A Travellerspoint blog

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Off We Go!!

sunny 20 °F

Everything is packed in our two little carryons and we’re ready for the trip (we hope). Jill’s parents came down on Tuesday to accompany the family to gymnastics and get prepared for next week on their own. Sloane was really excited that Nana and Bapa we’re going to pick her up at school. They took Sloane and Barkley and headed home for Onalaska early Wednesday morning.

At 4:45pm our driver backed into the driveway ready to cart us down to Chicago. We FaceTime’d with Sloane and then relaxed on the ride down. We had the quickest security experience at ORD to date (even with a bunch of people that acted as if it was the first time through). We grabbed a huge platter of nachos and a beer before heading to the gate.
Jonathon got an update showing a one hour delay but the gate never showed the update. Two Polish airline employees said we had nothing to worry about; as long as you have 40 minutes you’ll be fine.” We boarded the plane just over an hour late, got settled and took off. It was a long flight (10hours) filled with lots of movies (4 for Jonathon and 2 for Jill since she had some work to do).
Several times this morning we broke through the clouds and saw Norway and other land below.
Finally at 2:25pm local time we landed in snowy Poland. We took the 3 minute walk to our next gate without any customs or security and waited for our connecting flight to Tel Aviv.
A shorter (4 hour) flight got us to Tel Aviv, Israel where we disembarked the plane and passed through passport control quickly. Our driver was waiting with the car and we made the short ride to our beach hotel. We were both starving so we got an order of hummus, which was delicious and massive! After a couple of quick showers and Jill getting blankets and a heater we were set for bed.

Posted by cornelljjs 12:46 Archived in USA Tagged #usa #poland #telaviv Comments (0)

