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Jerusalem: The Old City & Beyond April 15-May 27

We have saved six weeks of our vacation for Jerusalem. We gave up our car and learned the "quirky" Israel bus system. We've spent a lot of time on foot as this is the very best way to visit any city. Churches, Synagogues, Museums, Classical Music Concerts, delightful restaurants, the Mount of Olives, the Old City and more were all awaiting us....and we have stayed busy the entire 6 weeks.

 
Leaving Tiberius & Arriving In Jerusalem

After a month, Tiberias & Michael's apartment seemed like home. Nostalgically, we took some pictures before we left Tiberias. When we arrived in Jerusalem, we were delighted with the quaint area we are staying in.

Ah, Those Ah-Ha Moments
During my power walk in Tiberias, I routinely encounter a few obstacles. As I get out of the elevator located on the lower exposed parking deck, I at times have to dodge birds flitting about (my condo building could be designated as a bird sanctuary). Once outside, my concern is drivers who all too often erratically scoot inches away from me. Sometimes I have to hopscotch over dog poop (there is no leash law in Tiberias), and I have to make sure that I bypass an area where a couple of watch dogs once lunged at my legs. And I try to stay clear of the cats that feast on the garbage in the overflowing dumpsters.
Although usually my walk is uneventful, I have had a few ah-ha moments along the way. As I trod up a hill and approached a large apartment complex that I had passed by for over a week, I had a flash: that same building was the one that my wife and I couldn’t find a week earlier on our own while walking downhill in the dark. Mercifully, a man in a beauty salon had given us a lift to the right address so that we could be on time for supper with a couple who were to debrief us about Tiberias. After all of the fruitless searching that we did, I was sure that I could never find their place again. But now, ah ha, I can readily home in on their apartment, going uphill or downhill.
My second fortuitous insight occurred a few days later. I have always noticed a sign that indicated—with an arrow—that the Tombs of the Matriarchs were nearby, but neither by car or on foot had I been able to locate the site. But mid-way in my walk last week in the twilight, I just happened to get curious about what was housed in an alcove up a long paved driveway ending in stone stairs. After I climbed up, there they were: the traditional burial sites of the six so-called minor matriarchs. I was the only visitor to this attraction that consisted of a huge walk-around granite tomb and shelves of Hebrew prayer books buttressed against one side of it. Although the unadorned monument itself did not have magnificent trappings and although these matriarchs were not to be confused with the revered Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, and Leah, I was still happy that I had accidentally found the spot where one of the wives of Moses and one of the wives of Aaron were reputedly buried. And in a bit of serendipity, the tomb was directly opposite the once-hard-to-find apartment complex on the hill.
The last revelation on my walking route was the most meaningful. My wife and I had visited Sefat, an age-old center of Kabbalistic scholarship and—we discovered—the highest city in Israel. The only time I ever thought I’d see it again was if we drove back to it from Tiberias, an arduous thirty-minute haul through lots of switchbacks. Near the end of my walks, I have always slowed down to gaze at the hazy mountains of the Upper Galilee outlined with a few towns and villages. But walking on the day after I had been to Sefat, the sky was abnormally clear. And then it happened. I stopped short. Entrenched on the highest mountain top was a wide berth of houses that reminded me of the ones I had recently seen in Sefat. Could that be mystical Sefat, no longer enshrouded in mist? I became exhilarated, euphoric: for the first time during my trip to Israel, I felt a vibrant connection to my heritage. The next day, I found out that Sefat was indeed where I thought it was—not just geographically but in my heart as well.
John Winthrop in a sermon once fervently called Boston a city on a hill, alluding to a phrase from the Gospel of Matthew. Drawing similar inspiration, Ronald Reagan famously referred to America as a city on a hill. Well, I have seen my own city on a hill, and it’s the real deal.




For the last day with our rental car, we traveled to Beit Guvrin-La Maresh National Park. We slowly made our way through all of the highly sophisticated sculptured Bell Caves, but spent most of our time traversing the mammoth bird breeding cave that spiraled downward (lots of crouching needed) four or five stories into a watery cistern. In between locating all of the caves, we were wowed by the 360 degree views of the Judean Hills.

Two Prospects of Sudden Death
Last week, my wife and I were determined to traverse every cave in Beit Guvrin-Tel Maresha National Park. At one point, after we climbed up a rutted path to a 360 degree view of the flourishing Judean Hills, my wife realized that she had left her camera in the car. Naturally, I volunteered to retrieve it. I quickly found it and rushed up the steep incline to rendezvous with my ever elusive wife. As I reached the crest of the hill, I felt as if the air was thinning out in my lungs and that my heart was shutting down. Dehydration, my old nemesis, had overpowered me once more, this time with a vengeance. Instead of panicking, my usual response, I gazed at the all-encompassing Judean Hills and thought that if I were now to die, this grand sanctuary would be a perfect spot. Soon, my beatific moment ended, I regained my strength, I spied my wife down the path, and I joined her—and the water bottle that she was carrying. I certainly was glad that I was alive, but I did miss the sanctified feeling that I had on the top of the hill. I wonder if the prophets, perhaps from dehydration as well, experienced some of their epiphanies while embraced by the Judean Hills.
But I wasn’t done with visions of death that day. As my wife and I were leaving the park, I started to choke on a fistful of raisins. My wife, who was driving down the hills where there was no shoulder, got alarmed but couldn’t stop to Heimlich maneuver me. In the meantime, the choking got much worse. I tried to swallow—no luck. Inhaling was impossible. I had the terrifying sensation that I was going to die, not nobly as before, but ignominiously, without any raison d’etre. After a few more seconds of fright, I slowly recovered, ecstatic to still be alive.
I have no yearning for death. But if I had a choice, I’d opt for death by dehydration, alone at a mountain top, rather than death by asphyxiation in a car, with my wife watching—I presume—in horror.


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The Old City, Again & Bloomfield Park


Today was spent mostly at churches and ended at a park. First we visited the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. Compared to the more elegant Catholic churches nearby, this Protestant church was quite toned down. It had a subdued grandeur. We could have climbed up the 100 or so steps to the tower but decided to save our strength. Next came the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate Church at the 8th station on the Via Dolorosa—somehow we had missed this site on an earlier self-guided tour. We were sure glad we just happened to bump into this magnificent church on our way to revisit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Coptic Church was very elaborately studded with portraits and statues of saints and an elaborately carved, mammoth chandelier.

After having lunch, we entered the Holy Church of the Sepulcher, where Marie placed some family crosses on one of the holiest spots in the church, Christ’s resting place after being taken off the cross.

