Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010 – Ashdod, Israel – 86F - Sunny

Distance Traveled from Haifa: 79 Nautical Miles 

Ashdod is a major historical city being one of the five great Philistine cities 3000 years ago.  Today, Ashdod is one of Israel’s major ports. 

We are on a full day tour today (“Leisurely Jerusalem”) so we have an early wakeup call (4:45 AM).  Not much to eat that early in the morning but we made do – we also had to take along some food in case lunch was late.

Our guide today is Benjamin.  He is ex-IDF and now a public relations officer for the IDF.  His English is very good and he has a good background in the wartime history of Israel.

Our bus is in good shape and soon we are under way.  We pass by a tremendous number of new cars waiting on the dock.  Economic conditions, being what they are, these cars could be here for a while. Not only that, but it seems that most of the cars out on the dock are white (the most popular color according to Benjamin).

Ashdod - Equinox and Imported Cars (Small)

Celebrity Equinox and unsold cars

It is about 90 minutes from Ashdod to Jerusalem but the bus stopped at a rest stop for water and wash rooms.  Originally indicated as free, water was 10 NIS ($2) so I opted to buy a diet Coke Max instead.  There was still a Succah up at the restaurant – it makes more sense to keep one up here in Israel than back home.

 Succah Rest Stop to Jerusalem (Small)

Succah at Rest Stop

On the way to Jerusalem, we heard details about all of the wars Israel has fought in the modern era; there was some detail I had never heard before.  In addition, there were numerous memorials along the highway (parts of armored vehicles [couldn’t get any pictures]) signifying the fighting that went on on this road (the only supply road to Jerusalem) during the 1948 War.

We passed the Yad Vashem Memorial just before reaching Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem (Small)

It is a civil ordinance in Jerusalem that the exterior walls of all structures be constructed of a local limestone called “Jerusalem Stone”.  The picture below shows a building in full compliance.

Jerusalem Stone on all homes (Small)

The bus stopped first in the New City near the Knesset Building.  Although one cannot get on the grounds of the Knesset, there were good photo opportunities at this stop.

Sculpture Near Knesset (Small)

Menorah and Mogen David on median

strip of Street near Knesset

Sculpture Entrrance to Knesset (Small)

Sculpture at the gate of the Knesset

Sculpture David Gulamov Knesset Entrance (1966) (Small) 

Sculpture (David Gulamov – 1966) at

Knesset Fence

Ellen’s tour was at the same place – there she is across the street from the Knesset.

E at the Knesset (Small) The Knesset (Small)

The Israeli Knesset Building

Across the street from the Knesset Building just outside the Wuhl Rose Jerusalem Park is a magnificent Menorah.  The Menorah depicts a number of scenes from the Bible (e.g. Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones).  It is a favorite photo spot so I was lucky to mostly avoid random people in this photograph.

Menorah Wohl Rose Park across from Knesset (Small)

Menorah (Wuhl Rose Park)

Leaving the Knesset complex we headed to the Old City passing several neighborhoods along the way.  One of the places we passed was the area where we stayed when we visited Jerusalem in 1995 – the building below looks a lot like the apartment we rented.  The Prime Minister’s Residence is just a few blocks away from this place.

Neighborhood we stayed in in 1995 (Small) 

Jerusalem neighborhood near the

Netanyahu Residence

In a few minutes, we were at the Old City (on the East Jerusalem Side).  We passed by the Damascus Gate (Islamic Architecture) and then Herod’s Gate (when the Crusaders scaled the city walls in the early 12th century).  The walls and gates of the Old City were constructed in the mid 16th century by Suleiman the Great.

The Old City (Small) 

The Damascus Gate Old City (Small)

The Damascus Gate – Old Jerusalem

 Herods Gate (Small)

Herod’s Gate

The bus made its way through the heavy traffic to the Mount of Olive’s Jewish Cemetery.  People want to be buried here because, when the Messiah comes and makes his way to Jerusalem, they will be the first dead to be resurrected (“location, location, location).  (Note:  Menachem Begin is the only Prime Minister buried in the Mount of Olive’s Cemetery).

The Mount of Olive’s affords a magnificent view of the entire Old City.  Visible on the Temple Mount are the Dome of the Rock site and the Al Aqsa Mosque.  To the left of the walled city is the original Jerusalem established by King David.

