Sunday, January 27, 2013

Machane Yehuda.

Machane Yehuda (Image from inisrael.com)
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that no trip is complete for me unless I head to the market and I love, love, love old city markets.  The hustle, the bustle, fruits and vegetables piled up high, colorful bins of spices, the smell of food being cooked - I could spend hours wandering about.

Masada.


Masada is a rugged natural fortress, located at the top of an isolated rock on the edge of the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea. It is isolated from its surroundings by deep gorges on all sides. This position forms a natural fortification.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Gates of Jerusalem.


Jerusalem’s Old City walls were built in the 16th century by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. There are eight gates and all but one are still open. The walls stretch for approximately 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) and rise to a height of 5–15 meters (16–49 feet), with a thickness of 3 meters (10 feet). All together, the Old City walls contain 43 surveillance towers and 11 gates, seven of which are presently open.

I read somewhere that you can walk around the city ramparts. There's a tourist information center near the Jaffa Gate; I'll be heading there to get more information. Until then, here's what I've learned about the gates, starting with Jaffa Gate.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Israel. Itinerary.

Since I'm going on a tour, the itinerary is pretty much fixed except that I'm adding a few days to Jerusalem to take in Purim celebrations and to have time for a side trip to Jericho. On the way to Jericho, I hope to stop at Wadi Qelt, in the Judean Desert, to see St. George's Monastery. I also hope I get to visit Bethlehem but that will all depend on whether or not the Palestinian Authority will be allowing it at the time I'm there.

Traveling in Israel is definitely more problematic than in any other place I've been to because of the political situation but as long as I stick with a tour, I will be fine. At this point, I'm so excited about finally going to Israel that it's often hard to concentrate on anything else other than preparing for my trip!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Via Dolorosa and the Holy Church of the Sepulchre (Image from Destinaton360)
I'm still in the very, very early stages of planning this trip so nothing in is written in stone yet but my current thought is to walk the Via Dolorosa after visiting Temple Mount as the starting point is near by.

The Via Dolorosa translates to *Path of Sorrow* and is also known as the “Way of the Cross” .  It is the route that Jesus Christ, after having been condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, took to his crucifixion and burial.

For many Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem, the most important and meaningful thing they will do while they are here is walk the Via Dolorosa.

The Via Dolorosa is marked by fourteen stations, each of which represents a milestone in Jesus’ long walk from condemnation to crucifixion.  The New Testament does not mention the stations as such; the 14 Stations of the Cross were designated by monks in Western Europe in the 17th century.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount).

Dome of the Rock in the background, Dome of the Chain in the foreground.
Two of the most prominent structures on Temple Mount.
 (Image from historvius.com)


Temple Mount as it is known to the Jews; Haram al-Sharif as it is called by Muslims or Noble Sanctuary as some people refer to it as occupies an area of about thirty-five acres in the southwest corner in the old City of Jerusalem.  Contained within Temple Mount are fountains, gardens, buildings and domes. At its southernmost end is al-Aqsa Mosque and at its center, the celebrated Dome of the Rock. The entire area is regarded as a mosque and comprises nearly one sixth of the walled city of Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yiddish vs. Hebrew.

Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss - Hebrew version on the left, Yiddish version on the right.

Just to prove to you how ignorant I can be, I have lived in the US for more than 40 years and over that time, have befriended a lot of people of the Jewish faith. All these years, I have never known the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish. I thought they were basically two different words for the same language. I couldn't have been more wrong so in an attempt to set my ignorant self straight, I decided to read up about the two languages. While they are different, they do share similarities - they both use the same alphabet, they share similar words, and they are both spoken primarily by Jews.

The Kotel (Western Wall).

Praying at the Kotel (Image from Serenity Travels)
For me, the iconic symbol of Jerusalem is the Kotel which is also as the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall. In modern Hebrew, it's called "HaKotel HaMa'aravi".

The hotel that I am staying at provides a free shuttle to the Western Wall.  I arrive early in the morning and as soon as I have settled in to the room and had breakfast, my plan is to hop on that shuttle and head down to the wall.  I cannot imagine my trip through Jerusalem and Israel beginning anywhere else.

Jerusalem is all about ancient history so you can't tell the story of the Western Wall without it.  There is a lot of history and it's complicated but I think I have managed to capture the key points.  So here's how the wall came to be.  It starts with the Old Testament.

The Old Testament tells the story of the birth of a kingdom that occupied what we now refer to as the Holy Land. The first sovereign of the kingdom was Saul and it was his successors, David (whose rule is traditionally given as from around 1010 to 970 BC) and Solomon (who is believed to have ruled from 970 to 940 BC) laid the foundations for the Jewish nation. According to the Bible, it was David who captured Jerusalem and made it the Israelite capital and it was Solomon who built the First Temple on a mountain peak known back then as Mount Moriah.  Today, that same site is known as Temple Mount.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Top of the Bucket List. Jerusalem.

Photo of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock by 4Zion
Everyone who travels has a bucket of places they want to go to.  I'm no different and it is a long one.

I've had my list ever since I was a child but when I was young, the list was very different.  Back then, places included Disney World, EPCOT, and anywhere in Africa where I could see lions.  As I grew up, the list changed.  At one point, I had decided I wanted to go to see each of the Seven Wonders of the World.  I did start to tackle that list.  Then, I wanted to go to *remote*, off the beaten path kind of places.  I started to tackle that list.  The list will continue to evolve as I grow older but one place has been on the list ever since I was young and that is Jerusalem.  As a young child, I had no clue about places like Machu Picchu or the Taj Mahal or Petra but I knew Jerusalem.  I knew it from attending church. Though I was not born into a Christian household, my parents did allow us to go to church and I spent many a Sunday attending Sunday school and then the service afterwards.  In Sunday school, the lessons are delivered via stories and Jerusalem featured prominently in many of them.  I have wanted to go to Jerusalem for as long as I can remember.