Sunday, March 30, 2014

Walking the Streets of The Old CIty and The Western Wall Tunnels

Some of the sights we saw as we walked the streets of the Old City:

 This store has an exposed section of the Temple Mount wall.

 Brooms, brushes

 Lots of narrow passageways, lots of cobblestones.

 Cat on a hot tin roof...bada bing.
My first view of the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall:
 A little history:  about 20 BCE, Herod the Great built 4 retaining walls around the alleged Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was commanded by God to kill Isaac, which is where the two Jesish Temples were built.  After the second Temple was ransacked in 70 CE, Romans ruled Jerusalem for about 700 years, then the Muslims.  The Muslims built the Arc of the Dome, because they also trace their religious roots to Abraham.  This is the Muslims third holiest site, next to Mecca and Medina.  There is controversy about where the Temples were, who has rights to the Temple make a long story short, nobody can change anything.  There have been excavations, that prove the site of Solomon's Temple.  We took an underground tour of the part of the Western Wall which was built on.  The tunnels go under the Muslim quarter of the Old City which abut the cannot go under the Temple Mount.  Herod was a megalomaniac, probably died of syphilis...think Henry VIII.  The detail he required was crazy.  Each stone had to be chiseled down 1/4 inch, to give detail.
This one block was like 80 feet long.
 Walking along the wall.
 We entered this vault, which contained a cistern.

 The Western Wall is important to Jews because it is the closest spot to where the Ark was, the Holy of Holies.  Now the Arc of the Dome covers the area...a real sore spot.  To enter the Western Wall area, you have to go through security, the tunnels also.   
The men's side of the Western Wall.
This picture shows the screen that separates the men from the women. 
 The women's side.
 And the minaret from Al Aqsa Mosque, towering above the Western's crazy.  Three major religions in such a small area, all claiming to be THE religion... 
Some ongoing excavation on the most southern part of the Western Wall and the southern wall.
 The Mount Of Olives is seen in the background.
Next up, the Qumran Caves, Masada, Dead Sea.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The day started with a trip to the gardens at Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, a very old Jewish cemetery, with historical significance.
Gethsemane is where Jesus allegedly prayed to his Father, the night before his crucifixion, and where Judas betrayed him.  The garden has 600-800 year old olive trees.

 The Church of All Nations is next door

It contains a slab of bedrock, where Jesus supposedly prayed/anguished that last is a pilgrimage spot for believers.

 A section of 12th century floor was found during excavation, and reproduced around it.

Our entrance to the Old City was through the Lion's Gate, which enters the Christian center.   The wall was built in the 1500s. 
As we walked up the hill, we saw many different sights, including a van, a mobile minaret, that blared the call to prayer.  When there was any sign of trouble, Israeli IDF would just appear.  Always made me feel safe. 
We followed the Stations of the Cross, along the Via Dolorosa, most of which have chapels. 

 This is where Jesus touched the wall, now a popular touching site.
We ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Jesus was crucified and entombed.

 This stone is where Jesus was anointed.
 The steps up to Golgotha, Mt. Calvary, where Christ was crucified.
While we were there, the Eastern Orthodox priests were doing benediction, with incense.  People would bend down into the area between the priests, and touch the stone where Jesus died.

 There were beautiful mosaics, the whole Church was overwhelming with altars, mosaics, floors.

 My sweet Robert, lighting a candle for my parents and sister.

There are two tombs that both claim to be where Jesus was laid to rest.  One is Greek Orthodox on one side, and Christian on the other.
 And this one is called the Syrian tomb, I don't know why, it has two tombs, which apparently is more typical of the time.

We saw so much, I'm breaking this down into sections.  We did more this day, it will be in tomorrow's blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jerusalem Day 2, Yad Vashem, Ein Karem, Lunch at a Nursery with Pizza Dough Making!

Our day started with a tour of Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum.  To say it was inspiring and moving is an understatement.  The building is remarkable, a triangular shaped glass, concrete, steel structure that is mostly underground.

The museum is laid out as a series of rooms, that historically recreate the Holocaust.  You zig zag back and forth across its' length, following the path of the evil doers as they progressed from country to country.  Walls were covered with photos, all taken by the Nazis, of Jews and Gypsies being rounded up and carted off.  We were interested in the Hungary room, since that was the home of Robert's family.  We stumbled upon a photo album, that had photographs of all the people taken from a village near the Carpathian Mountains who were being taken by train to Auschwitz.  We were so shocked, we thought that it might have pictures of Robert's grandparents and his aunt.  Can you imagine being so dehumanized, to photograph such an event?  Walking from room to room, the portrayal of hate was overwhelming.  And to think some try to deny the Holocaust...oh yeah, it was all Photoshopped.

Outside, more memorials.

These Walls of the Righteous honor those who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.  The name of the Polish doctor who helped hide Robert's grandparents and father is on the wall.

 Then we went to the Memorial for the Children.  I didn't know that of the 6 million Jews killed, 1.5 million were children.  The memorial was dark inside, with a series of mirrors and a few candles, that reflected and reflected, a reflection for each child.  You had to hold on to a handrail, because it was so dark and disorienting.  It was beautiful.

We left the museum and traveled down the hill to Ein Karem, the childhood home of John the Baptist.  In Hebrew, ein means spring.  It was a lovely village, another historical spot, a nice change of what we had just seen.  The natural spring:

Russian church.

 Picturesque old buildings.

Then we climbed up a mountain, tavelling through Abu Ghoush, and Arab village that politically aligns with the Israelis...a 4 spired mosque:

Next we had lunch at a restaurant, with a nursery.  Here is where I fell in love with Yardan (means Jordan) Gewurtztraminer...Yardan makes excellent wines.  It was a fun, sort of funky, experience.

I think we went back to the hotel and was a full day!