Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Home, Sweet, Home

We went down the street to some kind of sports bar Sunday night for our last Tel Aviv meal. Wasn't so good. But dinner the night before was excellent - another Sea Bream, this time in a pistachio crust. Pistachios are real big here.  We weren't up for anything special since we had to get our stuff together and try to get some sleep before the alarm goes off.

We were up before the roosters and our driver was right on time if not a little early. Very nice car. Got to the airport in no time. The security was very intense. In fact, they moved the Turkish Airlines departure ticket counter down two floors. Totally segregated. I can't count how many check points we went through.The bus ride out to the plane was longer than the flight. It seems like they're keeping those Turkish planes as far away as possible. Geoff reminded me of the flight we took from Egypt to Israel - it was an unmarked plane - no name, no logos - just plain white. The Middle East has been quite an experience.

so long Tel Aviv
The flight from Israel to Istanbul was uneventful. More check points and security when we landed in Istanbul. I have to say that it all runs very efficiently. It was all very orderly. Nobody takes their shoes off and lines run smoothly.

We had a 4 hour layover here in Istanbul. No Premium Economy on this flight, so no lounge pass. Istanbul Airport is a very busy hub. We found a quiet restaurant with cushy seats and wifi, and settled in for a couple of hours.

We heard it was snowing at home. All winter nothing - the day we come home it snows - what's up with that?? The 10 hour flight to Boston passed in a daze of movies, food, naps, and lots of aches! Touched down at 7:23 and in good old USA fashion, took us about an hour to go through customs, passport control, and get the baggage.

Kenny from our car service was there and we got to the house around 9:30. We were happy to see that whatever snow there had been has melted.  Was not looking forward to a driveway full of snow. Our good friends who watched the house, were thoughtful enough to turn up the heat and I guess they did clear off the porch - right before the sun came out. Plus they bought milk and bananas so we have something for breakfast today. We cannot thank them enough. It is so good to know that everything is safe while we are away.

So that's it. The bucket list got a whole lot shorter. It was an amazing trip. I have to thank all our guides, Ashy, Nachum, Omar, Yuval, and our many many Mohammad drivers. They were all extremely educational, friendly, and always made us feel safe wherever we were. Nachum became part of the family for us. When we were traveling back through Israel on our own, it was comforting to know that we could call him anytime if we got into trouble - he'd send out the tanks!  We spoke Sunday night and said our good-byes. I sure hope he comes to visit.

Thanks to everyone who sent emails and comments. It really helps when we are gone for so long. A lot happened while we were gone. There is another Sullivan in the world, James Mitchell, born to Christie and Keith. My dear 99 year old aunt passed away. And we think this will be the last trip for Jerry B. His last site was the Dead Sea and that might be an appropriate end. And today is Grand-baby Tali's birthday!!  Happy Birthday sweetheart.

It is now about 5 am and I am sitting by the fire writing the last blog post. It will be a while before my body clock switches back. And then there's the unpacking, laundry, shopping, taxes, mail, etc.... It is still real good to be home.

Till next time.... Amalfi Coast, Bike & Sail, September, 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

One More Night!

Today was clear but windy. We took a walk down to the municipal building -- we are still trying to straighten out the bike rental charge from a month ago. It was a nice morning for a walk so we didn't mind. Hopefully, we have it all taken care of now. The gal at the desk recognized us and was very nice and helpful.

On the way back, we passed the Wool Shop that was closed last time we passed by. My sister-in-law is a knitting and sewing enthusiast. Thought it would be nice to bring back some Israeli wool. This is the only shop I have seen during this whole trip. This time, the shop was open. The wool is not from Israel but it is hand dyed and spun in Israel by Bedouins (and I am sure transported by camels) . Good enough. We picked out a skein and were on our way.

Got back to the room and changed for the beach. Not too many people out today because of the wind. We didn't even have to pay for the chairs. The sun was out and the breeze kept us cool. At around 3, the clouds came rolling in and the temperature dropped. Time to go.

Now we are trying to fit everything back in our luggage. Which by the way, I cannot say enough good things about. During our Vietnam trip last year, a guy had an Eddie Bauer bag that Geoff really liked. We spotted them when we were in Vermont last spring and Eddie Bauer was having a huge sale. So we bought a couple. If anyone is interested it is the Expedition 26.  That along with packing cubes and you're all set. They are also guaranteed for life - the way we travel that is important!

