I went to Tel Aviv. I walked where Jesus walked. In the course of 56 hours, I ate two shwarmas and had three Fantas. Those two shots are of the view out of my hotel window. It was a rainy, miserable day in Tel Aviv, but not in Jerusalem!
I picked up this particular trip because my fellow cohort in crime's father was the captain and I knew he loved the city and had been going for many years. We got in late afternoon on Sunday, and just Mark and I went to dinner at this bar next to the American embassy. I'm slightly
embarrassed to say we went to a place called Mikes, ate pizza and
wings, drank Sam Adams, and watched the Eagles game. However, it was one the best played games this season by my birds and everyone else in the bar was an Eagles fan too.
The next morning we woke up at 7, had breakfast at 7:30, and left the hotel by 8. We took a taxi to the central bus station and took the bus to Jerusalem, an hour away. The bus ride was 19 shekels, or less than $5. Got to the bus station and took another cab to the Damascus gate of the Old City. Across from the gate is the Garden Tomb, which is what Jesus' tomb might have looked like. The property is owned by British ex-pats and the grounds are well kept in such a manner that its almost as if it doesn't belong.
Then we walked through the Damascus Gate; you could see where the streets had been built up. I don't know what I was expecting when I entered the city, but there were street vendors selling everything everywhere. It was like an ancient open air Canal Street almost. We walked down the Via Dolorosa (Latin for way of grief or suffering) to the spot where Christ was condemned and beaten and then followed the stations to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There were a lot of different tour groups walking along with us; there was an Eastern European group (they were so fabulously well dressed!), a southern Baptist American group of true tourists that were not dressed climatically appropriate, and a group being led by a priest who were praying the stations. Everyone kept talking about how on every Friday at 3 the Franciscans do the stations in their entirety, and what a zoo the city is during Christmas and Easter. What really took away from the experience for me were all the Islamic and Armenian street vendors desperately trying to get you into their stores. However, as we were charging through the streets on our way to the next station, an ancient man selling cloth offered the captain 6 donkeys and a camel for me. Captain shot back with two camels, it was declined. It was nice to know that I do catch a nice dowry.
THEN WE HAD LUNCH: SHAWARMA, FALAFEL, AND FANTA. IT WAS DELICIOUS.
After lunch we wondered down to the Western Wall, the holiest place for Jews to go and pray. I saw a bar mitzvah; the men were on their side and the women were standing on chairs leaning over the dividing wall throwing candy. It was such a celebration, the smiles that this family were wearing were so joyous; it was beautiful. I stood before the Wailing Wall in awe, watching these women deep in prayer, writing their prayers and sticking them between the ancient stones, reading books of Hebrew; some wept. I felt like a warrior praying silently the Our Father, the words Jesus taught us, amongst God's chosen people. Glorious.
By then it was after 12, and I found myself standing on top of the Mount of Olives looking down
onto Jesus' Jerusalem... plus two thousand years. The golden temple is the Dome of the Rock; it is where the second Jewish temple originally stood, as in the one that was destroyed in 70 AD.
It is the oldest standing Islamic building. In the right hand corner of this particular shot you can see a gate that's been sealed shut, and before it are hundreds of graves. This is the Beautiful Gate where Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday, and where the Messiah shall enter when he comes again.
From where this shot is taken, is the Mount of Olives, and on the mountain face are buried Jews and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus sweat drops of blood and was betrayed by a kiss. It's also closed between 12-2 each day.
We were back in Tel Aviv by 2:30, took a big nap, and then back on the plane for the 12 hour ride back to Newark. (I had the second shawarma in the airport, with a Fanta). We landed at 5:15 in the morning and to say I felt like I had been hit by a bus is no exaggeration. Well worth it.