Later, we visited St. James Church, the major church in the Armenian Quarter. We got there just in time for the 3:00 service, the only time the church is open to the public. Picture taking was frowned on; in fact, one priest hounded a woman who got caught. Marie did happen to take two pictures—without a flash—initially but abided by the restriction after that. I crossed my legs at one point; a lady next to me chided me for this apparent faux pas. Afterwards, I found out on the internet that crossing one’s legs in many churches is disrespectful. St. James Church, while fairly dark, is supremely ornate. It is also chock full of censers in all its chambers. During the service, a priest shook so much incense out of his censer that Stan got woozy from smoke inhalation.

Before taking the bus home, we went to Bloomfield Gardens for some r and r. In the background, Stan first took pictures of the majestic Dormition Abbey and its towers. Then he focused on the people in the park:

The Kippah (yarmulke) is a Keeper

While my wife was taking a siesta on a park bench in Jerusalem, I took some candid pictures of people nearby. The most significant snapshots were of a young child with his kippah (a yarmulke). It fell from his head as he tumbled downhill on his bike. I could no longer see the kippah when the boy got up. Seemingly unaware that he no longer had it, he pushed his bike onto flatter ground. Just as I thought about retrieving the kippah for the boy, I saw him with his left hand gesture towards his parents. In that hand, he was clutching his yarmulke as if he would never let go it, no matter what hazards awaited him. I took a picture of his triumph.

A few minutes later, I took another picture of the boy. This time, he was climbing up a tree right next to me. He was firmly holding his yarmulke in his trusty left hand while he maneuvered along the branches. He might topple, but I suspected that the kippah would never slip out of his grasp.

At that moment, I had an epiphany. I envisioned that boy throughout his life faithfully and intrepidly guarding the kippah, an insignia of his Jewish identity that nothing could diminish or destroy in a Holocaust-proof Israel.

When my wife is awake, she takes most of the pictures. I have always felt that she is more adept at using her digital camera than I am. But my simply shot photos of the boy in the park have given me a boost: I may well encourage my wife to take more naps.




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May 11 Israel Supreme Court & Knessent

Marie took pictures around the bus stop next to our apartment. Ah, the buses.

Bus Blues Revisited:
After a few setbacks, I have been getting pretty good at deciphering and navigating through the Jerusalem Egged bus routes. The first time that my wife and I visited the Israel Museum, Bus 9 got us there routinely—at the time and the spot as the bus route stipulated. But our second outing to the museum on a very hot day was surrealistic.

After we exited Bus 18 to transfer to Bus 9, I spent a few misguided moments searching for the bus booth on the wrong side of the street. My wife gently reminded me that the correct access was across the road, as it was a week ago. Just as we backtracked and sidetracked, Bus 9 passed us. Because I got careless, we got stuck in the heat for twenty minutes until another Bus 9 arrived. My wife didn’t mind the delay: she was merrily listening to some upbeat music on her MP3 player. I, on the other hand, was glum, berating myself for my blunder. Going in the right direction has never been my forte.

My funk dissipated when another Bus 9 finally arrived. I was delighted to be moving forward in cool comfort, but my good cheer was short lived. As the driver approached the Israel Museum stop, he turned around, unaccountably bypassing our destination, disregarding the scheduled route that I had once so meticulously plotted. I managed to calmly ask him “Israel Museum”? He didn’t say anything: his only response was a slight shrug, and he perversely continued on his way. Then after ten minutes, he motioned for everyone get out at the last stop, Hebrew University, a good sweaty half hour walk to the museum. When he noticed how distressed I appeared, he gestured at a nearby booth labeled Bus 9. Evidently, there was an alternate unlisted Bus 9 route.

Not sure that the bus driver had given us accurate information, we consulted an Israeli student who was milling about the bus stop area (he, unlike the bus driver, spoke English). It turned out that he too, expecting to arrive at the Israel museum on bus 9, had been deposited at Hebrew University instead. After we exchanged grievances against the arbitrary bus system, he did some reconnaissance work at the next stop: when another Bus 9 approached, he immediately boarded it, interrogated the bus driver, and then waved us aboard, assuring us that we would indeed shortly reach the Israel Museum. He was right, and after an hour and a half, my wife and I finally reached our destination, a bit weary and very much wary of trusting the bus schedule. From now on, it will be hard for me to take the Egged website at face value. In fact, Egged deserves to have egg on its face.

Today, we toured the Israeli Supreme Court and the Knesset. First, we strolled through the vibrant Wohl Rose Garden on the way to the Court. The architectural symbolism of curves (compassion) and straight lines (unmitigated justice) governs all of the vast spaces of the Court. An amazing configuration!

The Knesset had its own treasures: Marc Chagall’s three Biblical tapestries and the Knesset’s inner sanctum, the legislative chamber where the public three days a week can listen to (on headphones geared to your language) and watch (behind glass partitions) the often heated debating.

While Marie snoozed on a park bench, Stan took some random pictures of people enjoying themselves in Sacher Park.




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Yad Vashem & St. Andrew’s Church/Guest House, Liberty Park

In the morning, we visited three nearby landmarks: St. Andrew’s Church and Guest House, Liberty Park, and the Inbal Hotel. St. Andrew’s Church was pretty bare bones, no bells and whistles here or in its guest house. But the ambience was welcoming.

Liberty Park had a few unusual embellishments: oddly shaped monoliths, a tucked-away amphitheater for kids’ theatrical productions, and a replica of our Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

The Inbal Hotel, easily viewed from Liberty Park, is ultra-modern and elegant. Some of its shops contain outstanding heirloom Judaica.

Later on, we toured Mt. Hertzl Military Cemetery. Besides seeing the tomb of Jewish notables like Zionist pioneer Theodore Herzl and assassinated Prime Minister Rabin, we roamed through the twenty or so sections devoted to the soldiers who died in various wars defending Israel. The markers along the routes succinctly paid tribute to these soldiers (from 16 year olds to men in their forties).

During our first two days at Yad Vashem, we were inside where no pictures were allowed. But this afternoon, we visited the outdoor sites—from the Warsaw Ghetto sculpture to the 2.5 acre massive walls on which were inscribed the names of the Jewish communities that the Nazis wiped out in the Holocaust.

The First Day at Yad Vashem—Jaded no More

There were abundantly poignant moments at the History Museum in Israel’s Holocaust Museum that my wife and I visited yesterday for seven hours, especially the testimony of survivors. Most of the horror that they depicted was already drearily familiar to me, for example, desperate women in the concentration camps strangling their own babies rather than have the Nazis brutalize and fling these infants into the gas chambers. But one of the testimonial videos—up until the Warsaw Ghetto section—recalled some incidents that I had never heard or read about and will never forget. That video burned off the last layer of any complacency that accompanied me as I dutifully took in the exhibits. It was even more powerful than seeing and touching a cattle car that transported thousands of men, women, and children to Auschwitz.

