Monday, August 26, 2019

October 11, 2018 – Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel – Partly Cloudy – 80F

We are in Israel…

We decided not to do any excursions in Israel (no escorting possible, pretty expensive, and tiring) so we are going to explore Jerusalem on our own.

We took advantage of the Free Port Shuttle to Sea Mall in the heart of Ashdod. Our plan from there was to find a reasonable taxi to take us to the Old City.  After some crazy negotiating (I was getting somewhere but it was taking too long), we hired taxi driver Tomas Yitzhak - $100 per cab to Jerusalem for the two of us and Michael and Neathery Fuller (who had an appointment with an archeologist at the Israeli Museum and were staying over). 

After dropping the Fullers off at the Museum, Tomas dropped us at the Jaffa Gate and said he would pick us up outside the police checkpoint exit at the Kotel at 3:00 PM.  That way, we wouldn’t have to climb back up the stairs to the Jaffa Gate. 

Before entering the Old City, I got a pretty nice picture of David's Tower.

Jaffa Gate

We made our way through the Christian Quarter only briefly stopping to check out the shops.  

I did spend 10 shekels ($2.50) on a frozen coffee.  I really liked these the last time we were so I had to have another.  It wasn’t as good as I remember but it was still good.

One thing that was different this time in the Old City was the presence of free bathrooms.  They were pretty clean considering the number of people who use them and how frequently they get cleaned.

There was also plenty of police presence in the Quarter.

We followed the signs to the Wall and stayed there quite a while, snapping pictures and watching the activity.  It was a Thursday so there were several Bar Mitzvahs going on near the Wall.  I expected to see more police and military presence. 

What struck me as unusual was the soldiers (men and women - more women by percentage) were unarmed.  In the past, soldiers always had a rifle with them.  This time, I did not see any armed military.

On our way to the Kotel, we came across the Rambam Synagogue, the second oldest active synagogue in the Old City.  It was founded by Rambam (Nachmanides) in 1267 (and obviously restored since then). 

Rambam Synagogue

We needed to get better pictures from a higher vantage point so we wound up climbing the stairs anyway to get the big picture of the Wall.  From the top of the stairs we also could see the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aksa Mosque, the Mount of Olives, and the “City of David”.  I captured many of these sites in a panoramic shot.

Panoramic View of Old City - Kotel

Al-Aksa Mosque and Mount of Olives

Views of the Kotel and Surrounding Sites

Archaeologists are actively excavating areas around the Wall complex.

We also saw King Josiah's Wall and the Cardo from above.

We climbed back up the stairs to the square containing restaurants.  At the top of the stairs, there was a statue of two lions and a replica of the Second Temple Menorah.

After checking out a lot of places for lunch (one place was out of everything we wanted), we wound up at BBQ Meats.  We shared a Shawarma and Burger – they were both spicy and good. We treated ourselves to Coke Lites and a local beer.

We headed to our pickup spot outside the Security Checkpoint for the Kotel.  We saw lots of buses dropping off and picking up school children.  Many of the buses had special grills protecting the windows (perhaps from thrown stones).  Ellen found a comfortable place to wait for our pickup.

Tomas picked us up right on time.  We asked him for a quote to take us to visit our cousin.  He said it would be $180 to do that including a return to the Sea Mall in Ashdod.  We really didn’t have much choice so we took it because he said he would throw in a tour of Jerusalem.  The tour of Jerusalem was minimal – essentially the Knesset.  

He did take to our cousin’s town and we spent some quality time visiting.  Tomas waited in the parking lot and soon we were on our way back to Ashdod.  

We caught the shuttle back to the ship.  It was a bit pricey but a very nice and productive day in Jerusalem’s Old City.  And we still have another day in Ashdod/Jerusalem tomorrow.

We weren’t that hungry for dinner so we had just a minimal meal in the Café. 

Showtime tonight featured “Cross Country with Raegar” (Rachel – country singer from Texas and Garett West End performer from the UK).  We enjoyed their act so much that I posted something on their Facebook Page and they even replied.

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