It's hard to imagine, but we only have one more night to go. It has been quite the sojourn. A friend just commented and said this will be a trip that will stay with me for a long time. I have no doubt. As I drink my complimentary bottle of wine (reward for being a return customer to hotel) and watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea,  I am so thankful that we went through with our plans and were not scared away by a frenzied media.

Taxi comes at 5 am tomorrow.  Eli came in a fully loaded Mercedes, maybe we'll get the same tomorrow. Early dinner and sweet dreams.

Next time.... Home, Sweet, Home

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Back in Tel Aviv

That's right no photo album today. Just chillin'

Jerusalem is a city of many faiths. No time is it more evident than in the morning. It starts with the Muslim prayers over the loud speakers at the mosques. Then the church bells join in - and when I say there are a lot of churches, I mean a lot of churches. I think the Catholics stuck a church over every rock that Jesus or Mary may have touched! The Jews, they don't make so much noise, maybe you hear them wailing at the wall :)  All of these faiths and more collide at one small plot of land. It is truly something to witness. Jerusalem was definitely a great city to end our adventure.

We said our good-byes to the City of Miracles this morning. Eli was right on time. This being Saturday, no traffic and we were in Tel Aviv in about 45 minutes. While we were driving, I asked Eli if he knew of a cab driver who could take us to the airport. No problem - he dialed the phone and presto! Rotem will pick us up at 5am on Monday for a whole lot less $$ than what the hotel cab charged us. Have to thank Nachum again for introducing us to his "old boys" network of drivers. Wonderful group of guys -- always felt safe.

Checked into our hotel. They were all thrilled to see that we had returned. Since we were early, we dumped our bags and headed for the beach. Sunny skies and a cool breeze. Couldn't ask for anything better. Hung out till about 3:30 and now we are in our new room - which, miracles of miracles, is GREAT! Studio apartment, ocean view.  We are trying to get into the spa, but the key car doesn't work. Geoff has been up and down a few times now. I hope the last time is a winner. Looking forward to sitting in the sauna for a bit.

Probably head down the beach for sunset and dinner.

Next time... The Last Day

Friday, March 18, 2016

Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum)

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 4

All the streets around us were closed this morning due to the marathon. I could not believe it - we have a light rail train down the street that goes directly to the museum but it wasn't running! Oy ye!
We even called our taxi friend, Eli, but all his streets were closed and there was no way for him to get to us.  So we made our way to Jaffa Rd and started walking.

Here, I have to tell you that Yuval was right - this truly is the City of Miracles. We walked about 10 minutes when I spotted - Coney Island Knish.  Were my prayers answered? For those who do not know about potato knishes, there are two kinds: One is round and soft which seems to be the more popular and the other is square and crispy. Where I grew up in NY, it was all about the square knish. I have yet to see them anywhere else. We walked into Coney Island Knish and sure enough, there were the round knishes. I asked if they had the square ones - "sure we do" - OMG I could not believe it. It was way too early in the morning to be downing one of these babies so we asked when they closed. 1pm he told us - after all it was shabbat. OK- "we'll be back on our way home from the museum".

Left Mr, NY and walked a bit further till we saw some actual traffic, Got into the first cab we saw and said "Yad Vashem". The cab ride was outrageous because one, it is tough to get to anyway, being on top of a mountain and two, streets were closed. Eventually we made it to the sacred Holocaust Museum.

This has got to be one of the most powerful museums I have ever encountered. There are no words - only tears. I cried through most of the history museum.  By the time I got to the Hall of Names, I was drained.
Established in 1953, Yad Vashem is located on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, 2,638 ft above sea level and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest. The memorial consists of a 44.5-acre complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children's Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a research institute with archives, a library, a publishing house, and an educational center named The International School/Institute for Holocaust Studies.
A core goal of Yad Vashem's founders was to recognize gentiles who, at personal risk and without a financial or evangelistic motive, chose to save their Jewish brethren from the ongoing genocide during the Holocaust. Those recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations are honored in a section of Yad Vashem known as the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.
After the Western Wall, Yad Vashem is the second most-visited Israeli tourist site. Its curators charge no fee for admission and welcome approximately one million visitors a year.
The grounds were beautiful  and we walked around through the exhibits and finally made our way to the cafeteria for coffee. The light rail resumed at noon, so we had some time to kill. Noticed there were some Taglit Birthright leaders in the cafeteria. My nephew did that a few years ago. Anyone between the ages of 16-26 can have a free trip to Israel if they have Jewish blood. I introduced myself and thanked them for their hard work.

