Back from a night on the town. Well, sort of. But all that extra walking has sure worn out our feet. And legs. And….well, everything. It was a long but very full day. We walked all over this Old City. And I sort of mean – all over!
ADDENDUM TO WEDNESDAY. I have finished Thursday and then remembered that I haven’t given Wednesday evening it’s due. The dinner at the Ambassador Hotel was simply….amazing. There was so much food waiting for us when we arrived, we couldn’t believe it. All fresh, the tables were covered with salads. And then they brought us fresh (and I mean fresh) hot out of the oven pita – all still puffy and everything. It was a feast. The main course was BBQ – chicken and lamb…with grilled onions and tomatoes (who knows how good those red things were). And then the dessert. Not sure what it was, but I was able to sneak an extra one. It was amazing.
Wednesday night dinner at the Ambassador Hotel - Airdropping pictures to each other (for about half an hour....hilarious)And then after dinner – it is hard to describe – but we spent at least half an hour using AirDrop to share our photos of each other with each other. It was quite comical. There were a lot of iPhones at that table. And the lessons on how to use it were hysterical. We laughed a lot. Shared a lot of memories. And, well, just had some fund together.
Tarek offered us a night tour of the Old City on the way back, so we went up to Mt. Scopus and got to see the Temple Mount at night. Lovely evening – and a nice thing for him to do. Then it was back to the hotel.
Now, back to Thursday….
The day seems like it started a week ago, but it didn’t. We started off on foot (but we ended with a joyous celebration on the bus). We headed down into the heart of the Old City, headed to the Western Wall. Hey, Andre took the same route I took….so I’m not too crazy. Anyway, we went through security to get onto the plaza.
It is Bar Mitzvah day at the plaza, so it was hopping with activity. Lots and lots of families and little boys celebrating this most significant day in their lives. Many had musical accompanying them and processions – and, well, it was amazing.
Bar Mitzvah at the Western WallWe went back out of the plaza so that we could go up onto the Temple Mount. Another big procession for a bar mitzvah. I got some great video footage, but they really did clog things up. We were trying to get across them and to the line for the Temple Mount, which was closed.
Soon Andre found out they were using another entrance….so back through the normal security line for the plaza and then wait at this other gate. But we all got tangled up with the procession, and yet they waited for me to gather all my group of twelve. And, they let us through. Security screening #3. This time visual searches of backpacks. I didn’t bring my Bible this time, so I was good to go.
After the checkpoint we started up the wooden ramp which leads to the Temple Mount. Some of our ladies had to cover up a bit more (we are so immodest, you know), but when we arrived at the top and entered the Mount, we were all acceptable. Wow. Guys in shorts had to be taken aside and they got to wear “skirts” on the Mount. But we were all prepared and passed the morality police inspection.
Well, mostly. When someone wanted to take a picture of Christie and me, I did get close and hold her hand…drawing the ire of the morality police. It took a while to figure out what all the commotion was about, but we soon separated and got the photo.
Selfie group shot on the Temple MountWe found some shade and Andre related the ancient history of these 45 acres (half that size until Herod the Great’s expansion of the Temple Mount). But it was a great review of biblical history and the events which followed the closing of the Scriptures. A really long succession of events has led to the Jordanian control today of the Temple Mount itself.
Anyway, we had some free time to roam the compound and get some photos. We then regathered to leave the Temple Mount and head down for our Western Wall Tunnel tour.
We had to wait a few minutes for our 11:20 tour to begin. Now, “we” is a bit misleading. I didn’t go down in the tunnels. I’m not liking those enclosed spaces any more these days than in my earlier life. So I set my birds free – and found some fresh orange juice and headed up to the Cardo for a little shopping spree.
At my appointed time, I was back waiting for my birds to return. Andre didn’t go with them either, actually, they used the local guide. I spent about half an hour waiting and just watching the fascinating parade of humanity tromp by. I was in a tunnel (they’ve moved the entrance to the tour) and so many people went on the tour that it was like waves of seashore….crowded, the crowds entered the tunnel…then they built up again. Some interesting folks, let me say. And let me make one observation – Hasidic Jews have large families. Lots and lots and lots of children.