The narrator, a Jewish man in the Treblinka camp, believed that to survive, the strong had to exploit the weak and the victim, unless he in turn became the predator, was doomed. One night, the inmate realized that his hat was missing. He was terrified because anyone who wasn’t wearing a hat during morning inspection was automatically shot dead. Unable to locate his cap, he realized that his only chance to remain alive was to steal a hat from someone who wasn’t vigilant enough. Moving from bunk to bunk, the man saw a portion of a cap sticking out from underneath a fellow inmate’s stomach. The man removed the cap and returned to his own quarters. He didn’t try to rationalize his theft; he simply did not want to die, no matter who had to be sacrificed. Although he couldn’t face the man as he was executed that morning, the survivor said that he wasn’t ashamed of his treachery.

But what he did regret occurred a few days later. His father, exhausted and debilitated, fell down in a ditch. Anyone who couldn’t stand up would be soon sent to the crematorium. The son wanted to pick up his father, but if he did so, he would be violating a Nazi regulation, incurring his own death. Torn between his allegiance to his father and his own survival, the son remorsefully chose to leave his father in the muck. And for all the ensuing years, he has never been able to forgive himself for selfishly deserting his father.

Blood may be thicker than water, but under dehumanizing duress, survival at any cost can break that bond as well. To survive or not to survive, that is the question that so many of the Jews and non-Jews alike grappled with as they withered away in the Nazi hell holes.



Day Two at Yad VaShem

Yesterday, my wife and I finished our self-guided tour of the Holocaust History Museum. I touched all of the exhibits—from the triple-decker inmate bunk beds to the carts and concrete blocks from the work camp projects. I saw gruesome pictures of skeletal remains of the living and the dead. I listened to survivors recounting their litany of Nazi atrocities. I read many accounts of the Righteous Gentiles who endangered and sometimes sacrificed their lives by harboring Jews throughout Europe. But none of these gut-churning and throat-constricting remembrances equaled the overpowering sense of loss I felt at the last station of the Holocaust’s own via dolorosa.

On one of the videos commemorating Israel’s becoming an independent state in 1948, a large group of grade-school children were singing Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem. Finally, there was something to truly celebrate, the perpetuation of the Jewish race. But as I watched the video for a second time, I noticed—on the upper right hand corner of the screen—an inscription: Munkacs, 1930’s. These children were not Israelis: they were Jewish Hungarians singing a traditional song (written in the 1880’s) about yearning for a homeland in Zion. How tragically ironic! How slight the possibility that any of these youngsters might have escaped the Holocaust to witness the creation of the state of Israel.

It was too late in the day for my wife and me to tour the Children’s Museum at the far end of Yad VaShem. Maybe that’s just as well. I need time to recover from the haunting video of the doomed school children who would soon fill the ranks of the six million murdered in the Holocaust.


This was our last day at Yad VaShem. Quite by accident, my wife located an enclave containing memorial plaques—some matter of fact, others poignant—composed by family members of Holocaust victims. Next we finished our tour of the Valley of the Communities, the massive towers listing every one of the annihilated Jewish populations in Nazi-controlled Europe. The only bright spot for me was that the Dutch town Vlaaringen that my wife and I once stayed in for a couple of weeks while on vacation was not inscribed on the pillars. The last thing we did was revisit the Children’s Memorial. We spent much more time there than we did on an earlier visit. What struck me the most was that the panoramically reflected lights representing the 1.5 million children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators seemed like innumerable sheets of stars glowing in the firmament.







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Self-Guided Walk May 13




Today we walked on a self-guided tour of one of the oldest sections of modern Jerusalem, HaNevi’im Street. We had been passed there before but had never methodically scoured the area. Most of the buildings were closed, so we could take pictures of the facades like the Church of St. Paul and the Biblical Institute. Other buildings were open (the hospitals) but there was nothing remarkable to see inside them. One place that was open, however, was well worth visiting inside: The Jerusalem Print Workshop, where authentic prints were and still are made. One of the workers spent lots of time with us outlining the old-fashioned and more modern processes involved. Marie understood the technical language much better than Stan did. Later on, Marie became quite fond of the quaint lodgings and courtyards at the Swedish Theological Institute.

After our tour of HaNevi’im, we crossed over to Jaffa Street—so named because it goes to Jaffa at the southern tip of Tel Aviv—where we took random pictures of everyday life on this teeming thoroughfare




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May 14: Another Sabbath in Jerusalem.

In the morning, we visited three nearby landmarks: St. Andrew’s Church and Guest House, Liberty Park, and the Inbal Hotel. St. Andrew’s Church was pretty bare bones, no bells and whistles here or in its guest house. But the ambience was welcoming.

Liberty Park had a few unusual embellishments: oddly shaped monoliths, a tucked-away amphitheater for kids’ theatrical productions, and a replica of our Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

The Inbal Hotel, easily viewed from Liberty Park, is ultra-modern and elegant. Some of its shops contain outstanding heirloom Judaica.

Later on, we toured Mt. Hertzl Military Cemetery. Besides seeing the tomb of Jewish notables like Zionist pioneer Theodore Herzl and assassinated Prime Minister Rabin, we roamed through the twenty or so sections devoted to the soldiers who died in various wars defending Israel. The markers along the routes succinctly paid tribute to these soldiers (from 16 year olds to men in their forties).

During our first two days at Yad Vashem, we were inside where no pictures were allowed. But this afternoon, we visited the outdoor sites—from the Warsaw Ghetto sculpture to the 2.5 acre massive walls on which were inscribed the names of the Jewish communities that the Nazis wiped out in the Holocaust.

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May 15 Hebrew University--Science Campus

Hebrew University Botanical Gardens

Today was a relatively easy day. We took only one bus directly to the Gardens. And in a couple of hours, we had toured all the acreage. Marie has a good eye for unusual flowers and recesses in the woods, so she took most of the pictures. Stan concentrated on the building facades and the strange juxtaposition of ancient rock and modern construction cranes. The gardens weren’t as flamboyant as the ones in Orchid Park in Northern Israel, but they were a delightful change from the bustling cityscapes that we walked through yesterday.




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Scrolls of Fire & Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus

"And I shall put My spirit in you and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land."

That is the translated inscription from Ezekial that is engraved on the Scrolls of Fire, a huge sculpture about the Holocaust and the consequent creation of the State of Israel.

At the bottom of the sculpture we see the pitifully dehumanized victims of the concentration camps. But as the layers of figures spiral upward, indomitable Israeli soldiers are lifting up the revitalized Jewish people--secular and religious--and an angel is leading the procession that signifies the transcendent might of Israel: the newly formed nation will squash any attempts to initiate another Holocaust.

