Station was packed! Several restaurants were open. From there we walked home along the lovely Train Line Park, stopping at the juice bar for fresh pomegranate juice (we were surprised that it was open, but it was and all the tables were full).

The Train Line Park makes a big difference here. It hasn’t been here that long. It gives you a lovely walk into the city, with no traffic. Previously you would have had to walk along Emek Refayim, which is busy.

Tomorrow is going to be 10F hotter than today. The current plan is to taxi to Ein Kerem, a village on the outskirts where John the Baptist was born. @ItalophileNJ recommended it when I asked about places outside the city and from what I read it sounds very nice. From there we can take a footpath to the end of the Light Rail (30 min walk), then train to the market area, or taxi to the Israel Museum or both. We will see how the day goes.














 

berliej

10+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Hi Pauline sounds as if you are having a great time here. This coming week is going to be quite hot.. one of the first of our Spring season "Hamsins" - hot dry air. So make sure you stay hydrated! If you are going to Ein Kerem tomorrow... really lovely place, you can also visit the Holocaust Museum which is not far from it.
 

joe

500+ Posts
Half way down we saw a sign for Path of Cohanim, which relates to Steve’s last name, so we took that. It took us along the graves down to the main road. I can’t find out what this path is, but Cohen’s have special rules about being in graveyards so maybe it is to do with that.
That's right - there are usually special paths for "Cohanim" (priests), to prevent the possibility, even remote, that they come in contact with corpses. Usually they will also not attend funerals (unless of very close relatives) because of this, and might even have problems with hospitals and museums.
Leviticus 21:1 :
The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin...
 
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kcalnyc

10+ Posts
I just saw you are posting. Glad you are enjoying your trip! If you get to the IMJ tomorrow I'm sure you will go see the dead seas scrolls as they are very well known. I enjoy going through the synagogue route in Jewish Art and Life. There are 4 that were reconstructed from South America, Italy, Germany, and India. The sand floored South American one is really different. You can walk down the hill from the Museum to the Monestsry of the Cross in the Valley of the Cross and back into town and there are always taxis out front of the Museum.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
This coming week is going to be quite hot.. one of the first of our Spring season "Hamsins" - hot dry air. So make sure you stay hydrated!
I brought our insulated water bottles with us and we are making sure to keep drinking. It has been hot here already! We forgot our sunhats one day and got too much sun. The heat and sun has been wonderful after a cold, wet English winter. We go to Ein Gedi on Monday for 2 nights. I think that will be hot!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today when we went into the Tomb of Mary, Steve was wearing his Tilley hat and the priest (?) trying to control the crowd made him take it off. If he was wearing a kippa would he have had to take it off?

With all the religions here, and all their rules, it gets confusing.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
That's right - there are usually special paths for "Cohanim" (priests), to prevent the possibility, even remote, that they come in contact with corpses. Usually they will also not attend funerals (unless of very close relatives) because of this, and might even have problems with hospitals and museums.
Leviticus 21:1 :
The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin...
The Cohanim, the Biblical priestly class.... if you are a social anthropologist or a fan of Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels set among the Navajo, you might see analogies here related to the idea of corpse contamination.


Glad you had a successful taxi experience and got to visit the Mount of Olives. I have a photo from that same vantage point from 1969, but it was before the desecration was removed and the gravestones reset. So not so attractive in the foreground but the golden dome off in the distance.

Hope you get to the Israel Museum tomorrow.
 

joe

500+ Posts
Today when we went into the Tomb of Mary, Steve was wearing his Tilley hat and the priest (?) trying to control the crowd made him take it off. If he was wearing a kippa would he have had to take it off?
With all the religions here, and all their rules, it gets confusing.
To the best of my knowledge, I suppose that a Jew would not be asked to remove his kippa - there is usually respect between the religions here concerning basic religious behavior.
In the same way, I suppose that anyone - even a Jew - would be prompted to remove a baseball cap and don a kippa when entering a synagogue.
Not that I'm comparing a Tilley hat to a baseball cap, God forbid! ;)
 

Doru

100+ Posts
So wonderful, Pauline and Steve! Josette and I greatly enjoy reading these travel posts!

We used to spend some of the summers with the boys in Jerusalem, renting a large room with full board at a convent happy to host children too! A magical garden, a quiet refuge from the lively and active crowds, and yet in the heart of this extraordinary city.

What I always carried back with me from Jerusalem, and still do, is the light! The sun and the reflections off the Jerusalem stone create, at least for me, a unique "colour of the light". Something similar, while the quality of the "colour" is different, I always felt in Firenze too, when up, in Piazzale Michelangelo...
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Our last day in Jerusalem. Tomorrow we head to the Dead Sea. We made this a two week trip because we didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to spend too long in case we didn’t like it. Next time we will come for longer. Maybe next March. This has been a good sunny break. There is snow (again) in Dorset today.

