Israel XI: Old City Jerusalem During the Day Part 2

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night
Israel XI: Old City Jerusalem Daytime Part 1

_________________________________________________________________________

map, old city

Here’s the map again, to help you follow along our path. The last post took us with our guide through key Muslim and Jewish sites. This post takes us through Christian/Catholic sites and the celebration of the first night of Hanukah.

Jer1

We started this portion of the tour at the Church of St. Anne, which is the birthplace of Mary. It was very calm and peaceful here.

Jer2

It has a beautiful church (known for it’s acoustics), gardens that surround it, and even these ruins above of where the church used to stand. Again, there are so many layers to this city.

Jer3

Mary was born in the Muslim Quarter, so while on the grounds it was fun catching this shot above. Look at all the men’s brightly colored clothes. I thought it was funny, because the women where dark colored wraps and yet look at all those colors she’s working with.

Jer4

This is inside the church. You can see the ceiling curves which helps it get its great acoustic sound. It’s not uncommon to have choirs and singing tour groups stop in to rehearse in this space to enjoy the sound.

Jer5

Down in the basement is an area dedicated to Mary’s birthplace. Just like everything here, it claims to be “the site of her birth” but it’s hard to really know after all this time.

jerusalem-via-dolorosa-map

From here we walked the Via Dolorosa, which also begins in the Muslim Quarter. See the map above.

Jer6

Walking the walk…

 

Jer7 Jer8

This is supposedly where Jesus touched, and you can see many peoples hands have touched the same place. This is right around station 5.

Jer9

Here we are at the last station, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All along the walk you can see Catholic groups singing and reading from the bible as they walk. It’s a busy path.

Jer10

I touched on this before, but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is owned by many catholic sects. For example, above is the portion owned by the Ethiopians. They don’t own within the church, but this is a monastery just outside of it. According to Wikipedia, the Holy Sepulchre is owned by the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, with the Greek Orthodox Church having most of the ownership, and the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox, and the Syriac Orthodox have lesser responsibilities. There are strict rules about who can pray where within this space. And even who should enter from which entrance. It’s strange.

Jer11

Above is the Golgotha Altar. There was a long line to crawl in this space and reach your hand to touch the alter through a small opening. I did not wait in this line, since Im not Catholic.

Jer12

Above within the church is the stone that Jesus was supposedly laid on. All day people come and hug/rub it. It’s weird, although clearly means something important to all the people who do this. My guide book said that the “real” stone was damaged in a fire and this stone is a more current replacement stone.

Jer13 Jer14

Our guide took us into a corner room where you can clearly see the damage from the fire. A smaller religious sect owns this room and doesn’t have the money to repair it. If they accept financial help from another religion in the church, then they would have to share ownership. It’s very political, but it was cool to see an untouched part of this church.

Jer15

Our guide wanted to show us a view of the Old City from a hillside, so we exited through the Jewish Quarter which gave us a glimpse at the preparations for the first night of Hanukkah.

Jer16 Jer17

After our tour day finished, we relaxed and then decided to head back into the Old City to explore the first night of Hanukkah.

Jer18

It was so beautiful seeing all the lanterns outside the homes. Walking through the alleys and walkways lit by candle. I can’t express just how beautiful it was.

Jer19

And there are no tacky menorahs here. They were all so pretty and artistic.

Jer20

Such fun getting lost in the pathways. At one point we heard singing and gutar playing, and followed it to see a group of teens celebrating with song in an alley all together. I couldn’t take a picture because it was an intimate religious moment to walk into. But lets just say it will all stick with me for life. Such a great night.

Jer21

Santa’s were starting to come out too.

Jer22

 

We decided to have dinner in the New City this night at Touro which was a lovely walk down the street from our hotel. The food was excellent and our waitress helped us plan our next days activities and we wined and dined.