We also visited a high-end harp factory. Each kind of harp, from doorbells to concert instruments--is exquisitely designed.

We owe everything we toured to a woman who befriended us earlier at Megiddo and escorted us yesterday (with her delightful children) to two sites that we on our own would never have seen.

Our visit to Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus was a delight. The abundant array of flowering plants along the main campus path was stunning. The uncultivated botanical garden, while not lush, contained copious indigenous foliage painstakingly marked at every turn. Within the garden were some well-documented ancient Hebrew tombs—with many ossuaries.

The modern campus buildings were architecturally diverse and named after famous Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel— Steve Lawrence, Edie Gorme, and Barbara Streisand, Harry Truman, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, George Bush. Adjacent to and within the buildings are avant-garde sculptures, one by the celebrated Henry Moore.

The locale of the University at the top of Mt. Scopus is magnificent. You can see the Judean Hills, the Dead Sea, the Old City, and parts of East and West Jerusalem.



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May 20: Dome of the Rock & Jewish Quarter of Old City

Today marked the beginning of our last week in Jerusalem. In the morning, we visited the Temple Mount. It was a much larger area than we had anticipated. Besides the famous mosques, there were many arches and seemingly endless pavement. The Dome of the Rock, which we had frequently seen at various angles from the Mount of Olives and from Hebrew University at Mount Scopus, up-close was impressive but not as spectacular if we had never had a glimpse of it from afar. We knew that we, as non-Muslims, were not allowed to go into the Dome of the Rock. As we neared the open-door entrance, we met someone who was figuring some religious beads. He reminded us that there was a reason why non-Muslims can’t enter the sanctuary, and of course we were aware of the reason for the prohibition: before we could respond, he said: “Christians and Jews are unclean.” The man could himself have been Christian, lamenting the fact that he accordingly was banned from the mosque. Or he could have been Muslim, asserting Islam’s superiority to other degenerate faiths. In either case, we lost our desire to continue touring the Temple Mount. I wasn’t too disappointed with our hasty exit. He was brooding over the fact that the Muslims for decades have allegedly bulldozed—in the environs of the Dome of the Rock—archaeological remains of the Second Temple, trying to eradicate any evidence that there even was such a structure. That way, the Muslims can claim sole jurisdiction over the Temple Mount. In fact, Middle-Eastern Muslim clerics and politicians have invariably denied that there ever was a Second Temple, never mind a First Temple. Their claims (especially about the Second Temple) are bogus according to dozens of excavations over the years that have found internationally authenticated remains of the Second Temple.

After leaving the Temple Mount, we wandered into the Jewish Quarter where we saw young people celebrating Jerusalem Day, the time when during the 1967 Six Day’s War, Israel gained control of Jerusalem. There was a lot of chanting, dancing, and waving of flags. One teenager was even wearing a flag.

After eating at our favorite restaurant in the Jewish Quarter, Keresh Kotel, we visited the Four Sephardic Synagogues, all of which the Jordanians had virtually destroyed during the 1948 War of Independence, all of which the Israelis have restored—with the help of splendid Jewish synagogue furnishings from Italy and Spain. I noted that during all of the Arab-Israeli wars, Israel has never bombed any Muslim religious site--in fact, a mosque is still standing next to the once-decimated Hurva Synagogue, the main reconstructed sanctuary in the Jewish Quarter.

Our last roundup in the Jewish Quarter consisted of visiting the unadorned Ramban and Chabad synagogues, marveling at the ornately carved doors of a closed kabalistic synagogue, and touring the Court Museum primarily devoted to Jewish domestic life in the Ottoman and British Mandate eras; many intricately crafted Torah scrolls were also on display.




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Squeezing the Last Once Out of Our Stay

This day was a nostalgic panorama of many places we have enjoyed frequenting: the cosmopolitan area around the King David Hotel, the quaint alleyways of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, the artistic accoutrements in The Jerusalem Theatre, and the luxurious sections of Rechavia.

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May 22--Our Anniversary

Today we meandered through the ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem, visited an Italian synagogue, and self-toured a museum of Judaica. My wife and I have seen clusters of the ultra-orthodox Chasidim and Haredim throughout Jerusalem, but never exclusively in their city within a city, Mea Shearim. I made sure to take pictures discretely—focusing only on buildings--because of the sect’s sensitivities. The narrow bustling streets, tenement outcroppings, and various small shops were a picturesque scene from Eastern Europe in the 19th century. Ironically, our only purchase was a couple of photos of typically reverent ultra-orthodox men; tourists are warned not to take pictures of any ultra-orthodox man, woman, or child in Mea Shearim.

Next, we visited the Italian Synagogue, so-called because all of the ornate furnishings—from the Ark to the light fixtures—either came from or were reproductions of Italian synagogues, primarily one in Venice. The large gold-leaf Ark was the most impressive one I have seen in Jerusalem.

Our last site was the Heichal Shlomo Museum. It contained a wealth of Jewish memorabilia. Three rooms were particularly striking. One housed a collection of anti-Semitic propaganda in the form of grotesquely caricatured Jewish figurines and graphic images of rapacious Jews found in newspaper clippings and posters around the world. Very disturbing stuff. Another room had a dozen or so hanging cloth bags containing irreparably damaged Torahs from Holocaust Europe. Each of the “deceased” was numbered as if it were a tattoo in the concentration camps.

But the most emotional moment for me occurred in part of a room containing a tallit that had survived many close calls since the Holocaust. The incident involved a ship with illegal Jewish immigrants who had tried to dock at Haifa during the Holocaust. The British, not allowing the refugees to disembark, demanded that the ship return to Nazi-dominated Europe, where the deportees would most likely be slaughtered. Some of the Zionist activists on board decided it was better to blow up the ship than send the immigrants back to a certain death—a situation akin to the mass suicides in Masada to avoid Roman slavery. Hundreds of Jews were killed (and 20 British soldiers) in the explosion, but the tallit years later was recovered intact in Haifa harbor.


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East Jerusalem May 23

Our first locale for the day was the Rockefeller Museum on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. It contained artifacts from Israel, beginning with the earliest periods in pre-human history and moving on to Holy Land relics from Israelite, Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic civilizations. I was surprisingly impressed by the variety of exquisitely crafted pottery, but I also enjoyed looking at the mosaics, statues, sarcophagi, and commemorative plaques. One of these plaques applauded a Roman legion that had helped crush the second (Bar Kochbar) Jewish revolt against the Empire.

The next venue was Zedekiah’s Cave, a few steps from the Damascus Gate of the Old City. The cave, once used as a quarry, is the largest artificial one in Israel. It extends under some of the paths in the Muslim Quarter. One of the areas in the cave is a mammoth hall filled today with tables and chairs for some sort of a gala affair. Occasionally, majestic limestone columns—some slender, some stout—bolster parts of the cave’s ceiling.

