After breakfast we will start our tour of Jerusalem by boarding the coach and making our way to the Garden of Gethsemane. We will continue to Dung Gate and the Western Wall and then stroll through the streets and alleyways of the Old City, as well as many other sites so famous here.
This morning we will visit the moving Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem, followed by the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed.
The coach will depart for Bethlehem, our first visit will be Shepherd's Field, identified as the scene where the Angel of the Lord visited the shepherds and informed them of Jesus' birth. After enjoying free time for lunch we will make our way to the Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in Holy Land still in use, it marks the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus.
Today is a free day for you to explore as you wish. Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you on the various attractions and museums in the city. This evening you will be informed of your departure time from the hotel for your flight tomorrow.
Day 8Today more or less followed the itinerary for “Day 6”, except that we’d already visited Yad Vashem the previous evening. It was felt that if we’d had this visit at the start of the day it would have dampened the mood of the whole day. So our first stop was “The Israel Museum”, which houses among other things “The Shrine of the Book”.
At the appropriate time, the coach will transfer you to the airport to take your return flight back to the UK.
09:12:28 Model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod’s Temple: the Temple Sanctuary and the Eastern (“Golden”) Gate
09:12:58 Model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod’s Temple: the “Royal Stoa” at the southern end of the temple site
09:14:12 Model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod’s Temple: Antonia Fortress at the northern end of the temple site
09:28:48 Model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod’s Temple: Just to the right of the temple site, below where the central crowd of people is standing, is the City of David, the original Mount Zion.
Then we went in The Shrine of the Book proper, the centrepiece of which was within the white, sink-plunger shaped dome. (Photography was not allowed in there, so the images, below, are copied from the internet.) Around the circumference in dimly lit glass display-cases were actual exhibits from the Dead Sea Scrolls, while the central exhibit, approached by steps up, was in the form of a giant vertical scroll-spindle, around which was displayed a paper replica of the Great Isaiah Scroll. (In places on these scrolls, you could just make out the ruled vertical right-hand margins of the columns, and the horizontal ruled lines from which the writing was suspended: the writing was below the line, not above it.) There were also exhibits downstairs below this, notably the vowel-pointed Aleppo Codex, one of the oldest manuscripts of the Masoretic Text. (The Dead Sea Scrolls were written using consonants only.) Tuesday 30 October 2012, I elected for the latter today. Again, when it came, it was served in pitta bread. I went to the self-service area for drinks. I saw two types of bottled beer in the fridge: one with Hebrew letters on the bottle, the same as I’d had on Wednesday 31 October 2012, and one labelled in Latin letters “Taybeh”. Not being able to read the Hebrew letters, I asked for the “local” beer, but the boy offered me the “Taybeh”. So I indicated that I wanted the other one. Afterwards I felt a bit ashamed that I did so, for I realised that the “Taybeh” was indeed the local, Palestinian brew, not the “foreign” Israeli one. Janet and I were NOT among the more exhibitionistic ones of our party who donned Arab gear and performed to the Middle Eastern-style music on the stage. This had barely ended, when Gabriel announced it was time to go, and suddenly everyone disappeared. Janet was in the loo, so I couldn’t follow. (This was not the only time I felt mad as hell after everyone had either buggered off and left us, or had proceeded so rapidly that I couldn’t keep up.) I think our companions at the table were in the same predicament.
09:29:38 Model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod’s Temple: closer view of Mount Zion at the rear of the model just below the crowd of people
So we went back the way we came, and followed their directions. There was a security man barring access to some steps at the left side of the nave — this was the “other way” to the grotto — but when Janet explained about how we’d waited till I couldn’t wait any more the man took my arm and helped me down the steps. They led to a rectangular space with a smoke-blackened, barrel-shaped roof, the walls of which were hung with icons. Diagonally opposite the place where the steps ended — what, in fact, I noticed first — was an additional, smaller rectangular space with a corner pillar and cloth pelmets and other draperies; this was the place where the manger was supposed to have been. Between the steps by which we entered, and the steps by which all the others were admitted, was the altar marking the spot where Christ was supposed to have been born. There was a feature at the bottom of this that was hidden by people crowding round and bending down. This, I have gathered later, was the fourteen-pointed “Star of Bethlehem” marking the exact spot. “The shrine was through a hole at floor level,” Janet wrote, “and [John] said he couldn’t get down there, so I did and said thanks to God for us both and had a little weep.”
14:18:24 Vaulted arcade of the Franciscan Courtyard, leading to the adjoining Church of St. Catherine
Photo from the internet, taken from the far end of the “rectangular space”. Left: the steps that we were led down. Centre: the altar where Christ is supposed to have been born. Right: the supposed site of the manger. Behind that: the steps by which the waiting crowds were admitted.
Better photo of the altar, from Wikipedia. The ornamentation at the back appears to be missing or curtained off, and a gate has been erected, in my photo.
Photo from Wikipedia of the lower part of the altar, showing the 14-pointed Star of Bethlehem, marking the supposed spot where Christ was born
“We arrived back at our hotel at 4.50pm and it was almost dark,” Janet wrote. “It was still quite hot. We needed to pay Norman for tomorrow night’s Light Show and didn’t have enough shekels left, so went to the hotel next door to an ATM and got 400 shekels.” It was downstairs in the basement. One swiped the card rather than insert it, so there was no risk of losing it — just as well, because I mis-remembered my “PIN”, so three attempts failed. Janet successfully used her card. “We paid Norman,” Janet continued (he was still in the lobby), “then returned to our room for a quick wash-and-brush-up and to dump some stuff. The group were to have a stroll — I specifically asked Norman if it would be a leisurely affair as [John] was struggling, and he assured me it would be — to [the] Old [City of] Jerusalem. It was dark by 5.45pm when we set off. We’d only gone a short distance when we turned back, VERY angrily as everyone was ‘legging it’ at such a pace [that John] couldn’t keep up.… Well sod ’em: we’ll go on our own on Sunday at our own pace. We returned to our hotel; we were seething.” We’d left the hotel, turning right; we took a left, then a right, then stopped to look through the gate at St. George’s Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem. The group had got ahead, but we caught up at this point. But when they marched off again, I knew it was going to be impossible to keep up, so we gave up and went back. Using the “little feller”, I edited 55 images from today (18:12–19:14). Janet updated her journal. Dinner wasn’t till 8pm this evening; that was something to do with being the start of Shabbat. “So at 7.50pm,” Janet wrote, “I went off on my own to eat, as [John] didn’t want to. Fortunately, he’d had a substantial lunch.” As well as that, just the thought of seeing and smelling the food laid out in the buffet was making my stomach turn; and what’s more, I felt daunted by having to be with all the others. “I called at Reception first,” Janet continued, “and booked a wake-up call for 6.30am. I doubt I’ll need it, really. Breakfast is from 6.00am and I’m determined to get in the dining room as early as possible.” Janet keeps to a strict calorie-controlled diet six days a week, then on Saturdays eats anything and everything she wants. “I sat with Eric and ‘Kyeen’ and had a great chat with Eric. I went back to our room for 9pm. [John] was on his computer. I had a shower then updated this, etc. Now I’ll try to sleep. It’s 9.55pm. [John is] still on his computer.” I edited 71 images from Tuesday 30 October 2012 (20:42–22:58).
16:31:14 The “Security Fence” or “Apartheid Wall” — depending on whose side you’re on — extending from a check-point between Bethlehem in Palestine, and Jerusalem in Israel
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