Made our way to the light rail, hopped on and away we went. Crossed over the famous Chords Bridge and through the market. The market was a mad house with people getting ready for Shabbat. Got off at Jaffa Center and went straight to Coney Island Knish. We had to wait a bit but sure enough -- it was the real deal. Then, when the guy said "do you want mustard?" well that was definitely the real deal.  Found a place to sit and enjoy them but we found out they weren't cooked enough. So we put them in the pack for later.

Now what do we do???  We walked around aimlessly until we came upon Big Apple Pizza. Great it was going to be a New York day all the way. We got a couple of slices and sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine. Did I mention the sun was out?

Didn't know where to go from here. I suggested trying to get to the City of David which is south of the Jewish Quarter. OK, fine - we headed toward Jaffa Gate but didn't go into the Old City. It was very crowded today. Trekked around the outside for a bit by the Tower of David and ran into the Rampart's Walk. For a few shekels, you can walk along the top of the wall. Sign us up! We went as far as Zion's Gate and exited there. It was pretty cool. And the best part was that absolutely nobody else was on it. We were all alone up there.

We walked down through the gate and along the outside of the Wall and then down to the Artists' Colony - although everything was closed - ending up in Sultan's Pool.
The Sultan's Pool is an ancient water basin by the west side of Mount ZionJerusalem. Its origins likely date to the time of Herod and some think it is the Snake pool mentioned by Josephus. In Hasmonean times, water was fed into it via the lower aqueduct. The Ottoman sultans (for whom the pool is named) enlarged it into a reservoir measuring 67 m × 169 m × 12 m. It was part of the water supply network for Jerusalem from antiquity to late Ottoman Empire times. During the Crusaders times, it was known as Lacus Germani.
Currently it is dry in summer and used for concerts and festivals.
From here we  walked up to a park with fountains and a fabulous sundial. We crossed the street to the Mamilla Mall. Some of the buildings were that were originally housed on Mamilla St. were reconstructed. The numbers of the building blocks have been left on:
Mamilla Mall, also known as Alrov Mamilla Avenue, is an upscale shopping street and the only open-air mall in Jerusalem, Israel. Located northwest of Jaffa Gate, the mall consists of a 2,000 feet  pedestrian promenade called Alrov Mamilla Avenue lined by 140 stores, restaurants, and cafes,[2] and office space on upper floors.[The mall sits atop a multi-story parking garage for 1,600 cars and buses, and a bus terminal. Designed by Moshe Safdie and developed by Alrov Properties and Lodgings Ltd. of Tel Aviv, the mall incorporates the facades of 19th-century buildings from the original Mamilla Street, as well as the original structures of the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul, the Stern House, and the Clark House.
Completed the loop back at the apartment for a bit of a rest before heading out again for dinner. And also to have the knish!  Not as great as New York - but it was still fun to eat and enjoy. Tonight we are taking Yuval's advice again and going to the Notre Dame Hostel. Owned by the Vatican, there wasn't going to be a problem of them being closed for the Sabbath
Jerusalem’s magnificent Pontifical Institute Notre Dame is a towering French cathedral and guest house located across from the Old City’s New Gate. As the director of Notre Dame explains, the complex was built in the 1880′s in order to increase the flow of pilgrims to Jerusalem, and was part of an area called the “French Compound”. In this sense, the complex is similar to the nearby Russian Compound, which was built at around the same time in order to provide lodging and spiritual sustenance to Russian Orthodox pilgrims. The French “Notre Dame,” which means “Our Lady,” is a reference to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have been assumed into heaven in Jerusalem.
Yuval told us they have a lovely wine & cheese restaurant and, of course, a rooftop panorama view. Best thing was it is right around the corner. We walked down the street with all the Jews racing to get to the Old City for Shabbat Prayers. Yuval was right, the place is really nice and the views were terrific. Ordered a mixed cheese plate which came with lots of bread, nuts, and fruit. Plenty of food. Watched the sunset and the lights come on over Jerusalem. A lovely parting shot.