We got a bit of a late start because I forgot to charge my phone last night and I am using it for taxis and Google Maps. We used the Gett app to call a taxi. He drove us out of the city to Ein Kerem, a village on the outskirts, a 15 minute drive.

Jerusalem is big and dense. Neighbourhoods of 3 storey apartment buildings, some high rises, neighborhoods of modern high rises. On the 3 storey apartment buildings the roof is covered in hot water tanks, each with a solar panel. Each apartment has its own tank. Ours does. It takes about 5 minutes for the shower to get warm. Nice waste of water!

At the edge of the city we went down into a green valley to a busy village. This is where John the Baptist was born and is on the route for all Christian tours. There were several tour buses and lots of people walking about. We walked around, then headed up a small road away and found a footpath leading through olive terraces and fields, bringing us back to where we started. We got to walk along several narrow pedestrian lanes lined with houses. Similar to the historic centres of Italian villages. Charming.

There are several restaurants in town, and they are supposed to be good, but we skipped them and tried to find the walk to Mount Herzl described in the Eyewitness guide. We got lost but eventually found it. Google maps just made everything confusing for me. There are a lot of little lanes and I couldn’t find the right one.

We walked out in a nice valley with views. We could see some larger, modern towns in the distance. It was hot - mid 70sF, but felt hotter. The walk was only 30 minutes but was uphill. We stopped along the way and had some fruit I had packed. It was nice to be away from city noise and traffic. Someone had planted new olive, almond and fig trees.

At the end we were on a small road and we used Gett to call a taxi but we didn’t realise that the road was gated and he could not get to us. We walked up another hill to a main road and tried again. This time we got one.

We went to the Israel Museum, had a quick lunch, then headed into the exhibits. The archaeology wing was incredible. Pre historic things, even human skeletons. Roman mosaics. On and on, all from finds in the area. Beautifully organised and documented in Hebrew and English.

We went into the Dead Sea Scrolls building, the Shrine of the Book, and think we saw some actual pieces of it. The main display is a copy. Still impressive.

We didn’t find the reconciliation of synagogues but did see the larger model of Jerusalem at the time of the second temple.

We should have stayed longer but we were both tired from our walking in the sun. We took a taxi home. We went out to a coffee chain, Aroma, for coffee. It is a block from us. Everything inside was in Hebrew. We probably could have asked for an English menu, but just told them what we wanted. Steve is now studying their online menu - http://www.aroma.co.il.

Dinner at home and packing tonight. We finished watching season 1 of Shugrim (sp?) and started season 2 last night.






 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
So wonderful, Pauline and Steve! Josette and I greatly enjoy reading these travel posts!

We used to spend some of the summers with the boys in Jerusalem, renting a large room with full board at a convent happy to host children too! A magical garden, a quiet refuge from the lively and active crowds, and yet in the heart of this extraordinary city.

What I always carried back with me from Jerusalem, and still do, is the light! The sun and the reflections off the Jerusalem stone create, at least for me, a unique "colour of the light". Something similar, while the quality of the "colour" is different, I always felt in Firenze too, when up, in Piazzale Michelangelo...
Yes, Doru, the light on and reflected from the Jerusalem stone, perfectly put. Part of what makes the city "Yerushalayim shel zahav", Golden Jerusalem.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Cats: There are a lot of them around and they don’t look like house cats but they are not that ragged so someone is looking after them.

Cars: They stop for you in cross walks! Always.

People: Are friendly! I wasn’t expecting that based on some Israelis I knew in the US.

Pollution: The UK is polluted because of the diesel cars the government persuaded people to buy saying they were good for the environment. They have only recently admitted they are causing bad pollution. They don’t drive as many diesel cars here, so even though it is a big busy city, it isn’t as polluted as it could be.

Buses: Before you leave, figure out the bus routes for your area. And where to get the card you need for them. Or give up and take taxis like we did. The light rail lets you buy tickets at the stops, but it doesn’t go near our neighbourhood.

Taxis: Use the Gett app. You don’t have to pay with it. You can sign up without a credit card.
 

kcalnyc

10+ Posts
Sounds like you had a full day! You are right, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display are real and the larger ones are facsimiles. Since you missed the synagogues I thought I would share this walkthrough of the Museum that google did. You can see them if you "walk" into Jewish Art and Life. https://artsandculture.google.com/streetview/the-israel-museum-jerusalem/iQEu5-RzOm82-A?sv_h=80&sv_p=0&sv_pid=BsaQXaMmS3lUKFYH_6NENw&sv_lid=11503288195731669917&sv_lng=35.204235100000005&sv_lat=31.771748&sv_z=1
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
"People: Are friendly! I wasn’t expecting that based on some Israelis I knew in the US."

