Friday, March 31, 2023

Day 8

We've made it to our last day of activities. If you've read the previous seven posts -- thank you for sticking with me!! Day 8 brought a day of touring, seeing, and experiencing but it also brought luggage out to be loaded onto the bus knowing that it would be a loooooong day (more than a day). 

We started our day at the top of the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. On the way, the traffic was so bad that we were stuck in traffic for quite a while . . .and we only needed to go a short distance. This is a picture of my big picture. A photographer shows up and hurriedly puts the group in some sort of order and takes a photo from across the street -- sometimes he stands on a ladder to do this. They take orders for the photos and deliver them before the end of the day. I'm on the front row - second from the left. Mark is on the left right under the outstretched arm of our tour guide, Rafi.

We walked down the Mount of Olives following the road Jesus would have taken on Palm Sunday.
He would have been riding a donkey.

The view is amazing.

At the bottom of Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion.

The garden is lovely. The tree above has a fence around it. This tree is old enough that it was probably in the garden when Jesus was praying there. Yes . . . they've had to put a fence around it to protect it.

There are flowers and olive trees in the garden. One year when we were there, they had just pruned the olive trees. Somehow . . .I don't know how . . .my boss, Brian, brought some branches home. His wife, Mollie, made a wreath/crown of thorns for me and I have it in my office as a remembrance.

Also at the bottom of the hill, adjacent to the garden, is a church -- The church is known by several names - one is The Church of All Nations. Another name is The Basillica of the Agony. There is a large piece of rock toward the front of the church (altar area) and it is said to be a rock that is thought to be where Jesus prayed. This area is encircled by a wrought iron "fence" that looks like a crown of thorns. I felt bad when we visited because a worship service was happening. We were very quiet but I felt like we were interrupting something sacred.

We also went to the Church of St. Petere of Gallincantu. I'm always so moved when we visit there. It is thought to be built on the top of Caiaphas' home . . .and we go down into the pit where Jesus would have been held. He would have been in a very dark place and he would have been able to hear the conversation of those above him.

Outside is a statue of Peter denying Christ. In my photo, you can just barely see the top of the pillar and guess who is sitting there? There is a rooster . . .before the cock crows three times . . .

These steps were used by Jesus himself as he walked down to the Kidron Valley. These are the places that amaze me so much -- the places that have been dated and they know that Jesus walked there. Even if you aren't a believer, I would think the ancientness (is that a word?) of some of these places would inspire awe.

I know we ate lunch somewhere that day but I have no idea where! We were dropped off at the Old City of Jerusalem for a couple of hours of free time. I wrote about this already but will share the photos and a brief description.

We tried to connect up with some other folks from our group but no one was going anywhere we wanted to go and we had completed our shopping. In 2020, we had seen signs for St. Mark street and knew there was a church there. Mark wanted to find it. I had a mini anxiety attack (maybe not so mini) because we were way off the beaten path. We were finally successful and found it. The sign told us that some think this is the site of the upper room. I like this site better than the commercialized site.

When we got back down into the heart of the Old City, we ran into Susan and Sam from our group and we walked around with them for a while. I needed to find a bathroom so we located one of those! We then walked over to a coffee shop and waited until time for the bus to pick us up.

We went to the Garden Tomb (to be honest -- I cannot remember if we went to the Garden Tomb before or after the free time but I think it was after). The Garden Tomb is a pretty place. It is a much newer site near the bus station! Nearby, there is a rock formation that looks similar to a skull. You get to walk inside an actual tomb and then groups have a time of devotion and communion. Just FYI - I think the tomb is located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - it was marked LOOONG ago. Even though I think that, the Garden Tomb area is still the perfect place to contemplate and take communion.

I was so honored and humbled because Brian asked me to help serve communion. You can just barely see me - I'm between the two people in the communion line. 

You are served communion in these tiny wooden cups. I'm assuming all of my other ones are packed up in a warehouse somewhere. 

After communion, we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Olive Tree Hotel. We stayed at the David Citadel but had checked out that morning. The Olive Tree Hotel is used by most pilgrims that use Educational Opportunities (EO) as their travel company. They allowed us to hang out in their bar until dinner time. We sat around and talked for a couple of hours and had beverages. We then went into dinner and there was more than one dining area and there must have been at least 1000 people eating dinner at that hotel. The food was good and plentiful. After dinner, we headed back to Tel Aviv to the airport. Security is tight and it takes a while to get through to the gate. It probably took us at least 2 hours - maybe three. We actually skipped one step because we were with EO.
It was at our gate in the Tel Aviv airport where the guy sneezed and coughed droplets directly onto me. I swear I think that is where I got covid. I had to get a wipe to wipe down my arm - soooo gross. Anyway, we boarded a very full flight and flew 12 hours to Kennedy in New York. We then flew to Atlanta where a large majority of us ate a cheeseburger from Five Guys. Remember the places where we stayed served kosher food so no meat and dairy are ever served together. After we ate, we boarded our plane to BHM and were home in the early afternoon. On this trip, we had the best flights to and from Tel Aviv yet - we didn't spend much time at all in airports.
Once again, if you've read all about the trip - thank you! If you've never been to Israel and get a chance to go -- take it. I love that place!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Day 7

Day 7 . . .only one more day to blog after this one. 
We headed over to the Old City -- I love seeing the bread carts every day.

We walked the ramparts the old city - way up high. This was also new to us on this trip. This was the day I had about 18,000 steps plus over 15 flights of steps.

We were up above the city walking where soldiers once patrolled.

My  timeline photos are slightly out of order but you can see all of the dates and who was in control.

It was a really interesting walk.

I don't think I've ever shown a picture inside the bus. The buses are nice and clean and comfy.

We headed to the Herodion.

Herod had this mountain built so that it would be taller than Jerusalem. Yes, you heard correctly. The Herodion was a fortress and palace of King Herod. Dirt was hauled and placed upon an already existing hill to make it more of a volcano shape. It was massive in size and overshadowed everything around it. Thousands of slaves worked on building this mountain.

Adam Hamilton and his tour group were there
at the same time -- He and Brian had a brief talk.
I don't have a photo but Mark went up to him and
introduced himself as did some of the others
in our group.

We headed to lunch and it was actually raining when we unloaded from the bus. This day was made extra special because it was Brian's birthday. He hates to be the center of attention but we couldn't let the day pass without doing something fun. Most everyone in the group brought a birthday card and many brought a small gift or gift card for Brian. I had packed birthday candles in my checked luggage and remembered to throw them in my day bag. I gave the candles to the bus driver who talked to the restaurant owner who prepared donut holes with honey for our celebration.

He may never forgive me.

After lunch, we had an indoor activity planned which was great since it was raining. We went to the Israel Museum which was also new to us on this trip. We spent about 30 minutes in the coffee and gift shop waiting on our time to enter. The first part of the tour is actually outside (in the rain that day) and it was to see a miniature replica of the whole ancient city of Jerusalem.

I had to borrow a picture from the internet - since I just told you it was raining when we were there, you can definitely tell this wasn't one of our photos.

We saw so much in the museum. It was fascinating. 

I also failed to take a picture of the Dead Sea Scrolls - I was just taking it all in and not worrying about pictures so I borrowed another picture from the internet. The scroll goes all the way around.