Next time.... Back in Tel Aviv

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 4

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Western Wall Tunnel

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 3

Before I begin today's sojourn, here's an update on our living quarters. We were able to change apartments for one downstairs. It is smaller and the heaters work better. They especially worked better after Geoff decided to look at the filters. They were filthy! After a good cleaning, the apartment got warm and no noise. Slept good.

We have decided to go back to Tel Aviv on Saturday. I was able to get a really good deal for a ocean-view suite back at our original hotel for our last two nights. It will be a bit more relaxing - not as rushed. They weather should be good and we can watch all the 20 somethings at the beach. Nachum, who has become our guardian angel in Israel, has been in  contact with us ever since we left him at the Jordan border. He has provided us with a taxi driver to take us to Tel Aviv at a reasonable cost-especially since it is the Sabbath. We land in Boston on Monday around 7:30 pm.

Raining on and off again today and just as cold as yesterday. We bundled up and walked down to the Jaffa Gate. It's about a 10 minute walk from the apartment. One thing nice about this place, it is in a great location. Anyway, it was early and the busy shops were very quiet. We had a reservation for the Western Wall Tunnel tour for 9:30. Got there early and chatted with a guy working there who is from Framingham, MA. He had some strange ideas. Our guide Eli showed up and we headed down the stairs.
The tunnel exposes a total length of 1591 ft of the wall, revealing the methods of construction and the various activities in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The excavations included many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian period (streets, monumental masonry), sections of a reconstruction of the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad period, and various structures dating to the AyyubidMamluke and Hasmonean periods constructed to support buildings in the vicinity of the Temple Mount.
"Warren's Gate" lies about 150 feet  into the tunnel. This sealed-off entrance was for hundreds of years a small synagogue called "The Cave", where the early Muslims allowed the Jews to pray in close proximity to the ruins of the Temple. Rabbi Yehuda Getz built a synagogue just outside the gate, since today it is the closest point a Jew can pray near to the Holy of Holies, assuming it was located at the traditional site under the Dome of the Rock.
At the northern portion of the Western Wall, remains were found of a water channel that originally supplied water to the Temple Mount. The exact source of the channel is unknown, though it passes through an underground pool known as the "Struthion Pool". The water channel was dated to the Hasmonean period and was accordingly dubbed the "Hasmonean Channel".
The biggest stone in the Western Wall, often called the Western Stone, is also revealed within the tunnel, and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without powered machinery. The stone has a length of 45 ft, height of 9.8 ft, and an estimated width of between 11 ft and 15 ft; estimates place its weight at 570 short tons (520 metric tons).
This was a very cool tour. I definitely recommend it to anyone coming to Jerusalem. We got dropped out of the tunnel at the other side of Old City in the heart of the Muslim Quarter. Yuval told us yesterday, that if we in this section to look for the Austrian Hostel and go to the roof for a panorama. Panoramas are very big in this city - everybody has a rooftop and everybody gets a couple of shekels for the admission price. Eli showed us where it was and we left the group and entered the hostel.Walked up to the rooftop and paid our 10 shekels and took in the views. It was good timing-the sun was out.

Next, I wanted to go back to the Western Wall and let Geoff have the camera to take pictures on the men's side. Mondays and Thursdays are bar mitzvah days and it is nuts there. We were so glad that Yuval took us on the tour yesterday - not only were things a lot quieter, but now we knew our way around (more or less). We also knew what we were looking at when we spotted stuff.  It was really helpful.

So Geoff went off with his kippa on his head to join the men at the Wall. I waited patiently at the perimeter. To the left of the men's side there is an inside portion of the wall where men can pray in bad weather or just to be alone. It is filled with books and Torahs. Geoff said it was a quiet a party. Lots of singing and celebrating.  Glad we got to experience seeing something like that. There are no women on that side of the wall, so they have to try peer over to see something. It is quite a scene. By the way, when it is bad weather the women have to go downstairs to a cove under the Wall to pray.

Navigating the narrow streets of the Old City, we went to the Jewish Quarter for some lunch. I was in search of a knish but have yet to find one in Israel. Guess it is more of a New York or Eastern European thing than Israeli. We settled on the Quarter Cafe with a great view of the Mt of Olives and had blintzes.

