9:35 pm

15,014 Steps
6.31 miles

I am finally getting settled into the hotel in Jerusalem.  We were a tad late in arriving (the Jerusalem traffic was unbearable).  I think we got here after 6 pm.  It was a very long and very hot day.  We went straight to dinner.  Then six of us went to the traditional Western Wall walk (a first night in Jerusalem tradition for me).  By 9 pm I was back in my room.  But, alas, I had to prepare my clothes for the laundry service and unpack my bad and then take a shower and text Christie and then….journal time.  And in case you want to know, I am having some trouble getting the pix to the computer tonight, but I think I’m getting that worked out.  We shall see.

The day began in leisure.  I enjoyed the sunrise over the mountains of Moab from my spacious bay windows.  It was going to be a beautiful day.  Breakfast was not nearly as crowded or hectic as dinner.  So that was nice.  The halva was good.  As was this chocolate pastry – it was to die for.  Oh yes, the eggs and cheese were great too.

I finished up breakfast and headed upstairs for the final packing.  Hey, the porter picked up all our bags this time.  Wow.  Upon arrival they never did bring bags to the rooms until calls were made.  Now, over half of the folks took their own bags.  But hey, bring the stinking bags!

Anyway, we got all loaded and ready to go BEFORE the appointed hour of 8 am.  I think, perhaps, Andre was the final one aboard.  We were soon off toward En Gedi.  Mark Benedom did the morning devotion from Romans 8.  It was great.
At En Gedi, we were off the bus and headed up the canyon before we knew what hit us.  It is a most beautiful walk, and doing it first thing in the morning was a treat.  It was going to be warm today, but at that early hour it was just lovely.  The hike up was tough, and cost us more and more lost souls as the steps increased.  I think we lost at least six on the upward trek.  But those who stuck it out were rewarded with a great and enjoyable view of the waterfall – and some reading from 1 Samuel by me.  Ha.

Back down the gorge and to the restrooms and refreshment stand.  Water was sweet, I’ll say that.  Back on the bus in the midst of an ibex mini-heard.  That was fun to see.  We’d see a few on the hike, but there were a whole bunch of them in the parking lot.  I think they were cleaning up for the slobs who dropped food and things in the parking lot.  Ugh.  Oh yes, while resting up a bit at the bottom of the hike, who walked by but one of my old tour guides (I used him twice I think) – Allan Rabinowitz.  He’s a really nice guy and we chatted briefly.  I don’t use him anymore because he’s gone more orthodox in his Judaism – so we have to have a substitute guide on Shabbat.  That’s not good.

Off to Masada.  The movie hasn’t changed, in case you wondered.  But then we went out a different door than usual.  Why?  Because arriving so late (like 10 am) meant the line was very very long.  I am usually there as the first group of the day.  So this was new.  I think we waited about 20 for our turn in the sardine can of a cable car.  It was full, but God blessed me with a standing spot next to an open window.  It was heavenly.  The window and breeze that is.

The top of Masada?  Well, it was just as crowded.  So.  Many.  Groups.  But it is a very large site…but still….there were people everywhere.  So many of them.  We got a spot under the explanation tarp (there are four of them as you enter the site) so that was nice.  Andre began to set the stage and context for what we would see in the next hour.  And then it happened.  Some people just wandered under our tarp.  Usually the guide will help them not interfere with the other group.  This old guy did exactly NOTHING.  But it won’t last long, right? WRONG.  Apparently, the best angle for a picture on top of Masada was right where Andre was standing.  They just started taking pictures and talking while he was trying to talk.  He was getting irritated.  But he carried on.

Then more of this group came.  And they pushed into our space more and more and more.  I’d had enough.  I know what the guide (this old guy) looked like so I got up from my comfortable seat and had to shove my way through all of these tourists and find the guide.  I asked him to please leave with his group and tell his folks to please be quiet, we can’t hear OUR guide.  And I even told him he’d been rude.  He didn’t seem much to care. But he would have learned that was not kosher behavior in guide school.  To finish the story – Andre later said they were all French.  He said that’s why he won’t guide French groups – for that very reason.  And, he’s married to a French gal.  It was so funny to hear him tell the story.  But it was rude and obnoxious without a doubt.  They soon left and we returned to our peace and quiet.  I mean, there were at least two other unoccupied sheltered areas nearby.  Oh no….they had to confiscate ours.  Frustrating.

Then we left to see the rest of Masada, bumping elbows with all the people.  I looked for the French.  Fortunately for them and for me, we didn’t cross paths again.  But it was really really hot up there.  Well, not that hot, but with no shelter from the shade it was a bit brutal.  There were some things we couldn’t visit because of the people and the heat – like the room where the potsherds were found.  We had to just walk by it.  We did get some time in the synagogue which was nice (I read from Psalm 18).  A peak at the siege ramp and then back to the exit.  Of course by now, there was long line waiting for a tram back down the hill.  We didn’t walk down the back side – which was smart, since it would have been too tough on the group I’m sure.

Back to the bus and on to Arad.  We’d have to drive around, which was fine by me.  A new road.  We were going to eat near our hotel from the night before, but there was a stirring for an more familiar option. So we opted to drive clear to Arad and visit the shopping mall from last trip.  They have a food court.  Most chose a burger and fries, while some chose more local cuisine.  They just aren’t ready in those places for that many people all at once.  And, that is not cheap.  It was at least $15 for a burger, fries, and a coke.  And they didn’t raise the price for us.  Everything around here is expensive.  We don’t really realize it until we get a check for a burger.

Back to the bus and a nice visit to Tel Arad.  Finally…..we were the lone bus at the entire site.  Some peace and quiet….for our short, very short, visit.  But we saw the “tabernacle” they had built in disobedience to the command of God.  But we did get to see the exact size of the Tabernacle.  That’s always nice.  Back on the bus.  Next stop was Beersheba. Haven’t been there in a while, so that was special.  We saw Abraham’s well, the tel, and the water system.  Not all made it passed the entrance.  It was plenty warm still – and a long day already.

It was now time to head toward Jerusalem.  It took awhile to get to the city, the traffic was pretty bad as we approached the Old City.  But hey, I don’t have to drive.  We had the long hike up and over the street to get inside the Jaffa Gate and to the hotel.  They aren’t always the friendliest of folks, but we are here. And the location is beyond amazing. I’m in a tiny room (payback for the suite of last night…but this is for four nights).  I think they are full tonight.

I am settled.  Finally.  It is nice not to have to pack up in the morning.  I’ve been exchanging Facebook messages with Jalesa Johnson, a PCC expat in the Air Force.  She’s been in Israel for a week and in Jerusalem tonight, but leaving in the morning for the Garden Tomb and then the airport.  So close, but yet so far.  Well, I’ve only been asleep a couple of times, so I will sign off for now.

We head to the Mt of Olives in the morning.  The Palm Sunday walk and Gethsemane.  Then out to Bethlehem.  SHAWARMA and shopping.  So it’ll be out of sync chronologically, but that’s when the reservations are….so we will make it work.  Should have another great day.  And a long one too.  We are getting worn out…….  Who planned this?

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