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!


  1. That's really cool about the tree!

  2. What a wonderful trip you had (except for the covid at the end). Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!! xo