Yes, Israelis generally ARE friendly, and are very eager to be nice to tourists. In general, they are more in your face and less concerned with "personal boundaries" than in the US and so I bet even much more so than the very reserved Brits. My Israeli cousins of all religious persuasions seem to be such. They WANT you to visit the country and are very glad you are there. They may give you advice you didn't ask for.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Who would think that the Wi-fi in a kibbutz on the Dead Sea would be so slow? Also no service on our phones.

We are here, in Ein Gedi, and it is fabulous but I may not be posting until we are in Haifa on Wednesday.

Two photos that I managed to upload.


 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We checked out of our vacation rental, took a taxi to Hertz, and were driving out of Jerusalem by 10:30. I used the Waze app to navigate because there are no israel maps for my Garmin. It worked okay but is not as good as the Garmin and it sucked up the battery on my phone. I’ll have to set up my cigarette lighter USB cable to charge while driving.

About 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem we stopped at the Good Samaritan Museum, with mosaics from finds around the country. There were a couple of tour buses there. Well worth a stop.

The drive was through very barren country with no people or towns. As we reached the Dead Sea there was the turnoff for Jericho in the Palestinian Territories. There were some shops there and camels which people pay to ride (after putting on an Arab headscarf).

We turned south and drove along the Dead Sea. There were some date Palm tree plantations but not much else. A very still and misty coloured lake, the Dead Sea, on the right, dry dirt and steep cliffs rising up on the left.

We reached the Ein Gedi Hotel before noon and decided to see if our room was ready or we could leave our bags. It was hot - mid 80sF. I had packed some food so we had lunch in their gardens and then our room was ready. I booked the most expensive room because I read the basic ones were very basic. Our room is lovely with a large balcony and a view straight up Wadi Arugot. Very beautiful!

We had planned to go to Masada first but changed our minds and went to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and hiked up Wadi David. This is an easy one hour round trip walk along the river to a waterfall, then a more scrambly walk to the next waterfall. Ein Gedi is mentioned in the Old Testament twice. It is an oasis with the rive coming from a spring in the cliffs above and the steep, rocky terrain creating waterfalls. The water, the falls and three trees along the river were cooling on such a hot day. Blissful.

Did I mention that we did the hike with about 1,000 rambunctious kids? The trail was packed. The kids were standing in the pools under the waterfalls. The leaders were crying out to keep them together. The kids were running where they shouldn’t run, going off the trails and creating a roar of noise. We would not be seeing the Iberian Ibex today! It was pretty magnificent watching them all have a great time. It never feels like a crowd to me when everyone is half my height.

It thinned out after the first waterfall when the walking became more difficult but there still plenty of them. It must have been a bunch of school trips.

Some parts of the trail were narrow, on rock, but there were handrails (that you burned your hand on if they were in the sun). Some parts went through the water (just a stream). One part went through a dark tunnel. We could have hiked higher up the canyon wall, to the spring, but we didn’t because of the heat.

After our walk we drove down along the Dead Sea, past Masada where we will go tomorrow, to Ein Bokek, a modern resort with several high rise hotels, restaurants and a big beach. We parked, I put my hand in the Dead Sea (warm and slimy), walked along the boardwalk watching people on the beach and floating in the water.

Before dinner we did a walk around the kibbutz. The ticket person at the park said you can see Ibex in the kibbutz grounds at sunset. Cats and dogs, no Ibex.

Dinner was at the hotel buffet dining room. I read that the kibbutz members eat there too, but it didn’t seem like that. The hotel is kosher, so breakfast is dairy and dinner is meat. Since it is a buffet we were able to get vegetarian meals. The food was very good. I had white rice with parsley, mashed potato’s (with no dairy), vegetables, bread. I could have had a big salad too. For dessert there rice looking dairy-free cakes, which we skipped, and sorbet, which we had.

The only downside is that our room has a fragrance, not on the sheets but in the air, but we are airing it out. The kibbutz is a botanical gardens. We’ll take a walk around in daylight when we can see more. It is lovely to be in the dessert. It looks like the area north of Santa Fe, except for the huge body of water and Jordan on the other side.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
The Dead Sea is 1404 feet below sea level (428 meters). Santa Fe is 7000 feet above sea level. There is that difference too. It is much hotter here.

In Santa Fe the high altitude affects your breathing. I was always a bit out of breath. And one drink hits you like three. What does being below sea level do to you?
 

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