Just by accident, we came across the stately Notre Dame Jerusalem Center administered by the Vatican. This magnificent building is one of the most prominent sites in Jerusalem. The chapel on the second floor has an understated elegance, with a glowingly alabaster sculpture of the Virgin Mary as the centerpiece.



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Bethlehem

Off to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity and the attached St. Catherine’s Church. There was a humble grandeur in every area—from grotto to dome. You couldn’t help feel the reverence built into every crevice of the churches. But there were some uncomfortable moments at the church and on the way back home.

While I was sitting on a chair, waiting for my wife to finish her tour of the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity, a security guard suddenly came up to me. He frowned, gesturing for me to uncross my legs. I was unaware that I had breached decorum, but I wasn’t going to ask for an explanation or, God forbid, debate the situation with him: he had a quite visibly holstered gun not far from his right hand.

Walking to the bus stop from the Church of the Nativity was uneventful until we came to a crossroad that was the unholy mother of all intersections. Heaps of taxi cabs, cars, and people coming from all directions were trying to squeeze into a narrow passageway. My wife and I almost got stuck between four vehicles jockeying for position. Life isn’t easy for a pedestrian even if there is less congestion: earlier, a car backed up toward me so fast that I had to slam my hand on its trunk to avoid getting hit. Later on, that same car almost smacked into my wife as we joined motorists in the uphill climb to Manger Square. So being trapped in every-which-way-but-loose traffic was really unnerving. Eventually, however, we found an opening, rushed through it, and managed to land on a sliver of empty sidewalk. After that, we safely continued to the bus stop.

I have two suggestions for the Bethlehem tourism bureau. The town needs to construct a pedestrian bridge from the bus stop to the churches so that tourists aren’t trampled or run over on their sojourn. And the visitors’ center should have brochures itemizing inappropriate behavior in churches, including taboos in language, dress, and posture. Just getting to Manger Square can be an ordeal. Once inside the churches, a visitor shouldn’t have to fear that he or she is inadvertently violating a taboo.

Bethlehem should make sure that there will always be manageable room for tourists on their journey to and within some of the most revered sanctuaries in Christendom.

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Schindler's Grave & the Old City

In the morning we arrived at Mt. Zion Cemetery. The first time that my wife and I tried to visit Schindler’s grave on Mt. Zion, the gate was closed. A woman who was passing by told us that his tombstone was in one of the front rows. The next time we got to the cemetery, the gate was open. As we started looking for Schindler’s grave, a young pudgy teenager pointed to the back of the cemetery and motioned for us to follow him down some steps that twisted around a series of arches. At the time, there was no one else there, except a buddy of his who stayed near the entrance. I was hesitant, but my wife was willing—she always has more faith in people than I do. The boy probably only wanted a few shekels for his help, and he looked harmless enough; but we had been told by an adult that the grave was elsewhere. I tentatively kept up the rear, stopping the procession every so often to caution my wife, but to no avail. We eventually made it to the end of the cemetery. The boy pointed to the grave. Indeed, it was Schindler’s. Then he sat nearby, waiting. I felt like an ass for doubting him and for thinking that perhaps he wanted to lure us into a trap—with his friend as the lookout. I guess that all he wanted was a tip. But he seemed offended when my wife offered him some shekels, as if his good deed was self-serving. He shook his head, finally took the money, and trudged away. How often in a foreign country am I misled by the bogeyman of paranoia!

In the afternoon, we spent a lot of time at Wohl Archaeological Museum in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The most astounding finds were at a palatial home in a “suburb” of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. The partial ruins contained huge anterooms, entertainment halls, ritual bathing facilities, dining rooms, and a maze of bedrooms. Before leaving the Old City, we visited a memorial to the Jewish soldiers who died in the 1948 War of Independence: it was very sobering.




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Tour of Old Jerusalem

We returned our rental car. YEAH!! Now we are either on foot or bus. Today we set out on foot with no real plan. Since the car was returned near the YMCA, we went through it and climbed the stairs to the top for a photo shoot of the Old City. Next on to the King David Hotel.....oops...time for lunch...so we are back at the YMCA. Now this is unlike any YMCA I've ever been too. Take a look at the decorated ceiling--and the food was fantastic. In fact, Stan is even having dessert!! On foot to the Jaffa Gate, and we walk in just in time to pick up an afternoon tour! So, that settles it; we tour the Old City and then head home for dinner, a bath, and we're ready to hit the bed!! Lots of walking for our first day out.

Seeing that my wife and I were walking tentatively through a crowded section of the Old City, a genial old Jewish man popped up to give us some advice about how to maneuver through the maze of alleyways. He soon began chatting about where he lived and asked us where we were from. We warmly responded. As he was leaving us, this friendly soul mentioned that he was retired. I said that so were we. Then came the unexpected kicker: he needed a few shekels for supper. Go figure! He might have tugged at bit at my heartstrings, but he wasn’t going to tug at my wallet.

Not Exactly a Stairway to Heaven
My wife and I went with a tour group for a three-hour overview of the Old City of Jerusalem. Throughout our walk, we had to climb up and down hundreds of stairs between and within the Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Quarters. I was getting pretty well adjusted to this regimen by the time I took my last bathroom break down yet another stairway.
On the way back, I trod up the stairs until I noticed that a couple of women had stopped to let me through a gate at another level. I unthinkingly passed through it, closed it, and then began climbing once again. Suddenly, I realized that I had wandered too far away from the exit where my wife was awaiting my return. As I descended to open the gate, I grabbed onto the handle. It wouldn’t budge, whether I jerked it up or down.
No one was nearby to help me get through, so I hollered for my wife. She promptly arrived. Used to my endearingly bumbling ways (I once locked myself in a men’s room in Paris), she wasn’t surprised at my predicament. Sometimes, she encourages me to extricate myself from the fixes I get into; sometimes, she takes over and frees me. Before she had a chance to decide which option she’d choose, a man came towards me from above the landing. He gestured for me to press a button a few feet up the stairs. I hurriedly did so, but the gate would not open. This guy was obviously messing with me. I was convinced that I needed a key to open the gate from the inside. And he certainly wasn’t going to let me use his. I was beginning to feel a bit queasy being trapped behind bars with a man who liked to taunt me. But then he shook his head and said to press the upper part of the button. How was I supposed to know that the button had two different pressure points? I did as he indicated. Immediately, there was a buzz, and the gate opened as I pushed the handle. I was tremendously relieved; the man smiled, and I thanked him as I left with my wife.
For three hours, I had adroitly maneuvered around myriads of steps, never making a false move, never getting lost. Every time that I pat myself on the back, I do something foolish the next moment. Usually my self-congratulation leads to self-flagellation. But not today. I was an intruder on the stairs of someone’s private residence. Yet after the resident heard me shout for help, he quickly came to my aid, even though I was a clueless tourist—and he had probably seen plenty of them over the years.
The tour guide often remarked that he hoped that the conflicts in Jerusalem would ultimately be peacefully resolved and usher in a happy ending to an age-old bitter saga. Well, I’d like to think that today a stranger and I made one small step in that direction.