Jerusalem, River Jordan and the Dead Sea

sunny 76 °F

We woke up around 6:15am with no alarm needed. We got ready and then headed down for breakfast in the hotel. We each had a cappuccino along with some delicious food. The beach was already bustling with activity as the volleyball courts were active, kayakers and paddle boarders were cruising the water and runners and bikers were working up a sweat.
We met our guide in the lobby at 8:00am and headed out for Jerusalem. On the way, we got to hear about the country, culture and history. There are about 10 million people living in Israel with 6 million Jews, 2 million Muslims, and 1 million Christians. You notice quickly in this country that they are catering to a number of languages. Nearly all of the signs in the country are marked in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English. It's also difficult to ignore the divide. Muslims have white license plates with green lettering while Jews have yellow plates with black lettering. This distinction is apparently to help identify the Muslims when coming through checkpoints, but it's not hard to imagine that it's used in other ways as well.
One interesting tidbit on Jerusalem is that every building must use Jerusalem stone on it's exterior, so the city has a very old feel. After a short drive through Old Jerusalem and past the Muslim Quarter gate into the Old City walls, we drove past Mount of Olives and the massive cemetery. This area is especially important because this is where Jesus spent his last few days before the crucifixion. He and his apostles camped out on the hill each night and then entered Jerusalem to minister to the people each day.
As we entered the wall into the Jewish Quarter the battle scars were obvious. Riddled with bullet holes, you see the importance of these massive wall in protecting the people that have lived inside them.
A quick walk past a few shops in the old city reveal amazing views of Mount of Olives but even more impressively the "Dome of the Rock" on the Temple Mount, one of the most important religious locations to three of the world's major religions. From 516BC until 70AD this was the site of the Second Temple which replaced Solomon's first temple. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Muslims took over the area, they built their own mosque in the same location and use it still today. Unfortunately only Muslims are allowed to approach the mosque.
Since the temple had fallen under Muslim control the Jews were no longer able to visit this holy location. Instead they were forced to pray and worship at the base of the construct which is commonly known as the "West Wall". Used daily this site instills and incredible feeling as you see the emotions of those around you. There are two separate areas, one for men and the other for women. Jews, both Orthodox and casual, are reading, singing, and praying in this area with many others in the area as well. Inside the prayer chamber you'll find more people doing the same.
Next we made our way toward the Muslim Quarter through a security checkpoint. The fragrant and vibrant streets were filled with people on their way to the mosque for prayers, shopkeepers selling fruits and bakeries with bread. Armed Israeli soldiers guard the path to the mosque and ask potential visitors their religion. If you answer anything but Muslim you're turned away. If you answer Muslim and they don't believe you, you are asked to recite the first verse of the Quran. We rounded a corner and stepped onto the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) which follows Jesus' path from condemnation to crucifixion. Station 5 was the first station we saw, and represents the point at which Simon helped carry the cross. The stone marks the location where Jesus is believed to have leaned on the wall.
Station 6 is where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus. Station 7 Jesus fell for the second time. We didn't see stations 8-9. We ended this walk in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Inside, a busy but solemn place, are Stations 10-14. The modern state of this area with buildings tightly surrounding the space makes it difficult to imagine this was the site of Jesus crucifixion at Calvary (or Golfotha), death and resurrection. Standing in this place evokes a strange variety of feelings: wonder, guilt, amazement, thankfulness, to name a few...
