Today was a very long day with a very large amount of walking, both in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and as well as in the Old City of Jerusalem. The day started here in Jerusalem, at the hotel we'll be spending the final four days here in Israel in. Breakfast was delicious, and Jessica Ricci would be delighted to know that I intact had grapefruit. We left earlier than usual, and headed to Bethlehem, which I mentioned before is Palestinian. We had to get off our lovely tour bus and say good-bye to our driver and get on a Palestinian Bethlehem bus to visit this city. I'm not well educated on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict so I can't speak much on this, but I can direct you my friends to wikipedia where I'm sure much more will be learnt. I know that is what I'll be doing once I return to Canada in seven days and have more time to spend on the internet. For now, all I do is write my blog post and check Facebook for probably half an hour each night before I sleep.
Once we entered Bethlehem we went straight to the Nativity Church, the traditional location of the birth of Jesus Christ. It's called traditional because no one knows where this even took place, but this is where is it remembered. This Church is oldest Church in Christianity, and was established by Byzantine Christians. This Church is shared by three different denominations, the Armenians, the Greeks and the Catholics. Everywhere here there are old beggars, and it nearly breaks my heart to say no. I understand it's the exact same as back home in Canada, but it still makes me feel badly when I say no to them. We left the Nativity Church and headed to the Good Shepherds Store, an Arab Christian family that live in Bethlehem and runs this gigantic place full of olive wood carvings, metal items and Dead Sea spa items. It was here that I bought a mezuzah for my dear friend Dayna, and as well as some small items for various people back home (and for myself.. obviously). There were many street pedlars in the parking lot, selling Jerusalem bags and many different necklaces. Pastor Jonathan had been caught by them and bought many necklaces, and he so generously gave one to me. I will never forget this man, as he and the gentleman he is travelling with, David, have such a long background story.
From Bethlehem, we travelled to the Old City of Jerusalem in the heart of the Jewish quarter. This has been one of the highlights of the trip for me, as it was so rich with culture and busy with people and there was so much history to learn. As we ate lunch and browsed some of the stores for a few minutes, there were bar mitzvahs passing by, which was such a lovely thing to experience, especially because my dearest little brother is turning thirteen next month, which also makes me feel so old. We visited the Wailing Wall, which was so extremely busy with both tourists and people that live in Israel alike. It was hilarious because the Texan man, Jacob, accidentally went to the women's side of the Wailing Wall. I have never seen a man blush so much before as he was being rushed out by the women around him.
After spending only a few minutes at the Wailing Wall, we went underground to explore the tunnels of the Western Wall. To go into these tunnels, we needed to book our appointment eight months in advance - how crazy is that! The Wailing Wall is only a small section of the Western Wall plaza. There is still an ancient street on top of the bridge that is actually used in modern day for regular traffic. The fortress that was built on top of these tunnels is called the Antonio fortress, named for Marc Antony, who was a good friend of Harold the Great. The fortress was knocked down and levelled in 70AD by the Romans, who levelled everything looking for gold and treasures, and the took everything.
We exited the tunnels and walked through the Via Dolorosa on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, This is a traditional location on the tour, as it is believed to over the small hill of Golgotha, it apparently contains the rock on which Jesus was anointed, and contents the cave of Joseph. This Church is quite interesting as it is home to six different denominations, Ethiopia, Syria, Egyptian (Coptic's), Armenia, Greece and the Catholics. This place was full of people from every place on Earth, all hoping to touch this stone where apparently Jesus was anointed. I'm not quite sure what I think about this, but it was amusing to watch if anything.
From here we went to Caiaphias' House - which isn't really a house but a Catholic Church on a piece of land that is said to have a religiously historical important place. There really isn't anything interesting to say about this.. I took this time to draw some pictures in my notebook as it was the end of a very long day and I was losing my attention span.
It's now nearly 9:30pm and I'm sitting here in the lobby at the hotel in Jerusalem so I can't post this, but I keep getting distracted by people in the group asking me questions. When you're the only person under 40, you are the most interesting thing other than the tour and all I can say is that the Americans were very amused when I returned a one dollar bill to one of them and accidentally called it a Loonie. Oh well. Three more days here in Israel before we head to Egypt.
|Heading into the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem|
|The anointment stone in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre|
|The Arab side of Jerusalem|