Jerusalem Departure

We finished packing, and walked out through Jaffa Gate one more time. This time we were schlepping the heavy suitcase.

I bought the tram tickets with 10-shekel coins, instead of a card, to use them up. The timing worked out well, as we caught the first tram with little wait time.

But the timing didn’t look good for catching the 8:03 train to Ben Gurion Airport. People were running down the steps, without a 50 pound suitcase. And they didn’t even have to buy tickets.

Amazingly, the ticket machine worked smoothly, and within a minute, we had tickets in hand. We rejoined the mad rush to the platform.

The train was already waiting. We found a spot to stash the suitcase, and were soon seated across the aisle from each in the only adjacent seats remaining in the car.

We watched the scenery of Israel flash by the windows. Desert, orchards, bee hives, the shephala, all appeared in rapid sequence.

Before we knew it, we were at the airport. We followed signs to terminal 3, and rode the elevator to floor 3.

The security questioner was a newbie, with an instructor by her side. We answered her questions, and they let us proceed. The suitcase was a couple of kilos over, but this agent said it was ok.

Then it was through the security. Julia’s hair pins beeped. When she told them she cant take them out, a lady wanded her and let her through.

We spent a few more shekels for breakfast. Chocolate croissant to share, and a latte and cappuccino.

Julia used the airport wifi to catch up on her WhatsApp messages. We were soon on the plane. Looks like the flight won’t take the full 12 hours.

Thanks for following our trip. We feel better equipped for planning a tour next November. Stay tuned for more posts about Israel. But, don’t expect them every day.



Ein Gedi

We left the apartment early this morning, exiting the Old City through Jaffa Gate in the golden light of sunup. We rode the tram several stops to Central Station. Unfortunately the 7:00 bus to Eilat was too full to stop at Ein Gedi, so we had to wait for the 8:00 bus.

The ride from Jerusalem to Ein Gedi is an hour and a quarter.

We saw a herd of ibex goats as we walked across the parking lot.

We walked back Wadi David. We got our feet wet in a pool at one of the falls. We meandered on back to David’s Waterfall. It was amazing to think that some of David’s inspiration for the Psalms came from here.

Leaving David’s Waterfall, we continued to higher elevations. The trail varied from easy walking to tough climbing. The views became spectacular. We admired the ambition of the hikers on distant cliffs.

We filled our water bottle at the Shulamite spring. We continued to part of the Zafitt trail, to an overlook. The Dead Sea was glistening far below us. The Moabite mountains were just visible through the haze.

Ein Gedi spring had a nice clear pool.

We started the downhill climb. Ruins of a synagogue and ancient village were stops along the way.

We caught the bus to Jerusalem and came in from the south just as the sun was setting. Did you know the national bird of Israel is the building crane?

We stopped at a market for some last minute Israel purchases.

Then back through Jaffa Gate to our apartment.



We met Tova this morning for a trip to Hebron. We stopped on the way at a lookout with a great view of Jerusalem from the south.

We saw the protective fence along highway 60 to protect drivers from molotov cocktails and rocks being thrown at them.

The grape harvest is over. We saw plenty of vineyards along the way.

We went to the location of Machpelah, where Abraham purchased the cave for a burial place. Herod built one of his massive stone structures over the spot. It has the same type of smoothly finished and beveled stones we saw in the Western Wall back in Jerusalem.

The tomb monuments are not the actual tombs, but are inside this massive structure over the burial cave.

Also inside Herod’s walls is a mosque. Tova said she couldn’t go in, but we could. We were never inside one before, so we went. Julia was helped into a special garment with a hood. A Muslim man who spoke English and wore American type clothes was quite eager to give us a tour.

From the Tomb of the Patriarchs we went to see Tova’s friend, David Wilder. A Jew living in Hebron for many years, he has seen conditions between Arabs and Israelis change over the years. He doesn’t like the term settler, with the negative connotation given by the press, and the idea of being temporary. He showed the boxes outside his windows that used to be filled with sandbags.

One of his books has a hole in it from a sniper bullet. The shooting stopped when the army took control of the hills around Hebron.

A museum in the same building had presentations about the history of Hebron, including the 1929 massacre of the Jews.

Tel Hebron has finds from Abraham’s time, and even earlier Canaanite times. Here are the steps likely leading up to the city gate. Further excavation is prohibited for now.

It’s interesting how many synagogues have been destroyed and rebuilt. Here’s a view inside a small one in Hebron, with Torah scrolls rescued from a fire.

On the way back to Jerusalem we stopped outside of Bethlehem to see the monument for Rachel’s tomb. Tova explained to us that Jews do not visit these sites to pray to the dead people, or to saints. They are praying to God, but hoping the good favor shown by God to the patriarchs and matriarchs will remind Him to do the same for them.

