Monday, April 28
The meeting time for the tour "Leisurely Jerusalem" was 7:00 so I had my alarm set for 6:30. I woke up at 6:22 before the morning show was even being broadcast! I was in the Queens Room by 6:50 to get my tour number. Turned out my dinner friend, Lynn, was on the same bus.
We set out a few minutes after 7 and had to go through passport control. We were on the road heading south to Jerusalem by 7:30.
One of the first things we learned was that today is the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day. What a special day to be in Israel! At ten o'clock a siren would sound and everything in Israel would stop.
Our first comfort stop was in a place called Latrun. Right next to the restaurant is Yad La'Shiryon Latrun, an army museum. We were going to only stop for a few minutes but our guide, Yakov, said that we would be on the road at 10 so instead, he was able to get us into the grounds of the museum and observe their ceremony. There were a group of young members of the military (Jewish Israelis must serve in the military at the age of 18 - men for three years, women for two) taking part in the ceremony.
After the ceremony was over we headed on to Jerusalem. On the road we passed a pretty church dedicated to John the Baptist and also Yad Vashem the national memorial to those who were victims of the Holocaust.
The Israelis consider Jerusalem their capital city although most countries do not and have their embassies in Tel-Aviv. I knew Israel had a complicated history but did not realize all the divisions (that you can't see so much in person) that still exist. The more our guide talked about it the more confused I became so I won't explain. I will leave it with there being a great deal of contention over Jerusalem.
We drove through the new city and stopped at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) for a photo and also passed by a number of the government buildings.
Lunch was at a kibbutz which was much different from what I was expecting. Many of these now have hotels, restaurants, convention centers, and banquet halls. There was a whole range of foods but they keep kosher so no dairy products since we had meat. The food was excellent.
After lunch we went to the Mount of Olives for an overview of the old city and a short shopping break. The view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock was spectacular. Jerusalem is the third holiest cities in Islam because Muhammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount. We stopped at the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was supposed to have prayed and wept among the ancient olive trees (some of which are almost a thousand years old) before his crucifixion.
The last stop was at the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall. There are separate sections for men and women to pray or leave messages in the cracks in the wall or, like the woman next to me, cry pitifully.
We had another comfort stop at Latrun on the way back and got back to the ship around 8 pm. It was a long, tiring day and I went straight to the Lido for a dinner (where I chose a number of things I did not care for) and then back to my stateroom.
part of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem
Church of All Nations (also known as the Church of the Agony)
Russian Orthodox Church
part of the Judean Desert which borders Jerusalem
the Knesset Building
a Jewish cemetery
view of old and new Jerusalem
the Western Wall
Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony
all flags were at half staff for Holocaust Remembrance Day
Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque
another view of old Jerusalem
the walls of the old city
church dedicated to John the Baptist
buildings in Jerusalem are made from local limestone
all homes have to heat water using solar panels
the Garden (and gardeners) of Gethsamane
Smooth sailing until next time!