Israel XI: Old City Jerusalem Daytime Part 1

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night
_________________________________________________________________________

 

The last time I left off, I arrived back from my day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea to explore Old City Jerusalem as the sun was setting. After a super fun night of exploration, we were up early the next morning to meet our tour guide for a full day seeing the Old City and learning the history with our guide. My Uncle’s colleague recommended a private tour guide named Reuven Zusman who gives us a full day walking tour throughout the Old City. Giving tours is a very serious business over there, as you can see many guides teaching groups all over Israel. In fact Reuven said there are required classes and hours of study to maintain his status as tour guide. Reuven really knows his history. If you’re taking a trip and want Reuven as a guide, email me at lifeabsorbed@gmail.com and I can give you his info.

JerusMapmap, old city

 

Here’s the map of Old Jerusalem again, as a refresher. And another map showing some of the Old City highlights.

Oldcity1

We began by entering through the Zion Gate along the south wall.

Oldcity2

That’s my uncle in blue, and our guide Reuvan as we started our day by heading to the place that normally has the longest line, Dome of the Rock, to hopefully avoid the long lines.

Oldcity3

On our walk we had a great view of Mount of Olives. This is much easier to see in the daylight, verse my walk last night.

Oldcity4

We walked through the Jewish Quarter to get to the Dome. We had a great day for photos, as the weather was perfect.

OldCity5

We lucked out and the line to get in was small, so we decided to check that off the list. Security to get onto these grounds is no joke, and it’s also why the lines take so long. They search belongings, make you walk through metal detecters and were a bit fussy if you went to fast through all the steps. They mean business, and with good reason as this is a very important site for Muslims, Jews, and Christians and could easily be a target because of it’s importance.

OldCity6

It’s such a beautiful building.

Oldcity7

Since we were there early, I was able to take people-less photos.

Oldcity8 oldcity9

After leaving the Dome we walked through the Muslim Quarter and grabbed a fast yummy lunch at Basti Restaurant at our guides suggestion.

Oldcity10

I just love all these paths and walkways. I had so much fun imagining that in BC time this was their version of roads. This was their big city. I could spend weeks getting lost in the sights, smells, and sounds of these walkways.

oldcity11

I really love it. Most of the photos I brought back from the trip are of these walkways.

Oldcity12

Our guide took us up a public (although it looks semi private) staircase that put us above the markets. The spot where we are standing is above where the four quarters meet.

oldcity13

It felt like we were in Aladdin, hoping from rooftop to rooftop.

oldcity14

The photo above has a cat which reminds me, there are cats all over Israel. Everywhere. My photos don’t show it, but we saw probably thousands over the two weeks.

Oldcity15

We made our way back over to the Western Wall (and Temple Mount entrance. We had a nice upper view from the roof.

oldcity16

Our guide told us about how they were fixing up the ramp to Temple Mount when they uncovered ruins below and are now doing excavation work. This prompted me to ask, “Since all of what’s below us dates back so far, isn’t everything below us worthy of being excavated? I mean it shouldn’t be a shocker that when they dug down 10 feet that hit important ruins, since the city has been rebuilt over it’s self so many times.” Our tour guide brought up a very important point, that Israel has had many different owners in it’s lifetime, and each had a different political and religious agenda. Depending on who’s controlling Israel determines what get’s excavated. For example, why would a government of one religion want to dig up ruins that might prove that a different religion might have more ties the land? Something to think about…

Oldcity17

This is one of the old walls to the city at one point in time (in the Jewish Quarter). The history dates back so far, that I’m sure there have been many outer walls over that time.

Oldcity18

I like this photo above because it shows you the old wall down below, and many layers above it is a modern building. You have to imagine there have been many layers like this over this lands existance. Since America is so new, it’s hard to imagine this city, on city, on city development.

oldcity19

Here is one of many areas where you can see how the layers of this city are built up.

Oldcity20

We decided to do the tunnel tour, which takes you along the buried part of the Western Wall. This was an interesting tour, yet not what I expected. I must admit it got very tight under there as we walked though the tunnels. My uncle had to duck his head the whole time, and at most times it was only a body width wide. I got pretty frieghtened midway through and then was eager to finish the tour. We did get a full history of the wall and what it would have been like back in BC times. I should note that the photo above was in a big room where the tour started, not in the tunnel itself.

oldcity21

They are doing lots of excavation work along the wall (it’s of great Jewish significance, and the government is of that religious affiliation).