After lunch, we took a tour of the Hurva Synagogue. They also have a rooftop panorama - more photos and again the sun came out:
The synagogue was founded in the early 18th century by followers of Judah he-Hasid, but it was destroyed by Muslims a few years later in 1721. The plot lay in ruins for over 140 years and became known as the Ruin, or Hurva. In 1864, the Perushimrebuilt the synagogue, and although officially named the Beis Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the Hurva. It became Jerusalem's main Ashkenazic synagogue, until it too was deliberately destroyed by the Arab Legion after the withdrawal of Israeli forces during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
After Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, a number of plans were submitted for the design of a new building. After years of deliberation and indecision, a commemorative arch was erected instead at the site in 1977, itself becoming a prominent landmark of the Jewish Quarter. The plan to rebuild the synagogue in its 19th-century style received approval by the Israeli Government in 2000, and the newly rebuilt synagogue was dedicated on March 15, 2010.
It was time to move from the Old City. It was getting more and more crowded.  Hike back to the Jaffa Gate. Noticed a lot of security today and a lot of random searches by the Gate. Oh, did I mention that the Jerusalem Marathon is tomorrow!! Two marathons in one trip. That's when you know you've been gone too long.

We wanted to go out to the Mehane Yahuda Market, but first we made a pit stop at the apartment for a cup of coffee and just to regroup. Headed out and decided to get on the Lightrail, which is just down the street. It is very efficient and comes quite frequently. Took us right to the market. I've lost count of how many markets we have been to but this is the last one for this trip. We picked up some homemade granola for breakfast. Within the market are several bars and cafes -- it is a very happening place. In fact one bar was getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Israeli style. And today is also Geoff's brother, Andrew's, birthday. Mazel Tov!

We are off now to a sushi bar on St. Patrick's Day in Jerusalem!

Next Time.... The Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem)

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 3

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The City of Miracles

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 2

Wow! I don't know where to begin today. Our guide, Yuval, picked us up at 8:30 and we were off. The skies were cloudy and it was raining. I didn't have much hope for scenic overlooks. We drove around our neighborhood some and then went up to the Haas Promenade area overlooking the city. It was still raining so we toured a local kibbutz.

By the time we drove back to the promenade, the sun was starting to ,an appearance. Great views of the Old City and the Mt. of Olives. You can also see, what Yuval called the suicide bomber fence. We hung out there until it got too cold.

From the overlook, we went into the Old City. We parked and
walked along the outside of the Wall to the Archaeological Park. A short film on the beginning of the Old City and the Temple by Herod. We then toured the site and viewed the huge building stones. So massive, the camera wasn't wide enough to capture the length - and who knows how deep they are!!
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century.Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter,Christian QuarterArmenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. The Old City's monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in the years 1535-1542 by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
A lot of what was uncovered happened fairly recently. After the first Gulf War, the tourist industry basically died. The government said you can have unemployment, but you have to join the archaeologists and dig! So the whole tourist dependent population starting digging.  It is incredible what has been uncovered.

The next stop was King David's Tomb:
The thousand-year-old building that houses the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion in Jerusalem is almost always thronging; some have come to pray and pay homage to Israel’s famous king and ancestor of the Messiah, while others pour over sacred texts all day long in the anteroom next to the tomb. Jews have streamed here for centuries to recite the Psalms written by David, whose life teaches many lessons about human nature.  
The tomb is covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with the words David Melech Israel Hai Vekayam, the first song many Jewish children learn, which evokes the sense that David’s spirit is still with us. 
On to the the room that is thought to be the site of The Last Supper. which is in the western part of David's Tomb complex.  When we walked by, they happened to be shooting a film - this has happened to us several times on this trip.

Next up, something I have been looking forward to for a long time - the Western Wall:
The Western WallWailing Wall or Kotel: the Place of Weeping is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the "Western Wall". The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as theTemple Mount, in a large rectangular structure topped by a huge flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself and its auxiliary buildings.
Surprisingly,  there was no one there. As is Jewish law, men go to one side and the women go to other.I took off to the women's side and  took the prayer I wrote and put it in the Wall. It was a challenge to find a space. I met up with the guys and we continued our tour.