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April 17, Tour of Jerusalem outside the Old City

Today our main objective was to get a monthly pass for the bus system. We headed first to the Central Bus Station where Stan got a yarmulke to cover his bald spot....We got the monthly card charged, had a bite of lunch, and then headed for the tour of West Jerusalem outside the Old City. As we road along, we had head phones to listen to the places we were seeing, and I took pictures of whatever we passed. It turned from very warm to very cold in a matter of a half hour. We were glad to get home and be warm before the day was done, but we had a good time.

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Visiting the Israel Museum

The Israel Museum is an amazing place. We arrived early in the morning and used our time to view just a few places and really concentrate on them. We were unable to take pictures inside the dome that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, but that was where we spent about half the day.

Following a long visit with those ancient texts, we moved into the antiquities section. We once again used our time to concentrate on what we were most interested in: Jewish history. So many of the things on display were found at the site digs we had visited in the first part of our trip. We were thrilled to see the items here on display. The finds have been so extensive...WOW.....

Finally we visited the Jewish Art & Life section. Here we saw items of clothing and worship from around the world.

What a wonderful day it was....adding yet another layer to our understanding of the heritage of this amazing land.

Stan's reflections: It's hard for me not to cry at some of the exhibits at the Israel Museum. In one glassed-in case, at the end of a long exhibition of Jewish memorabilia, I was not prepared to see a few pieces of cloth imprinted with the yellow Star of David, a prelude to the mass extermination of the Jews. Even though I knew that if I were born in Nazi-dominated Europe in 1943 instead of in America (my grandparents emigrated from Russia 50 years earlier), I would most likely have been a victim of the Final Solution, I fended off crying in the presence of the foreboding Yellow Star of David.

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The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa is the traditional route Jesus followed from Pilate's Judgement to Calvary Hill. Along the path there are chapels for reflection.

Station 1 & 2
The path begins in the site which recalls where Jesus was condemned and crowned with thorns and then begins the Way of the Cross at the Roman road with the striated stones.

Station 3: Jesus falls under the Cross for the first time.
Station 4: Jesus meets his mother.
Station 5: Simon is forced to carry the Cross.

A digression: We realized we were close to Bethesda with its remains of baths where the ill came to be healed. Jesus met and healed a paralytic here. We visited Bethesda and St. Anne's Basilica where one listened as many pilgrims sang. Their voices echoed and added to the overall awe we felt in this place. Below was the crypt dedicated to Mary's birth.
Station 6: Veronica wipes the sweat from Jesus' face.
Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time.
Station 8: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me"
Station 9: Jesus falls for the third time.

The last five stations are in the Basilica.
Station 10: Jesus is stripped of His garments.
Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
Station 12: Jesus dies on the Cross.
Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
[Stone of Annointment where they put Jesus after his death]
Station 14: Jesus is laid in the Tomb. Site of Jesus' burial and the Resurrection, housed in its own chapel.

It was getting late, so we decided to return to the Basilica on another day to study and reflect. We were too hungry to stay much longer. So off we went to eat, and as our day ended, the Sabbath was just beginning at the Western Wall. We spent some time praying and listening to the songs of Praise from the Jews as they began their Friday night rituals.

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April 21: Shabbat Stroll

Shabbat in Jerusalem. No buses are running,there are very few cars, all the stores are closed, and people are either strolling with their families or inside with their families.

An Exercise in Mobility

On a Sabbath afternoon yesterday in Jerusalem, I decided to walk vigorously on the new extra wide bike/pedestrian path nearby, an area that is sparsely populated during the week. At first, there was lots of room as I took my strides. But soon the place got dangerously crowded with little kids erratically riding trikes, older kids zipping around on bikes, spastic dogs given free rein on long leashes, parents pushing super-wide baby strollers between lanes, other parents running after supercharged toddlers. In order to keep my balance and avoid collisions, I had to dodge, dart, duck, squirm, and swivel for most of my walk. I remained intact but continued to be on edge until I saw some empty space near the end of my last lap. But my relief was interrupted. An old man who had been sitting with three women on a bench got up to urinate against a wall just as I passed by. I just missed the splash. Maybe next Saturday, I’ll take a sabbatical from walking the gauntlet.



We decide to take a stroll in the Rekhavya neighborhood, known for its beautiful houses and the Jerusalem Theatre. We return home via the German Colony and Emek Refaim Street where we live. We notice the buildings in a new way---and are astounded by the lack of street and pedestrian traffic.

Israel is serious about Shabbat. We returned home, had lunch and I took a short nap. Then we decided to head back toward the Old City passing through the park.

Once inside the Old City, we headed back to the Basilica where we finished touring the place of Christ's crucifixion, the stone on which he was placed and the tomb where he was later laid to rest.

We were fortunate to be there when several monks were conducting a service and to join the pilgrims to this most Holy place. It was quite moving to place my hand on the tomb of Jesus.

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Mount of Olives & Garden of Gethsemane

Our journey starts with a descent into the Valley of Jehoshaphat where the dead will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. The valley sides are covered with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim graves. The large tomb is from the 1st century BC. Absalom's Tomb contains King David's rebellious son, Absalom. From there we climb to the top of the valley: we visit
the Church of St. Mary Magdalene,the Basilica of the Agony, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tomb of the Virgin, the Dominus Flevit Chapel [The Lord Wept], and the Jewish Cemeteries--then back down to where we started our journey.

It was a quiet day for us both, holding much meaning. We stopped often, sat and meditated.

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April 23: Hadassah Hospital

Today we went to see the famous Marc Chagall windows at the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. Following that we decided to go to the Wall to schedule a tour of the Tunnels since tickets need to be purchased in advance.

In the evening we walked to a choral concert at the Jerusalem Theatre. Good day.

We did see preparations for the Memorial celebration in the Jewish Quarter. While we knew it was going to be tomorrow night, we were reminded once again that the Old City is a place we don't want to be near tomorrow because of possibly violent Arab demonstrations against Israel's right to exist.

