Saturday, April 5, 2014

Old City, City of David, the "Shuk"

Because there were a few of us who were interested in fabric, our guide Ron took  us to one of five shops in the world that can still purchase Syrian silk.  Everybody was amazed by the beauty and quality of the fabrics.  I bought a jacquard silk scarf pour moi, and a table runner for my in laws.  I could have gone home with bolts of fabric.

 As we walked through the city to the gate that would lead us to the City of David, a few sights...mosaics
the 3000 year old wall that surrounded the original Temple 
 synagogue next to a mosque.
The City of David, the original settlement, was built about 1000 BCE, on the south side of the hill, with the 1st Temple on the top.
 Looking at the south wall of the city and Temple mount from the City of David.  The Jewish people always believed they would be attacked from the north (Romans, Syria, Iran...) so the northern walls were always higher, and their homes on the other side.

 The Kidron Valley, to the east side of the Old City. 

Excavation has is controversial, as to whether the land should be disturbed.  This was probably a palace, because of its size, number of rooms, view of the valley. 

 A toilet.
 While we were listening to our site guide, we heard popping noises, coming from a Palestinian area.  We all looked to Ron, our guide, who told us it was just fireworks.  He pulled out his phone, started searching for info.  The noised continued, a helicopter came, and buzzed around in circles.  More popping, more buzzing, it was hard to concentrate on the passionate guide.  We left, headed toward our bus stop.  Ron told us some kids were probably shooting something up at the helicopter, of course the helicopter knew how to be out of range.  Fridays are a "big" day in Jerusalem.  Arabs are required to go to Mosque, and it is the Sabbath, so the police make a presence.  There were about 10 of these vans, loaded with munitions, about 2 police for each.  We saw them as they were leaving the area, pulling off their kevlar, etc. These guys made me feel safe, when Israeli security acts, it acts.

On our way to the old Jewish market, the Shuk, we got a good view of the security wall that separates Israel from a Section A area, which is Bethlehem.  We saw more of this the next day. 
We arrived to the market, which was a bustling, fun outdoor expanse of streets, lined with stalls.  Because the Sabbath was approaching, the prices were falling on all perishables.  Those that didn't sell would go to the poor. 

Fresh many people don't know that garlic is supposed to be purple?
We went back to the hotel and had a final dinner with our group.  Almost all travelers left after midnight...we had all day Saturday, so we arranged for a driver/guide.  Tomorrow, south to Herodium.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sculpture Garden in a Mall

It was Friday, our 2nd to last day in Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem Marathon was on, 25,000 runners from all over the world, and all the streets were blocked off.  Our plan was to walk to the Old City...our route crossed the runners' path
 through an open mall that featured sculptures for sale.  I could have bought all of them.  This is just a sampling of them.

 We approached the Old City, at the Jaffa was a carnival atmosphere, with the runners entering through the, clowns, stilt walkers, as Stefan would say, "it has everything".

  These runners had just come up a steep hill..

 One of the ramparts at the gate.  It was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Qumran Caves, The Masada, Dead Sea

Our first stop was at the Sea Level altitude marker, where if you wanted to ride a camel, it was available...I declined.
Next up the  Qumran Caves.  The Essenes, a very pure sect of Jews who believed the end was coming, wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found by a goat of his goats wandered into a cave, so he threw some stones into the cave to get the goat out.  He heard his stone hit something, break.  He went into the cave, and found a broken pot with scrolls.  For awhile, the scrolls were sold piecemeal, as wedding presents, gifts, until the Israeli government could get hold of them.  You can't go into the caves, but there is a little village below the caves, which shows how the Essenes lived. 
Some rooms.
They used the mikvah at least twice a day.
 A mikvah.
An aqueduct...their engineering was so sophisticated.  This is serious desert. They brought water from the Judean Hills.
A cistern.
 One of our tour guides, David Myers, History Chair at UCLA.
Then the Masada.  Masada was a palace, built by Herod in about 30 BCE.  It's famous as one of the last Jewish strongholds when the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple, and drove the Jews out of Jerusalem.  My cousin Fleet recommended a book to me, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.  Historical fiction about how 4 women ended up there...I was so glad I had read the book, it is very factual.  On the way to the Masada, we drove along the Dead Sea.  There are sink holes, and beaches of salt.
 And there it was, the Masada, a tall flat mesa.
We took a cable car up, and walked through the various buildings.
 Everything below the black line is original.  Roman building were always stone against mortar.


 Roman bath with original floors, frescos, tiles.

 The dove cote, with our Israeli guide, Ron Lahad.
 A view of one of the sites of the Roman Legion camp.  They camped all around the Masada, 
 and built a ramp with a huge tower, so they could penetrate the walls.  What remains of the ramp.
As they were about to break through the wall, almost 1000 Jews died by their own hand, rather than be tortured/enslaved/killed by the Romans.  Only a few skeletons were found on a nearby hill...there is some mystery involved. 

On our way back to the cable car, we could see the aqueducts that were built into the sides of the mesa.  They fed into large smart.
It was an incredible experience to be consider how it was built, that at one time is was a fancy palace with hot and cold running water, and then the siege of the final Jewish rebellion.  
Okay, onto the Dead was a blast!  They say you can't swim or drown in the Dead Sea, and I believe it!  You walk into the water, sort of sit, and boom! your legs go up as if you're in a recliner.  The water felt a little oily, but it wasn't.  My skin and hair felt so good afterwards.
 The beach.

Boy were we tired at the end of this day!