Next came the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was a really big deal - here is where several churches all co-exist:
The church contains, according to traditions dating back at least to the fourth century, the
two holiest sites in Christendom: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, known as "Calvary" in Latin and "Golgotha" in Greek, and Jesus's empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. Within the church proper are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) Stations of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of Jesus' Passion. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the fourth century, as the traditional site of the Resurrection of Christ, thus its original Greek name, Church of the Anastasis.
Today the wider complex accumulated during the centuries around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the church itself is shared between several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Greek OrthodoxArmenian Orthodox  and Roman Catholic, and to a lesser degree the Egyptian CoptsSyriacs and Ethiopians
We continued on to the ancient Cardo  - the main Roman Road and through the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter got demolished in 1948 and Israel lost control of after the War of Independence. After the 6 Day War in 1967, they regained control and started to rebuild. However,  the government did not want to cover up the city underneath. So they allowed the new building to continue if it was raised up on posts so that the excavating could continue underneath. It is quite a system. The old with the new.

We walked through the old streets and up the famous Jaffa Gate.  Headed down to the new Mamilla Mall and had a nice lunch at Roladin. Walking back through Zion Gate to pick up the car and go to the Israel Museum. It was getting late but we had time to see the scaled model of the original Old City:
Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, which reconstructs the topography and architectural character of the city as it was prior to its destruction by the Romans in 66 CE, and provides historical context to the Shrine’s presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Originally constructed on the grounds of Jerusalem’s Holy land Hotel, the model, which includes a replica of Herod's Temple.
Also got to see the Shrine of the Book:
The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, as well as rare early medieval biblical manuscripts. The scrolls were discovered in 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. An elaborate planning process of seven years led to the building's eventual construction in 1965 which was funded by the family of David Samuel Gottesman, the Hungarian √©migr√©, the philanthropist who had purchased the scrolls as a gift to the State of Israel.
The building consists of a white dome over a building located two-thirds below the ground. The dome is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a black basalt wall. The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, whereas the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness. The interior of the shrine was designed to depict the environment in which the scrolls were found. There is also a permanent display on life in the Qumran, where the scrolls were written. The entire structure was designed to resemble a pot in which the scrolls were found. 
The  Knesset is across the way from the museum. We drove over there to see the giant brass menorah - which was something to see.
It was designed by Benno Elkan (1877-1960), aJewish sculptor who escaped from his native Germany to Britain. It was presented to the Knesset as a gift from the Parliament of the United Kingdom on April 15, 1956 in honor of the eighth anniversary of Israeli independence.
The Knesset Menorah was modeled after the golden candelabrum that stood in the Temple in Jerusalem. A series of bronze reliefs on the Menorah depict the struggles to survive of the Jewish people, depicting formative events, images and concepts from the Hebrew Bible and Jewish history. The engravings on the six branches of the Menorah portray episodes since the Jewish exile from Eretz Yisrael. Those on the center branch portray the fate of the Jews from the return to the land to the establishment of the State. It has been described as a visual "textbook" of Jewish history.
Our last stop was at the Mt of Olives overlooking the city and the huge Jewish cemetery. Along the way Yuval pointed out many of the cities landmarks.

It is late and I can't think anymore. I am sure I have left something out or probably got something wrong - it was so much to take in. It was a great day even with the rain and the cold. The sun came when we needed it to. Thank you Yuval for some great memories.

Next time.... The Western Wall Tunnels

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 2

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Jerusalem, Here We Come!

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 1

Another cloudy morning, but not as windy. We were on the road leaving the Dead Sea around 9ish. We stopped at En Gedi Spa to see what all the fuss was about. It wasn't anything except a public access to the Dead Sea for an admission fee. This was going to be our alternative if we did not get a hotel room. Glad we got the hotel. It seemed much nicer.

A bit further up the coast is the kibbutz at En Gedi, whose claim to fame is the botanical gardens. We had hoped to walk through, but the ticket office didn't open till 10:15. Took some photos of what we could see outside the gates. Too bad it looked like it is probably quite nice. But we really didn't want to hang around for a half hour.

The road along the Dead Sea has some truly incredible views. Again, some of photos could be paintings. Next stop the Ahava factory. This is another kibbutz that produces the famous Ahava beauty products. Poked around here for a bit and moved on. Made a quick stop at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Decided it wasn't worth the admission price to go see a few caves. We pressed onward to Jerusalem.