Morning Blues
This morning my wife woke up before I did—a rare occurrence. But only after I heard the computer-generated voice say “It’s 10 o’clock” did I get alarmed. I had slept almost 10 hours—another rare occurrence. Damn! As my wife and I had previously deliberated, we were supposed to go no later than 10:30 to see Marc Chagall’s twelve stained-glass windows representing the tribes of Israel. Slightly disoriented, I labored out of bed to make some coffee. When I saw my wife at her computer, I asked her why she had let my stay in bed so long. She, not at all concerned, said that she had just gotten up herself. Well, she might be uncharacteristically blasé about our appointment, but I rushed (only after the coffee kicked in) to get ready. After zipping through my morning ablutions, thrashing around to find my clothes, and not too delicately eating my breakfast, I realized that it was indeed too late to view Chagall’s masterwork at the Hadassah Hospital synagogue in Ein Kerem. And yet my wife, who I discovered was still in her nightgown and had only sipped a bit of coffee, seemed quite content.
We now had only a few hours before attending a 5:00 chamber music concert at the nearby Jerusalem Theater. It was my responsibility to figure out where to go and how to get back in time. First I consulted my watch. Another setback. It was almost three hours slow, and I had just had a new battery put in it yesterday. Damn! It must be broken. My wife didn’t bring hers to Israel, and our cell phones are inactive as well. I began to say Kaddish for my old, reliable timepiece until I looked up. For the first time this morning, I noticed the kitchen wall clock. The time was 8:15, the same time that my watch had indicated. How could my watch and the clock both be three hours slow? Feeling as if I were in the Twilight Zone, I then asked my wife what was the real time. She serenely said that it was still early. I had evidently misheard the time voiced by the computer while I was wriggling around in bed, half asleep.
Now I have a question. Did my wife knowingly let me think that we had only a few minutes to take the bus to the hospital synagogue, or was she so caught up in her computer emails that she was oblivious to my plight? I think I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt—otherwise, I might need the benefit of clergy.

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April 24 & 25 Shopping and More

Tuesday in Jerusalem was the Memorial for the soldiers who died to bring independence to Israel. We went shopping at the large Jerusalem Mall to stay out of the crowds and any potential problems. At one point during the day, a siren rang out, and traffic stopped for a moment of silence.
Later in the day we went to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. We so enjoyed the stained glass windows and the beautiful interior. We also met a nice guy at the door who invited us to come to a memorial service for the soldiers. We went that night and the Cantor, Chaim Adler, was amazing.

The Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Church was a site to behold. It was very ornate, and we spent quite some time there in meditation. Later we visited the Underground Prisoners Museum. This is where many Jewish Zionists who fought against the British were arrested. Near the very end, we became very emotional when we saw pictures of some of the young men who were held and executed here.
After regaining our composure,
we had a delightful lunch with some time for people watching, enjoyed the paintings at the Museum of Psalms, and then finished up later at the Shuk.

Because the Jerusalem bus system is rapidly evolving, the city has decided to defer issuing bus maps. My wife and I don’t have a printer at our apartment, so we can’t download any of the innumerable Egged bus schedules. But even if we could, there would still be lots of confusion.



First of all, the Egged trip planner website doesn’t include Anglicized names of some famous attractions. Unless we were aware that the Hebrew equivalent of the Mount of Olives is Har HaZeitim, we couldn’t determine how to get there by bus. Or, despite knowing, for example, that the Holocaust Museum’s Hebrew name is Yad Vashem, we were still befuddled because there are no references to either place name on the bus schedule. Only after scouring the internet did we learn that we have to go to Mt. Herzl first and then take a shuttle to the Yad Vashem.



Here are some other mind boggling conundrums: Often on the Egged website, the bus station stop has a different name from the one that indicates where the stop is located: Shvei Israel is the name of the bus stop at Safra Square, the municipal headquarters of West Jerusalem. Why not simplify things by calling the bus stop Safra Square? And then there are the arbitrary transposition of letters between a listing on the city map site and the Egged website: Hillel Street and Halel Street turn out to be the same street.



But even when my wife and I had accurate data, and we were at the right bus stop at the right time, we were once left stranded for a while. After waiting the required fifteen minutes for a bus to take us home from the Israel Museum, we spied one coming in our direction. When it stopped in front of us, we asked the bus driver if, as the schedule indicated, he was going to the central bus station where we needed to transfer to get home. Perplexed, he said that he didn’t know if he was going there. He then turned to one of the passengers, spoke some Hebrew to him, and then told us that the bus didn’t go to that spot. What a crock! We had to endure another fifteen minutes until a bus with that same route number approached. The driver said of course he would drop us off at the bus station—that was one of his routine stops.



Sure, our bus mishaps have at times been frustrating. And if my wife and I had only two weeks in Jerusalem, we’d regret that we had squandered such valuable time in our quixotic quest to configure and figure out the bus system. But we are here for six weeks. We can afford to lose a few hours a day waiting for a non-existent bus or riding one apparently to nowhere. And in the process, bus station or no bus station, we are getting more acquainted with one of Jerusalem’s unheralded labyrinths.


Chaim Adler, the chief cantor at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, has such a magnificent voice that I hate to miss one note of his chanting, from his falsetto riffs to his lower register exclamations. But last night, there were some roadblocks. At first, I heard two young girls across the aisle babbling to their father. I quickly sought a haven at the other side of the synagogue. For a while, I was able to concentrate on the cantorial singing. A man two seats from me was silent, except for a murmur or two while he was davening. But when he noticed that I had my English-Hebrew prayer book turned to the wrong page, he corrected me. I thanked him and continued to fixate on the cantor. My new-found friend, however, started to pump me for information about my life. I answered monosyllabically for a moment and then turned my whole body toward the cantor. I obviously did not want to be disturbed, but the man wouldn’t let go. He kept questioning me, and I kept mostly ignoring him. Why would he want to talk to me instead of paying attention to a cantor who had such a glorious voice? Even if the cantor were mediocre, shouldn’t the common decency to be quietly respectful prevail over kibitzing? The man, realizing that I was not going to humor him as much as he liked, seemed offended. He abruptly said Shabbat Shalom and left the synagogue mid-way in the service.
Other people near me talked to one another intermittently as well. Where has all the reverence gone? How spoiled can they be? Don’t they appreciate the fact that they have the honor to be in the presence of one of the greatest cantors in the world?


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April 27: Mount of Olives Revisited, Mt. Zion, Services

Today we headed again for the Mount of Olives. It was our first ride on an Arab bus. Just before getting on, we took a couple of pictures at the Damascus Gate. We were left off in front of the Chapel of the Ascension. You see someone kneeling to kiss the spot where Jesus was to have risen to heaven. Then on to the Church of the Paternoster where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer.