Inside you climb a narrow, steep set of stares to Station 10 where Jesus was stripped of his clothes. Station 11 houses a mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross.
Station 12 was Jesus death upon the cross as he uttered, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?". It's easy to imagine this scene with three crosses perched on a hilltop. This station seems to be severely understated, but it would be impossible to provide adequate emphasis on it's importance.
Station 13 represents Jesus being taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and others. His mother Mary and girlfriend Mary Magdalene helped to anoint his body for burial. The stone is considered the anointing rock the place where the preparations took place.
Station 14 represents Jesus as his body was laid to rest. The traditionally accepted location of Jesus' tomb is within a fancy shrine. A long line of people wait to enter the tomb. Archeologists did discover an alternative location within the same area, which some believe is the actual tomb based on the biblical descriptions of the place. A third location exists (the garden tomb) that has been considered by some. No matter which you believe to be the actual location, it's another layer of emotions to think about the burial place of Jesus being so nearby.
On our way back out of old Jeruslam we stopped at a shop for a couple of simple souvenirs and to visit David's tomb. As shown below we also went upstairs to visit the site of the Last Supper which was near the exit of the city. We also took a closer look at the Cardo (heart of the city) shown in a very beautiful painting located in the Cardo itself.
We headed out of the city and almost immediately started descending into the valley. Jerusalem sits on the top of a mountain at about 800 meters above sea level so the drive to the River Jordan is almost all downhill. We saw many Bedouin sites on our way which of course included goats, donkeys and even a few camels.
At the Jordan River you're able to walk down to the water's edge. The river is smaller than the Kickapoo River and even at this wide point is less than 25 feet wide. It was very tempting to swim over and touch Jordan while we were there, but the armed military on each side sufficiently deterred us!! On both sides of the river (Israel and Jordan) structures have been built to allow people to visit this site. There are many churches built in this area as well. Jonathon took off his shoes, rolled up his pants and stepped into the very chilly water. We were fortunate to see the baptism of an infant while we were at the river as well. He was a brave little dude, but you can see just how cold the water was from his flailing legs!! A grown Orthodox Jew stepped in and squealed like a child too.

From the Jordan River we took a back road past where our guide served in the military 40 years ago. The area between the river and the road was full of mines that you could see sticking up in many places. Her barracks had been destroyed many years ago as Israel and Jordan have been at peace since 1982. We drove past the old salt refinery which today sits high above the level of the Dead Sea as the water level has receded. We finally made our way to the Dead Sea. We ate lunch and then changed into our suits for a quick splash. The water was thick and it was easy to float. The mud was deep and caught us off guard as we sunk thigh deep as we tried to walk in. The GoPro battery died so we didn't get many pictures but this wasn't a planned stop so we'll be back again tomorrow.
Traffic was light on the way home since Shabat had begun and the Orthodox Jews were no longer on the road. We took a quick stroll down around the beach to see the boats and fishermen on the shoreline.
We then headed to a nearby restaurant, Hilton Bay, that had some inviting lights and music. We ordered appetizers to try a few things and ended up with too much food! We each had a drink then headed back to the hotel room. Something didn't sit well with Jill as she's been having issues for the past couple hours... Hopefully it was food poisoning and she'll be better for the morning, our tour bus is set to arrive at 7AM.