Old City from Mt of Olives (Small)

The Old City of Jerusalem from Mount of Olives

Dome of the Rock (Small) 

The Temple Mount – Dome of the Rock

David's  Original City left of Old City (Small)

Site of King David’s Jerusalem

Also visible from the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested by the Romans, and the Church of Mary Magdalene

Church of Mary Magdeline (Small) 

Church and Garden of Gethsemane; Church of Mary Magdalene

The Golden Gate is seen in the center of the city wall.  This Gate, through which the Messiah, will enter the city of Jerusalem, was sealed by the Muslims in the 7th Century.  In addition, there is a Muslim Cemetery directly in front of the gate.  Some say this is to prevent the Messiah from entering the gate since Elijah, who will lead the Messiah (riding a white donkey), cannot cross the cemetery (since he is a Cohain).  I’m sure there is a workaround here.

Golden Gate and Muslim Cemetery (Small) 

Golden Gate and Muslim Cemetery

Camel Ride at Mt of Olives (Small) 

Camel Rides at Mount of Olives – Nothing Sacred?

From the Mount of Olives, the next stop was lunch.  On the way, we passed the Garden and Church of Gethsemane, the tomb of David’s son, Absalom, and a view of the Hebrew University atop Mt. Scopus.  By the way, the name Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew for “Olive Press”. 

Garden of Gethsemene (Small) 

Garden of Gethsemane

Church of Gethsemene (Small) 

Church of Gethsemane (Church of Nations)

Tomb of Absalom (Small) 

Tomb of Absalom (David’s Son)

Hebrew U Mt Scopus (Small) 

Hebrew University – Mount Scopus Campus

Lunch was at the elegant Olive Tree Hotel.  The food was plentiful and kosher.  Included in the offerings was roast beef, the first meat we have had since we left on this trip.  It was delicious (couldn’t eat it fast enough).  Ellen’s bus also came to the Olive Tree so we had a chance to have lunch together.  All the food was good but the stay seemed too short.  Soon we were on our way to the Western Wall.

Lunch Stop Mt Olive Hotel (Small) 

Olive Tree Hotel

Traffic (or police stops) contributed to a long ride to the Western Wall.  Along the way, we passed the Mandelbaum Gate, a kind of “Check Point Charlie” between East and West Jerusalem before the city was reunited.  It is called the Mandelbaum Gate because Simcha Mandelbaum just happened to own the house on the border between East and West Jerusalem.

Mandelbaum Gate (Small) 

Mandelbaum Gate

We finally arrived at the Dung Gate, the entrance to the Western Wall.  Just inside the wall was the archeological park where current digs are in progress.  The guide pointed out that the large stones at the end of the park were from the original wall (I have my doubts since I would expect such valuable stones to be in a museum somewhere).

Ellen’s bus was also at the Wall so we spent a little time together and had our picture taken.  We also put notes into the wall per custom.  I documented that with a photo (below).

Dung Gate (Small)

The Dung Gate – Entrance to the Wall

Archeo Dig near Wall (Small) 

Archeological Park – Near the Wall

Stones from Original Wall (Small) 

Stones from Original (Pile on left)

H and E at the Wall (Small) 

We are at the Wall

The Western Wall (Small) 

The Western Wall

My note in the wall (Small) 

My note in the Wall

After leaving the Old City, we made a shopping stop for a few minutes (didn’t buy anything).  As we started home, we passed a protective pit – The Gehenim Gorge – named so because it was so deep it ventured near hell itself.

We also made a quick side trip to view the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank – the Security Fence was clearly visible.

The gehenim Chasm (Small) 

The Gehenim (“Hell”) Gorge

Bethlehem and the Fence (Small)

Bethlehem and the Security Fence

The 90 minute ride home was relaxing under a gorgeous sunset.

Going home sunset over Israel (Small)

The trip home – Sunset in the Holy Land

After dinner we took in the second production show:   Limelight – A Broadway Dream.  We had seen it many times before but the tunes are still worth attending again (the different singers and dancers make it feel different).

Tired after a long day.  Tomorrow, I have a lecture in the morning and then we are off on an excursion.





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