We walked back to the Damascus gate and headed to Mt. Zion to see the Dormition Abbey where the Virgin Mary died. St. Peter in Gallicantu Church where St. Peter denied Christ was our next stop.
Then we moved on to the King David Hotel to scan the plaques on the floor of the corridor of fame--celebrities like Richard Gere and statesmen like Winston Churchill were just some of the names inscribed there.

We ate dinner out and left for another service at the
Great Synagogue with Cantor Chaim Adler.

The last time we hoofed it up to the Mount of Olives, my wife and I were too worn out to see the last two churches at the summit. So today, we decided to take the only inexpensive way to the top: public Arab bus 75, whose headquarters are located next to the Old City’s Damascus Gate. At first, I regretted taking this shortcut.



We waited in the heat for almost 20 minutes for an Israeli bus to get us to the Damascus Gate. We finally gave up and walked instead to the rendezvous point at the Arab bus station. Many bus numbers were listed on the signs around the station, but not 75, the only one that traveled to the Mount of Olives. Nor could we determine where to catch Bus 75—if it really existed despite what the tour guides stated—because all of the bus booths down the road had blanked-out bus numbers. But then we thought we got lucky. My wife spotted Bus 75 as it turned around a rotary and headed towards us. We waved at the driver to stop, but he ignored us. By this time, I was beginning to unravel. My wife, however, whose abiding virtue is persistence, would never give up, even if it meant trying to flag down every Bus 75 as we trudged forward on our so-far ill-omened way to the Mount of Olives.



Fortunately, we got an unexpected break. A bus driver for bus 76, who saw us wandering about, asked us where we were going. When we said that we needed to be on Bus 75, he promised to help us. All of a sudden, a bus 75 drove by going in the opposite direction. Our Good Samaritan persuaded the other driver to stop and wait for my wife and me: we thanked him and rushed around a long median barrier to alight on our most sought after ride. The Bus 75 driver very graciously welcomed us and took us right next to the Church of the Paternoster.



At that site, we saw dozens of plaques in foreign languages that transcribed the Lord’s Prayer. It was a powerful testament of faith. And the church itself was resplendent with sanctity. But what impressed me the most about our day up to that point and beyond were the two Arab bus drivers who showed so much kindness to a couple of beleaguered tourists. To that outpouring of humanity, I say amen.

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April 29: Jewish Quarter

We first went to the Western Wall where I blessed the rings for Stan and Brian. Then we saw the amazing Chain of Generations. This dramatic display of glass sculptures showed and explained the history of the Jews from the first Temple to today. The only words on the sculptures were names of those Jews who came before. The destruction of the first temple and then the rebuilding of Israel are shown.

After finishing with the first museum, we went with a tour guide through the tunnels along the Wall where it is possible that the First and Second Temples were located. It was a wonderful tour full of historical insights. Stan entered the Wall near the Great Temple and where the Dome of the Rock is located.

After a very nice lunch, we set off to explore the Jewish Quarter. Within minutes we arrived at Hurva Temple and discovered that within 20 minutes there would be a tour in English. We headed down to buy a ticket and then explored the history of the Hurva Temple in the Jewish Quarter. We ended our day by strolling though the Jewish Quarter, and got gifts for Erin, Erica, & Brittany. It was a great day in Jerusalem.

I've noticed throughout our time here in Israel that instead of being hard to worship as it is in America, you are surrounded with so many holy sites and so many people wearing reminders of their devotion to God that it is hard not to remember God as you journey through the day. Everywhere you go, there are yarmulkes, black hats, crosses, Stars of David, frocks, bekishes, and shtreimels. You see most people carrying a copy of the Bible or Torah. Sometimes, their heads are bowed in prayer. It is quite moving to see and feel the entire reverent heart beat of Jerusalem. So unlike America.

Yesterday I came close to tears at the Chain of Generation exhibition/drama commemorating the survival of the Jewish people. A searing Holocaust story as a backdrop to the reflections of an Israeli soldier who helped liberate Jerusalem made my throat tighten. But my eyes were only slightly moist.

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April 30: Holy Cross Monastery

We headed to the Holy Cross Monastery. This is the designated spot where the tree was grown that made the Cross of Christ. The story is fascinating and is copied in the first few slides. The inside of the Monastery is decorated with many paintings and inspires meditation.

We returned home and got ready for the Monday night classical concert just up the street from us. It was FANTASTIC tonight. What a treat.

Reflections:

America is secular.....even though we hear in the news that we are a Christian nation. Other than a church on every corner, especially in the South, I see little evidence of Christianity.

Israel is a country of 75% Jews, 20% Muslims, and 5% Christians; and you can't miss their connection to their respective faiths. It's so visible everywhere you go here. No, I don't think I am any more open to the divine than I ever have been.....I just see more evidence of praise for the divine around me here in Israel than there is in America or in Europe or Japan where I have lived or traveled.

Now for the US:
79.2% Christian [26.3% Evangelical Christian; 23.9% Catholic; Mainline Protestant 18.1%; 6.9% historical Black Churches; 1.7% Morman; Greek Orthodox .6% Other Christian .3% Jehova Witnesses .7%;
1.7% Jews
.6% Muslims
.7% Buddists
.4% Hindus
1.2% Other Faiths

Yes, it could be argued that Christians [on the whole] do not wear different clothes, special hats, special colors of clothes, or other outside trappings of their religion. [Except for perhaps the ultra-conservative Amis. I understand that. And I know that some Christians go to church on Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and even again on Thursday night. But it is so obvious that people in America are distracted and pulled in so many directions, whereas in Israel, [outside of Tel Aviv] the Yeshivas on every street are busy throughout the day. Or pass any Muslim area: you will see a full house at the mosques 5 times a day as worshippers gather to say prayers. That, put quite simply, is the difference I am observing.

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East Jerusalem & Goodbye to Israel....GOING HOME

Back in East Jerusalem, we were wowed by The Cathedral of St. George. It was the only gothic church we have seen in northern Israel and in Jerusalem. The architectural splendor inside and outside was complemented by sumptuous gardens surrounding a few courtyards.
Our last site was the American Colony Hotel founded by European Protestants in the late 1800’s seeking a haven for their Christian simplicity while offering a haven for the poor and the downtrodden Jerusalemites. The grandly modest hotel has a comfortable old-world feel to it.

May 25: A fitting end to our stay in Israel was a Classical Music Marathon!! We went to the Jerusalem Theater at 10:30 am for continuous concerts lasting until 4:00 that afternoon.

May 26: Packing to go home, and leaving for the airport the next morning at 6:45. It's sad to leave Israel, but we are anxious to see our sweet grandchildren.

We finally packed up and headed for home. We're glad to be back with our family. But before we left, we had one last marathon of classical music: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. WOW....and the quality was excellent.



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