Posted by cornelljjs 11:27 Archived in Israel Tagged #israel Comments (0)

Masada and the Dead Sea

sunny 74 °F

Jill ended up having a very long night last night. She got sick a few more times during the night and slept very little. Our alarm went off at 6AM this morning and we rolled out to start getting ready. We headed down to floor -1 to find breakfast, but the restaurant didn't open until 7AM so we had to wait for a bit. Our tour bus was scheduled for 7:15AM arrival at our hotel and we got to the lobby right on time. We met our guide Lorne who has been living in Israel for the past 6 years and guiding for the past year. He explained that he's from New York and we later found out he's a degreed archaeologist from Duke University. We picked up a few more groups on our bus, then met quickly at a "depot" to swap passengers with other buses making similar pickups. We headed east out of Tel Aviv toward the north end of the Dead Sea. On our way, we made our first pit stop at the Elvis American Diner. It was packed with Elvis memorabilia and included many large Elvis statues.
After a quick rest stop we were back on the road. When we reached the Dead Sea, we turned and headed south toward Masada driving through the Judean desert. We made a second stop at a shop out in the desert. We stayed outside and soaked up the sun!! The weather has been amazing so far.
We continued our trek south driving parallel to the Dead Sea. As the water warmed this morning, it created a thick fog over the water that made it impossible to see Jordan on the other side. The large lake (it doesn't flow to another body of water) while inhospitable to marine life, does provide a beautiful view. In addition to being the lowest point on earth (430 meters below sea level) the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water. The ocean is around 3% salt, Great Salt Lake is around 25% salt and the Dead Sea is around 35% salt.
While we didn't get to enjoy views of Jordan, we did get a close up of a small family of Ibex on our drive. These animals look like large goats with long curly horns. The patriarch of the group has extremely long horns (20+ inches) and many of the animals were on their hind legs trying to each from the trees. Jonathon was excited to catch a glimpse even though he didn't get a great photo. This isn't our photo, but wanted to share what they look like with you.
We arrived at Masada, one of 7 fortresses constructed by the Great King Herod in his kingdom. Herod had been very scared of a revolt from the Jewish people as his parents were Arabs. Masada provides an impressive defense based on the surrounding environment and disconnect from the other mountains. The fortress had been designed by Herod to provide an impressive feeling of a hanging palace off the north face (model shown below), but he also implemented aqueducts and cisterns to capture the rain to provide water in this desert environment.
A quick trip to the top of the mountain in the 80 passenger cable car provided great views. We lucked out with timing our trip as the cable car was being shutdown this evening for maintenance and no tours will happen for the next several weeks. In the bottom right of this photo you can see the remains of one of the Roman army camps.
This fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the incredible well preserved Roman army camps that lie at the bottom of the mountain. The fortress has store houses, a bath house with tiled floors and frescos, and other preserved features. The main palace is on the north side of the mountain to allow a breeze to pass through the chambers during the mid summer when temperatures reach 115 degrees F. Here you can see the raised floor of the bathhouse and the concentric circles that formed the decorative reception hall.
This fortress became well known after the rebellion in 70AD when Sicarii and Zealots burned food in Jerusalem to start a rebellion, then took Masada. Since they had no other food they raided nearby cities and killed many women and children in the process. The 250 men brought their families (a total of nearly 1000 people) to live at the fortress. The Romans scared the rebels at the other 6 fortresses to surrender but here the rebels would not. Surrounded by nearly 9000 fighting me the rebels hunkered down. After approximately 6 months the Roman slaves had constructed a ramp (shown below) to access the fortress and use a siege machine. When the rebels were certain of defeat they rolled dice to assign tasks and "mercifully" carry out their own demise. The 250 men went out and murdered all the women and children; then rolled for 10 men to kill the other 240; finally one was selected to kill the other 9 and then commit suicide. This story was relayed to a historian by 2 women and 5 children that hid in a cistern after hearing the men's plan. They were captured by the Roman soldiers and sold into slavery. A gruesome end to the rebels that had caused so much damage throughout Israel.
Here's a couple happy shots at the top of the fortress to help bring you back from that devastating story. The sunshine has felt amazing and we're very thankful since it rained three days in a row before we started our tours here. Israel has been treating us right so far!
We rode the cable care back to the bottom and ate lunch. The guide asked how we enjoyed the food. When we told him it was not great he said that's not surprising since it was the Shabat (the Sabbath) and they aren't allowed to cook, only reheat food. Back on the bus, we headed north again toward the beach at the Dead Sea. Along the way, our guide told us the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls as we passed the caves, Qumran, along the way.
We made it back to the Dead Sea and enjoyed an hour soaking in the saltwater, scrubbing with salt and putting on full body "masks" to tone and tighten our skin.
Of course they have camels here to allow people to take pictures, sit on and ride as well. We didn't join in, but did take a couple pictures from afar. We got to FaceTime with Sloane for a little while and tried to show her the camels, but she was busy singing Baby Shark, "Run-away" while making laps around Nana and Bapa's living room.
The tour group made it back to the bus and had to wait 20 minutes for one straggling couple to get back to the bus. Then we made the trip back to Tel Aviv and our hotel. Jonathon enjoyed his Israeli Cheetos on the return trip... They were good, but not nearly as cheesy as he's accustomed to.
Jill made dinner reservations at MantaRay a fantastic restaurant nearby and invited a co-worker to join us. We hopped in a taxi and made it just in time for our reservation. We all enjoyed the food and Jonathon enjoyed a Shapiro wheat beer. Tired and full, we then returned to our hotel for much needed sleep!