One way or another, we made it to the apartment. It is across from the Old City right near the Russian Compound. The good news is it is plenty big and the washer/dryer works - which we really needed. The bad news is that it isn't quite as advertised. It is in an old building which we expected, but it is really run down. The apartment itself is not really as clean as it should be. Although we have found that everywhere in every country in every accommodation - plus, I admit, I am a bit on the anal side of cleanliness - so this gets to me. And although we can see the Old City, it is sort of a stretch.  And, as long as I'm on the negative side of things, the weather has taken a nasty turn -- it is cold and extremely windy!  Hoping it warms up for tomorrow but we're not counting on it.

After we dropped our stuff off, we had to find the Avis place to return the car. This was an adventure. Between the one way streets and streets that are just for pedestrians, Geoff wound up driving down a non-traffic street just for the light rail (streetcar). We got plenty of looks but nobody stopped us. Made it to Avis and said goodbye to the car and walked back to the apartment.

OK, so we are in and settled -- time to venture out and find the stores and restaurants. On the way, we ran into the Underground Prisoners Museum. Paid our 20 shekels and took the tour:
The museum is located in the Russian Compound that served as the central prison of the British Mandatory authorities. The building was erected as a hostel for Christian pilgrims towards the end of the Ottoman period, when the European powers sought to strengthen their hold on Palestine. The Russian Compound, built outside the Old City, included a church, a hospital, and pilgrim hostels for men and women. The inscription "Marianskya women's hostel" can be seen in Russian above the entrance.
In 1917, the British conquered Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. The Russian compound
became a British security and administrative center known as "Bevingrad." The women's hostel was transformed into the central British prison. With long hallways leading to separate rooms, it was an ideal layout for a prison. Over the course of the British occupation, hundreds of prisoners passed through its gates. Jews and Arabs were incarcerated together. While the facility housed many death-row inmates, members of the Jewish underground sentenced to death were executed in Acre. The British, fearful of the Jewish reaction to executions in the holy city, never used the gallows for Jews. In each cell, one prisoner was appointed supervisor and given a bed. Prisoners from the Jewish underground were put to work making coffins and gravestones for British policemen and soldiers who had been killed in attacks by Jewish underground groups. As the guards used to tell them, "What you start on the outside, you finish on the inside." The wire fence, bars and inscription "Central Prison Jerusalem" on the door are from the British Mandatory period (1917–1948).
We saw the cell and the tombs of the two Jewish prisoners who committed suicide rather than die by the gallows. Nachum told us this story and here we were. It was all interesting but also heart-breaking.
Moshe Barazani, a member of Lehi, and Meir Feinstein, a member of Etzel, were
sentenced to death in 1946 because of their involvement in the attempted assassination of a British officer and a bombing attack on a Jerusalem railway station in which a policeman was killed. They awaited execution in the cell on the right. The British, fearing that the vehicle taking them to Acre would be ambushed, decided to execute them in Jerusalem. At the initiative of the two underground groups and with the agreement of the two condemned men, it was decided to thwart the plans of the executioners. The plan was to smuggle into their cell two improvised hand grenades. These were to be hidden in orange peels and placed in a fruit basket. The first hand grenade would be thrown at the hangmen including the warden during the planned execution. The second hand grenade would be used for the two condemned men to take their lives.
The execution was set for April 22, 1947. On the previous evening they were visited by Rabbi Yaakov Goldman who was so impressed by their courage and spirit that he decided to accompany them to their execution. They tried to dissuade him from accompanying them, but the rabbi insisted. The rabbi left the cell with the intention of returning the next morning. Shortly afterwards Feinstein wrote a brief note on the cover of his bible, gave it to the British guard to whom the note was addressed and asked for privacy to pray. The men embraced each other, holding the hand grenade between them, and sang Hatikva. The grenade was then detonated, killing them both.
Left the museum and found the shops and restaurants.  Found a market and picked up breakfast provisions. Decided to pick up a couple of falafal sandwiches and eat in tonight.  Too cold to wander around-need to get acclimated again to chilly weather.

Laundry is going and dinner is waiting. Still better than being in a hotel room. Tomorrow we have a guide to take us around Jerusalem. Looking forward to seeing the sights.

Next time.... Exploring Jerusalem

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 1