Here’s a picture, shared by David Wilder, showing the celebration this past weekend. Each year, when the weekly reading of the Torah includes Genesis 23, tens of thousands of Jews gather here for celebration.


Ramparts Walk, Garden Tomb

One of the many things I didn’t mention yesterday is the Blue and White Gallery. Nothing to do with the political party. 😀 Udi was the first Jewish boy to live in the Old City when it was once again opened to Jews after the Six Day War. When I first saw his display, I assumed he is a Christian. He said, no, he is a Jew, but has Jesus in his heart. He told us his story of being sick for a long time. Then a group of Korean Christians showed up one day and prayed for him. Three weeks later he was well again. I bought a lenticular frame with two paintings, one of a lion, the other of a lamb. As your viewing angle changes, you see one, and then the other. Jesus is depicted in the Bible as both a lamb and a lion.

We went out through Jaffa Gate into the new city.

We spent some time worshipping with the Narkis Street congregation. They’ve been in Jerusalem for nearly a century. The group includes Christians from a number of different nationalities, including Israeli, Palestinian, and others. They worship on Saturday because they are located in a predominantly Jewish area, not because of Torah observance.

We had tickets for the Friends of Zion Museum. The tour included a number of multimedia presentations.

We reentered the Old City through Jaffa Gate.

We bought tickets for the ramparts walk. This lets you enter the fenced walkway on top of the city walls.

Here you can see all three religions. The Dome of the Rock, the domed Hurva Synagogue, and Christian churches with a cross on the far right.

To finish out the day, we stopped in at the Garden Tomb and Skull Hill. Thinking of the awful price Jesus paid for our salvation should make us realize something of His great love. Our love for Him should outweigh whatever else we hold dear. Thinking of the empty tomb reminds us of the power of the resurrection, and that power is there for us. Praise God!



Today is Friday, so why this title? The Jewish days start at sundown, not midnight, or sunup. So Shabbat started on this blog day.

Our first stop was the Hurva Synagogue. Well, the first major stop. But you already knew this is a real time blog, and we’re skipping lots of stories and pictures, right? Maybe some will come later in slide presentations. And we plan to offer Israel tours sometime, Lord willing.

The Hurva Synagogue was built and destroyed twice. The most recent destruction was in 1948. The current (third) building is a copy of that one, and was completed in 2010. It has lookout decks circling the structure both inside and outside.

We moved into another neighborhood this afternoon. It’s very near a school. We could see children “playing in the streets” of the city.

We spent the evening with Tova, our Airbnb host, an Orthodox Jewess, who is a tour guide.

The start of Shabbat is marked by the candle lighting ceremony, which is always done by the women.

Then she took us to a friend’s house with a rooftop/balcony overlooking the Western Wall.

We had a spectacular view of the Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock, and the people crowding into the Western Wall. It is a time of celebration and joy.

We returned to Tova’s place for the Shabbat dinner. It includes reciting and singing various blessings in Hebrew throughout the meal. She had books with the Hebrew, the transliteration, and the English. The pages started at what we call the back of the book.

Out of respect for Orthodox observance of Sabbath, I didn’t take any pictures.

We discussed some of the similarities and differences of our faiths. She has a friend who moved from Sweden staying with her. The four of us had a very enjoyable time. We discussed some Jewish insights of the story of Isaac getting a wife.



South Steps and Western Wall Tunnel

One of the first places we visited today was Zion Gate. Pockmarked with battle scars, it’s not the prettiest, but shows steadfastness.

We also saw the Dung Gate. There were a lot of bar mitzvah celebrations nearby. But they enter through another, smaller gate.

We walked down a very steep hill to the Siloam Pool.

From the pool, the Pilgrimage Road led up hill to the temple. We walked a short stretch that has been excavated.

We walked through a drainage tunnel to an opening in David’s City. We watched an archeological dig in progress there.

Next stop was the archeological park next to Temple Mount.

Inside a mikva

The highlight of the park is the south steps of the temple. Some of the steps are original. This is one place they say you can be pretty sure Jesus really walked here. It is also likely where Peter preached his sermon on Pentecost.

Last but not least, we took the Western Wall Tunnel tour. This tunnel follows the entire length of the western wall of Temple Mount. The accessible portion usually called the Western Wall is only 10% of the total length. The largest stones are 40 feet long and 10 feet high, weighing 650 tons.


Temple Mount

This morning we left our Jaffa Street apartment and walked to Tova’s place in Old City, our home for the next couple of days. We met Ohri, our guide for the day.

First stop was Temple Mount. We went through a security check point, and up the walkway.

We saw the Al Aqsa mosque. The largest portion of the mosque is actually underground. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter.

