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.



Back in 2007, I went on a trip to Egypt and Jordan.  I remember standing on Mount Nebo and looking over the Dead Sea to Jericho.  I remember how that one moment revived my desire to go to Israel.  The next day I was standing in a tiny church in Madaba, Jordan.  There, on the floor of St. George's church, was a mosaic map of the Holy Land as it was known to the Byzantines who lived in the region.  Jerusalem, with its original wall and six gates, was represented on the map.  Looking down at the map, I saw yet another reminder that I have to, one day, go to Israel.

Around Thanksgiving of last year, I was already getting a case of itchy feet.  I knew I had to go somewhere.  I asked my close friend, Corri, whose son lives and works in San Diego if she wanted to make a trip to California to see her son.  Her response was a lukewarm one.  I then asked my friend and travel partner, Soon, if he wanted to do a side trip to Hong Kong while he was back in Malaysia visiting with family.  He seemed up for the idea but he kept delaying getting his dates for his trip nailed down which made my planning difficult so I gave up on him as well.

Sitting in my office, it finally hit me that I should go to Israel.  Over a few lunch periods, I Googled to see if February would be a good month to go and if there are small group tours to Israel.  I got positive information on both fronts and after a few hours of researching tours, I finally settled on one.  Two days ago, I put down my deposit and yesterday, I cashed in some travel points and got my plane ticket from Ronald Reagan National Airport (aka DCA) to Ben Gurion Airport (aka TLV).

Church of the Holy Seplucher by hoyasmeg
I AM GOING TO ISRAEL!!!  Pinch me.  I can't believe it's finally happening after all these years!!

According to my reading, March is the start of high season so I picked the last tour date before the prices go up.  So happened that the tour was to kickoff on Feb 26.  After doing more reading, I found out that Purim is on Feb 24 and well, I just could not resist the thought of being in Israel for Purim so I will arrive on that day.  In all, I will have three full days to explore Jerusalem before the tour starts.  I've already done some reading about places to see.  Definitely, the first place I will be going to is the Wailing Wall which is the holiest spot in Judaism.  It happens to be situated at the base of Temple Mount on which is located the Dome of the Rock which is the third holiest place in the Islamic world after Mecca and Medina.  Located stone's throw from these two spots is the Holy Church of the Sepulcher and Via Dolorosa which are two of the holiest places in Christianity.

Nazareth

In addition to Jerusalem, the tour will take me to Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea,Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Megiddo, Safed, Golan Heights, Nazareth,  and the Sea of Galilee.  A visit to Bethlehem is contingent on approval from the Palestinian Authority.

By the way, I did check the US State Department website for the Travel Advisory for Israel.  There is a advisory and it warns against travel to the Gaza Strip/West Bank region but this tour does not head there so it should be safe.

With the tour logistics all worked out, I can now just concentrate on reading up about the places that I will be visiting, learning more about Judaism and Israeli culture and putting together an itinerary for my three days in Jerusalem.

Count down to Israel begins now!!