4:11 pm

I will get an early start on Wednesday’s journal.  It was just a half day of touring today (we just lost our “free” day).  But it was nice of Andre to guide us through the Old City today on what is really HIS day off….from us!

We got a leisurely start to the day, meeting at 8:30 in the lobby.  Well, sort of.  We found the back room off of the lobby (which is one fabulous space, by the way) and got alone enough to have our morning devotions.  But we wanted to talk about Yom Kippur, so Andre provided his perspective and then we read the text from Leviticus.  There were some questions about modern evangelical life in Israel, and Andre fielded them with great skill and personal knowledge.  Folks enjoyed the give and take.

Then it was off for our time of touring.  The program included the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then the Via Dolorosa (backwards, by the way).  We started at the church, which wasn’t too terribly crowded.  Andre provided an excellent setting for what we were about to see and experience.  He put everything into context for us, which was most helpful.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher - Golgotha
Church of the Holy Sepulcher - Golgotha
Then we went inside.  Golgotha.  Bedrock.  Chapel of Helena (old rock quarry), Tomb.  The chapel is interesting because it provides evidence of there being a high quality stone quarry in the vicinity of Calvary. But the stone we just saw at Calvary is of a lower quality.  So they quarried all around it, leaving the poor stone up top sticking up into the sky.  It was a unique perspective.

I didn’t wait in the line for the tomb (a 20-minute line this year – not the hours from the last couple of tours).  That section of the church is undergoing massive renovations, and so there is not really all that much to see.    Well, there are a bunch of tarps and scaffolding.

Then we went down and visited some catacombs – tombs – cut from the rocks in that area.  It was tight, but interesting.  We wound our way out of the church and onto the courtyard, where we learned how “that ladder” is a symbol of the status quo agreement at the church for about the last 100 years.  No changes can be made, so the ladder which was providing food for the monks before the agreement, stands today.  Because they can’t change anything.  So the ladder stands.  Testament to religiosity.

We went back into the church through another door and meandered through the Ethiopian section and around and about to get out on the Via Dolorosa.  We traced the stations of the cross (backwards from 14-1).  Oh well, we got to experience the Old City shopping area.

Our last stop was to see the Lithostros stones in the basement of a Catholic convent.  It was actually a bit crowded.  We toured around but didn’t actually get over to see the best example of the stones the Roman soldiers used to entertain themselves in the basement of the Antonio Fortress.  This is where the trial before Pilate occurred, and where the Roman soldiers humiliated the Savior.  Powerful place.

Then we were set free.  Free to roam.  Free to shop.  Free to nap.  Andre suggested a stop at the Austrian Hostile for a view of the Old City from the roof.  That sounded interesting, but we were hungry.  So I asked about the rooftop shawarma restaurant I’ve been too before.  Andre was already headed there for lunch – so he led the way.  It’s in the Christian Quarter and on the way back “home” to the Gloria.

The lunch was delicious.  It is lamb shawarma, and they really pack in the lamb.  So tasty – and the view over the Christian Quarter is lovely.  The wind was gentle and it was just a nice relaxing spot for lunch.

Then we all headed our own directions (more or less) for shopping.  The honest truth is that some were separated and haven’t yet been seen.  I sure hope they made it back.  I’m sure they did.  You can get confused in the Old City, but you really can’t get lost.  Let’s hope.  

The Welches got their shopping done. We came back to the hotel for the agreed upon rendezvous at 2:30.  It is really hard to know what to do on a free afternoon when everything in the Jewish section is closed.  Nothing is open.  Not a thing.  So we decided to try that Austrian Hostel.  Coffee on the roof sounded lovely.  But….we didn’t’ know exactly where it was.

The front desk gave us a map, but couldn’t pinpoint it’s location.  So we decided to head off through the Christian Quarter toward the Damascus Gate.  It’s a meandering path, but interesting.  We finally did locate the Hostel, by Station Three on the Via Dolorosa.  I have seen the place many times, but didn’t know what it was.

View of the Old City from Austrian Hostel
View of the Old City from Austrian Hostel
Up more stairs.  Oh yes, it costs five shekels to go to the roof.  Only shekels.  No dollars.  Really?  Mike and I headed off to find the money changer – who was located just about all the way to the Damascus Gate (not far except when you are looking for something close).  We exchanged our money (well, Mike did) and headed back.  Paid our way up to roof.  Mike got his coffee.

Well, we didn’t hear things correctly from Andre I guess.  Coffee is available in the cafeteria – but it is most certainly not allowed on the roof.  Oh wow.  This was not going to be relaxing, sit on the roof and enjoy the view kind of trip.  We got up to the roof with about 50-60 of our closest friends.  A huge tour group was there.  There is no seating.  Just rails and a wood floor.  So, we walked around and took some pictures – have to use our dollars wisely.  Soon the tour group left and we enjoyed some extra space.

It is a lovely view of the Old City.  From the Dome of the Rock to the churches of the Christian Quarter to the Damascus Gate. All punctuated with satellite receivers and water heaters and houses as old as you can imagine – all crammed together on top of each other.

It was interesting, just not what we had expected.

And it was a long walk back to the hotel.

Christie was out trying to find iced coffee (she hadn’t gone on the afternoon jaunt).  We never found it – but we did find some fresh pomegranate juice and lemonade to quench our thirst.  It has gotten quite warm this afternoon, so a cool drink was really nice.

Tonight we leave for the Ambassador Hotel at 7 for our “farewell” dinner.  Well, we are not saying farewell to anything but Yom Kippur, so I guess that is a good enough reason to enjoy a special meal together.  Andre will meet us there, Tarek will come with the bus to pick us up.

So, if all goes well, I can get all my “work” done and get to bed on time tonight after a social evening out on the town.  Sweet.

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