Posted by cornelljjs 13:28 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Caeserea, Haifa, Rosh Hanikra and Acre

Jill was working today.

semi-overcast 62 °F

We were both up a little after 6AM today but Jonathon was headed out for a fun sightseeing trip and Jill was headed to work (that is why we’re here!). Jonathon packed up the camera and headed down for a quick breakfast before pickup. First on the bus again today I know the drill. The bus arrived at the depot and Jonathon loaded on with his new travel companions (just for the day). We headed north. Along the way we saw a couple of universities and a large power plant. There have apparently been discussions about moving the plant south because of the high pollution in populated areas. Our first stop was in the ritzy Caesarea neighborhood. For centuries this has been the high luxury area and it continues today as the countries finest golf resort. We were here for the ruins though. As you enter you’re met with a view of the Roman theatre.
The seating area is in grand condition and is still used for shows today. In the past it provided cheap entertainment for the unhappy masses. Today the cost is apparently quite high for seating on rock benches.
Past the theatre we dropped down to the sea to see the ruins of Pontus Pilate’s palace. It would’ve been a magnificent view from the back porch with waves crashing right up on the side.
Next up was the hippodrome and amphitheater. Another entertainment center for the wealthy. The horses would run at high speed often launching their riders or chariots when making the turns. The amphitheater was used to host gladiators fighting for their lives. Eventually both of these dissipated and the area was turned into housing.
The entire complex is built along the waters edge. The area where waves crash today has seashells piles high on the walkway from the splash. Today was a windy day and the crashing waves left no mystery about how the shells arrive on the path.
An amazing bathhouse was constructed for use by the wealthy as well. No expense was spared here as marble was imported from Turkey to decorate the floor and walls. Similar to the other baths, the individual would raise his temp in the bath and then step into the cool ocean breeze to dry himself off.
This was one of the crusaders’ gates. The planning was poor as they placed it on the sea side expecting attackers from that direction. The crusaders were in this region in the 12th and 13th centuries and built upon the ruins here as well.
This marble sarcophagus with gargon head from the 2nd century BC was also expected to provide protection to the city dwellers. I’m not convinced the gate or the head provided much protection but I’m sure they added a feeling of security for those behind them. You can see from the palm trees that the wind was doing it’s best to blow us out from this site as well.
Incredibly many of the sites we’ve visited in Israel are still active archeological sites. This one is expected to continue for two years before opening the large building as a museum for Caesarea as well. The archeological crew recently discovered coins that were worth the average citizens annual salary making it even more apparent that this was the wealthy folks’ playground.
This photo doesn’t do the feat justice but the entire reason Caesarea was a haven of wealth was due to the Roman engineering efforts. Under the direction of King Herod the Romans built this area into a harbor for shipping. Since no natural harbor existed they loaded barges with hydraulic concrete and sunk them to the bed of the sea. Layering one upon another they constructed a safe harbor for shipping and trading. The most amazing products from around the world entered through this man-made port.
The last stop at Caesarea show-cased another crusader gate but this time for all the right reasons. They created a gate that helped defeat massive attacks. The outer door was thick wood, but if you were able to breach it with fire or force two steel gates would fall behind it. While thos gates held the army at bay archers had clear view of the attackers and took their toll. If the army penetrated those defenses the gate used a simple but effective design to further challenge the enemy. By forcing the attackers to turn right they were off balance because their shield was on the left. When defending crusaders attacked from the right they were able to deliver key blows on their enemy.
We hopped on the bus and made a quick trip up to see the Roman aqueduct. This aqueduct was used to supply the baths at Caesarea and are very well preserved. It’s a gorgeous scene as the run so near the beach.
Back on the bus we drove to Haifa. The drive along the water was very beautiful and we had a nice view of Mount Carmel along the way. We drove to the top of town for a top-down view of the beautiful port city and specifically the Baha’i Gardens. This site is a memorial to theBab who predicted the return of the Messiah and was killed in the 1900s. This is a US based religion which really intrigued a few people. Members volunteer to care for the gardens for months or even years at a time.
We headed for Rosh Hanikra next. It lies directly on the border with Lebanon, hence the warnings at the water. The Israeli army has a presence in the area and there is a massive security fence (wall) on the border. The tunnel that leads through the hill was constructed in 1941 to provide the British army from South Africa and New Zealand to have access to result from further north in Europe. In 1948 Israel sealed the second tunnel to keep Lebanon forces from entering Israel. In the past month Israeli forces initiated Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy underground tunnels from Lebanon.
The water crashes against the limestone here and has carved in incredible cavern into the wall. Inside the water crashes loudly as it surges up and sink low in the cave. The path was very wet giving plenty of warning of what was to come but some people didn’t heed those signs. The wave crashed and a small tidal wave soaked two different people in our group. Hehe!! Outside the cave we’re great views as well.
Driving through Acre, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the demographics are clearly different than other places. Each roundabout had symbols of the various religions on display. The city is 25% non-Jewish which is a high percentage in this country. Acre is an important port city with great history.
This was also our lunch location on the tour and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. The food just kept coming and it was very good. There were several different pickled items, hummus, fantastic bread, and chicken shawarma.
After lunch we took a walk through the Acre market. They had fresh fish, fresh produce and many handiwork or crafts. We passed through and stopped to check out the local mosque. Another mosque is located nearby and is said to be the second most important mosque in Israel because it contains a single hair from the beard of Mohamed. That mosque is called the Al Jazeer mosque.
Deeper through town we found the Knights Kingdom, a museum to the Hospitaliers. There were two orders of knights, Templar’s and Hospitaliers, living in Acre during the crusader times. This district was discovered in 1977 when a small excavation project turned up the top of an arch. As they escalated they discovered the previous city had been built over by the Arabs when they conquered the city. The preserved areas const of an open air market, Jail, a funeral room,the Beautiful Hall for dining/events, the Grand Hall, a crypt and a courtyard (photo below). You can walk through the sewer (grey water) and visit the latrines (shown below).
The standard gift shop stop to wrap up the tour and we headed home. It was an hour forty five minute drive back to Tel Aviv and most people slept; Jonathon worked on the blog!
When he got back to the hotel it had become very windy. Jill went out to eat with coworkers so he asked for a good direction to walk for food. He ended up at a small cafe, Mersand and ate some delicious shakshuka, bread salad and drank a Goldstar beer. It was not great but at 1/2 liter it did wash down my food well. The walk home was a sandblast as the wind was whipping over the beach and straight at his face. Jill got home shortly after Jonathon. Jill took a shower, and it’s an early night in bed here.