We saw a group of the “temple faithful,” Jews who want to maintain Jewish presence on the temple site. They are watched closely to make sure they don’t break any rules.

The Eastern Gate is fascinating. Yesterday we stood outside and looked at the gates blocked to prevent entry. Today we stood “just inside the Eastern Gate.”

The Dome of the Rock is the centerpiece of Temple Mount. This magnificent octagonal structure was built in 691 AD.

We had to be off Temple Mount by 10:30. We visited the Small Wailing Wall, which is actually closer to the temple location than the Western Wall.

We enjoyed a lunch of hummus and falafel. From there we went to a location on Via Dolorosa we were interested in seeing. Sisters of Zion convent has some historical significance, the location of the Antonia Fortress. Below the building is stone pavement long believed to date to Jesus’ day. The stone with the diagram of a Roman soldiers’ game is now thought to date from to around 130 AD.

More stops included church of the Holy Sepulchre and a rooftop overlook.


Walking Jerusalem

When I stepped outside our apartment this morning, I smelled the distinctive aroma of roasting coffee. Sure enough, a small coffee shop. We ordered a cappuccino and a filtered coffee, and were on our way.

We walked toward Old City, of course, entering through Jaffa Gate. We wanted to explore the Old City on our way to the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

We walked through the market area. We exited through Damascus Gate. This is the abbreviated version, maybe I can share more about the gates later.

We visited Zedekiah’s Cave, also known as Solomon’s quarry. Maybe the stones of the first temple came from here.

Following the city wall, we went by Herod’s Gate.

The next stop was Lion’s Gate. We got some pomegranate and orange juice for lunch.

We visited Eastern Gate, also known as Golden Gate, and Mercy Gate. This one is closed to ensure the Messiah cannot enter Temple Mount through it, in an attempt to thwart the prophecy in Ezekiel 40.

It was around 1:00, and we had some walking to do to get to the sifting site on Mount Scopus. So we walked down into the Kidron Valley and up towards the mountain. Mount Olives was to our right. We picked some olives on the way, but had to drink some water to get the taste out our mouths. Hot and bitter might describe them.

At the sifting project, our tour guide gave us some background and instructions. The material came from some illegal excavation that was done back in 1988. Now they’re going through it and finding a bunch of good stuff, including a half shekel coin used to pay the temple tax.

From there we walked over to Mount Olives. The view of Temple Mount in the deepening dusk was awe inspiring.

We walked back to Lion’s Gate and into the city. We found some good hummus and shawarma. Then back out through Jaffa Gate and to our apartment.

All in all, it was a full day, with a lot of walking. We thoroughly enjoyed every step!


Jerusalem Arrival

The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv was about 10 hours. A tail wind of over 100 mph really helped.

About 4:15 AM Eastern time, 10 or 15 of the Orthodox men on the flight stood in the open space where meals are prepared. They had prayer shawls, phylacteries, kippas, and black hats. It was well past sunup where we were over the Atlantic.

Morning prayers

United served us two meals, a snack, and several drinks on this flight. The plane was a 777. Our seats were at the window just behind the wing.

Cruising at 35,000 feet and still looking up at the clouds.

We landed in Tel Aviv at 4:30 PM local time.

Arriving at Tel Aviv

The lines for passport control were long. We got the B2 Visa slips with no problem. Israel provides a slip of paper for the Visa instead of stamping it in your passport. Depending what countries you enter, you may not want them to see you’ve visited Israel. At least, that’s how it started.

Passport Control

After what seemed like a long wait for our suitcase, we went to an ATM and withdrew some shekels. Then on down to the train platform.

Train platform
The trip from Ben Gurion to Jerusalem takes 24 minutes with the new electric train.

After finding our apartment on Jaffa Street, we visited Mehane Yehuda Market. We got a bite to eat, then walked back to the apartment to get some rest.

Mehane Yehuda Market
Can’t visit Israel without sampling the dates


Jerusalem, the Journey Begins

We finished packing after lunch today. The Subaru Outback was overloaded with the children’s luggage even before we added ours. We drove to Allentown and unloaded at Kezia and Titus’s house. The school children will be staying with them for the week.

Loaded to the ceiling, on the way to Allentown

We continued to Newark. Our suitcase was half a pound overweight. For those of you on a diet, that would be close enough. But the attendant said it wouldn’t fly. We moved a bag of smoked almonds to Julia’s backpack. Then in security Julia’s backpack was singled out for a hand search. We were relieved to find that the bag of smoked almonds and the can of mixed nuts were not explosives in disguise.

Through security…

After a long walk in concourse C3, we found gate C138, but it was cordoned off until closer to boarding time. We met a few people on their way to a Perry Stone tour in Israel. We swapped stories with them as we waited.

Visiting with other Israel-bound pilgrims

To be continued…