Oh and the report back from the tunnel tour was that it is quite different these days. The focus is often on water and cisterns and the things they’ve discovered are quite interesting and new. So I must have to summon the courage next time to see what’s down there. Well, maybe not so much.
The birds returned and we headed up a bunch of stairs to the Jewish Quarter for lunch. You really can’t go anywhere in the Old City without facing stairs. And quite a few of them, I might add.
Christie and I ate with her folks and Judy Law. The menu of choice was burgers. Interesting to try a burger in the Jewish Quarter. It wasn’t a cheese burger, just know that. Though they were a little slow (we barely missed our meeting time), the burgers were good. And the air conditioning was delightful.
Southwestern corner of the Temple MountBack on the road again – and headed over to the Archeological Gardens (Temple Steps outside the southern wall). That’s always a highlight of every tour – the Ophel, it is called. We saw the movie explaining what things were like back in the first century – and how an ordinary Jewish man would come to the city and why. It’s an interesting film, and a nice cool place to sit. It was hot today, but too hot.
Then we toured the site, the first century street (cardo) just under the retaining wall of the Temple Mount – then over to the steps below the southern wall. Steps on which we know Jesus walked and taught. I read Matthew 23 – th
e account of Jesus’ teaching near/on those steps in the last days of life, His condemnation of the religious leadership and how they had really missed the mark spiritually. It is a powerful text to read on those steps, within site of the Mt. of Olives and the hills covered with “white washed” tombs.
Temple Steps -- group shot (no Christie)
Then it was down to the City of David, after making sure that Judy Law and the Shoff’s got a taxi back to the hotel.
Back to the City of David, for our second attempt at entering that site. We had tried on the eve of Yom Kippur, but was already closed. It was not closed today. And the 8 folks left couldn’t wait to get going. I, again
, chose a different path. It was a quite interesting one, actually. I wound around from the top of the City of David and discovered a great (and new) path they had constructed. I got to seem some Canaanite wall ruins – and enjoy a lovely path and grass and well, it was just a nice walk down the hillside. I even found the exit to the “dry” tunnel, and could wait there for Christie and Andre. The brave seven who were left all worked their way through Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
And, I must say that they LOVED it. They were so very excited about that part of the day that they were still talking about it at dinner. Yay. Whew. I’m glad….for them! I like sunshine, personally. And I had lots of it today.
Leaving Hezekiah's Tunnel - at the Pool of SiloamIn a bit a surprise, Tarek was waiting with “our” bus for us at the Pool of Siloam. To not have to walk from almost the bottom of the Kidron Valley clear back up to our hotel was one huge and appreciated blessing. It was good to see him.
Back to the hotel. Lovely dinner at 6:30. Then we all met in the lobby at 7:15 for our night out on the town. We decided to head over the Cardo (in the Jewish Quarter) for a bit of a shopping exploration. I warned them that the shops might not be open (and I was right) but no one cared. Just to out into the city at night was enough of a lure.
The shops were closed so I put on my tour guide hat and showed everyone the ruins of the first century Cardo – and the Madaba map (restoration) that is on display. Since we are going to see the real deal day after tomorrow – I figured it might be nice to know what we are looking at.
Then we set ourselves loose to explore the Jewish Quarter – most of the shops were closed (unless they revolved around food) but it was such a warm and lovely evening everyone seemed to have a great time. It was a nice evening. Oh, and they did find some coffee – so certain ones among us were quite happy. Oh, and soy hot chocolate made someone else (Karen) very, very happy.
Back toward home we headed and folks are beginning to get a feel for where they are in the city. That’s great. Some of us walked on to the Mamilla Mall (across the street from the Jaffa Gate). It was bustling, and not a store was closed. But, it’s almost a regular American mall. Interesting…but after a few minutes, Christie and I had had enough and headed back to the hotel. Exhausted.
And that’s where I am right now. Sitting on the bed typing away and waiting for my turn in the shower. That’ll feel great. We are on the bus at 8:30 tomorrow – so that is not too early. We head to Samaria (first stop is Shiloh, a place to which I have never been, but always wanted to visit). We are going to have an amazing lunch in Sebastia, but I supposed I ought to let tomorrow tell it’s own story.