Posted by cornelljjs 11:25 Archived in Israel Tagged #israel Comments (0)

Jericho and Bethlehem

Jill was working today.

storm 62 °F

Another early morning, for Jonathon to catch the tour pickup this morning. After a big breakfast he was on the bus and headed for Jerusalem with just one other passenger. When we passed through Jerusalem we actually stopped to pick up another 12 passengers. On a familiar route we headed east toward Jericho. On the way we stopped at the Sea Level monument. Our driver had made. Call on the way and I suspect it was to let the Bedouin know to have their camel ready. He suckered a few people into paying for picture before we continued our trip.
Just before Jericho we stopped at a gas station to change vans and get our new guide. I’m not exactly sure how this works or why it’s necessary, but our driver simply rode along while in Jericho. Our new guide was from Jerusalem but can guide in Jericho according to the Palestinian Authority. Two things were abundantly clear as we approached Jericho, a city of 40,000 people: we’re now in Palestine and the the National Security Force is enforcing the laws. The sign states that it is hazardous to an Israeli life to enter and it is illegal for Israelis to enter the area. These four fine gents carrying AK-47s were not the only NSF in our area. I should note here that I never felt unsafe and the people that we interacted with were very welcoming.
The next thing noticed after the guns was the amount of trash on the ground. It looked like New Orleans the day after Marti Gras. It’s not hard to imagine how quickly this could happen without established trash management services.
It did appear you could buy ANYTHING from street side vendors. The produce looked amazing!! They grow oranges, pomegranates, tomatoes, bananas and dates in this region. Next to the produce you could also find toilets, sinks, stroller, chairs, tables and just about anything else you can imagine!
Our first stop in Jericho was at the grand-daughter tree from the sycamore that Zaccheus, the short tax collector, climbed in the Bible. It is growing in the same location as the original tree and falls under control of the Russian Museum in Jericho.
We boarded the “World’s Longest Cable Car Below Sea Level” and rode it to the Mount of Temptation (aka 40 Day Temple). The ride was smooth and the tour guide said we had nothing to worry about, “It’s made in Austria, not China.” At the top is a Greek Orthodox monastery built in the 1800s on the site believed to be the location of Jesus’ temptation by Satan.
Inside we found the temptation stone. A group of Georgians (country not state) were holding chapel in the small room so we waited while they finished up. This is believed to be the stone that satan used to tempt Jesus into making himself bread. After scripture reading in English and a Spanish we made our way back from the monastery.
Before getting back on the cable car we enjoyed freshly squeezed fruit juice. I tried the pomegranate and orange mix and was amazed the it only took 2 of each to fill the glass. The restaurant also had some very nice hookahs but we did not try them out today.
Upon arriving at the bottom of the cable car we proceeded to the old city of Jericho. This is an active archeological site also. Just three years ago they discovered the remains of a 14 year old girl and a palace that dated back to 2500BC. The claim that Jericho is the world’s oldest city stems from the remains of this watchtower dated to 10,000BC. 23 civil actions have built on this site.
The mud walls seen in the background ONLY date back to 2700BC. The next wall is from 1700BC and the third is even newer. You can see the cooking locations as well and living quarters. It’s amazing to me that this site remains uncovered and open to the elements.
This photo shows Elijah’s fountain spring. The people of Jericho complained about their water so Elijah added salt and shook vigorously praying the entire team. Since that day the spring has provided clean water to the people of Jericho. Our group snapped a couple photos of the camel and then headed out of town.
This camel didn’t get the same attention apparently. He seems to be pouting similar to the look I get from Barkley when he’s been ignored for too long. We dumped our first new guide and headed out for Jerusalem. We dropped off one passenger and made the journey to the outskirts of Bethlehem.
We traded in our Israeli plated van for two Palistinian plated vans with new drivers. We entered the city and found our two new guides waiting for us.
Our guides took us to a large open restaurant. It was a buffet style meal with many delicious options. I tried the “Product of Palestine” beer and found it to be very light (it was a blonde so maybe they make better). I spent the meal getting know a very nice Chilean judge named Carolina. Her son attended Marquette at one time and I loved getting to know her and talking about Chile.
We walked the short distance to Nativity Square which holds a huge Christmas tree through January 19th. Because of the several churches in the same location they celebrate Christmas on three different dates: December 25, January 7th and January 19th. It doesn’t really matter since the celebrate Jesus’ birth daily here.
On our way to the Church of the Nativity, we encountered the final moments of a local funeral. They carried the casket out and placed it in the hearse before the most nets came to the street to walk behind the car.
The church was updated by the crusaders by closing off the main entrance to keep the animals out of the birthplace and to force people to bow as they entered this holy place.
The church was very ornate and had the feeling of Christmas with red balls and candles throughout. We waited in line before seeing murals of Palm Sunday, the transfiguration and other events. We saw beautiful mosaics that have recently been restored and took in the splendor of this church belonging to three religions.
In the “basement”, Constantine’s mother built over the site of the manger in 325AD, we witnessed the manger’s original roof and the spot where they swaddled baby Jesus long ago. It’s a really cool feeling to stand in a place that has so much meaning to so many people around the world. The physicality of the roof really helps bring a full feeling as you stand in the current church.
Finally, this is my pose with St. George. He was busy slaying a dragon but I think we have a bond!!
We walked back to our vans and went to a Christian shop. Christians were the majority in Bethlehem at one point but that is no longer true. The shop supports the now minority people. I bought a baby Jesus carved from olive wood to replace the one Sloane dropped this year. I liked the idea of having a baby Jesus from Bethlehem for our Nativity. Our van left slightly after the first van so our driver was trying to make up time. It felt like I was in a scene from the “Borne Identity” series. We were spinning our tires up hills and sliding around corners, through the narrow streets of Bethlehem. We switched back to our Israeli van before Jonathon and one other person got dropped off for the Tel Aviv bus and headed home for the night. Jill got home late and it’s time for another night of sleep.

Posted by cornelljjs 12:16 Archived in Israel Tagged #israel Comments (0)

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