Oldcity22

 

Here’s where the ceiling is tall, but see how narrow the walkway is?? Coming from LA where earthquakes are so common, I was fearful and kept thinking “what do I do if it all starts shaking- Im trapped!”

Next up, I’ll share with you the second half of the day with our tour guide where we walk the stations of the cross and then we go back into the City at night to see the celebration of the first night of Hanukkah! What a great time to be in the Old City!

Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
_________________________________________________________________________

After finishing our Masada tour, we were dropped back off in Jerusalem near our hotel around 4:30p just in time to find a good sunset spot. We head to one of many roof decks at the Mamilla. Keep in mind we have been in Jerusalem for almost 24 hours, and yet we still haven’t seen much of Jerusalem.

When we got into town the night before (after dark), we went straight to our hotel which was next to the car rental place. We were running only about 5 minutes behind, but that was enough time that the car rental workers, who were still at work, wouldn’t even look at us. Frustration. We knew we had the 7am Masada tour the next morning (the car rental place opens at 8 or 9) so we talked to the awesome staff at the Manilla hotel. They told us where to park it (the car rental place shares a parking lot with the hotel), we gave them the car keys and they walked over the car keys just as it opened in the morning. This means we weren’t charged an extra day. Thank-goodness for the Mamilla, which is a phrase we said several times on the trip!

Night1 Night2

Here are the views from the Mamilla roof. Jerusalem has the Old City and the New City. The Old City is everything within the tall walls you can see above. The New City is everything else. The Old City is mostly zigzagging walkways and shops with homes up above. It’s also the traditional city when you think of Jerusalem. The New City (which is where most nice hotels are) is more like Tel Aviv in its newness.

Night3

At this point I’ve barely seen Jerusalem, and Im so antsy to visit the Old City. From the Mamilla you can see the Jaffa gate entrance to the Old City. The Mamilla is along an outdoor shopping mall (like the Grove) which leads right to the Jaffa entrance (there are only a few entrances into the Old City).

JerusMap

“A” is the hotel, and the Jaffa gate is located where the Christian and Armenian Quarter meet at the edge of the wall. To give you a sense of scale, the Old City is just under a mile high and a mile wide. It’s all super walkable.

 

Night4

I was so excited to be in Jerusalem- I place I remember seeing as a kid via a church slideshow presentation when a couple people came back from a trip. After watching the sunset, I decide to venture off by myself to the Old City since we had a few hours until our dinner reservation (people eat dinner really late in Israel).

Night5

I wandered into the Old City and headed toward the Armenian Quarter. I wandered with no itinerary, knowing that you can’t get too lost in a mile wide city filled with high walls. Eventually you’ll hit the wall, which you can follow until you hit a gate to exit. I had maps with me, but I didn’t want to head to the landmarks so I put the map away and just wandered.

Night6

This site is right around where the Armenian and Jewish Quarter meet. This is on the Jewish side. There’s no real clear distinction between the quarters. There are main walking routes that run along the borders of the quarters, but there’s no big sign saying, “You’re in the Jewish Quarter”. There are several visual clues that tell you where you are (the clothing and religious markings).

Night7 Night8

This photo was taken in the Jewish Quarter looking east. The hillside on the right is Mt. of Olives. On the left is Temple Mount and you can even see the top of the Western Wall.

Night9a

I headed down closer with the crowd, passing through security and metal detectors to find myself at the Western Wall. Here I was wandering and then BAM, Im at the Western Wall. It was a fun thing to stumble upon.

Night9b

You see above, the wall divides the mens and women’s side. The women’s side is much smaller. Also note that when leaving the wall, you’re not supposed to turn your back to the wall, so people walk backwards to leave the wall. It’s a little bizarre to watch, but so much about Israel so far has been about tradition and rituals, so I’m not too surprised.

Night10

I should talk about something that happens throughout the Old City, especially to Americans. Venders are all over the Old City. It’s like the first level of every building is filled with trinket shops or food vendors and all of the owners sit at the entrance and try to get tourists to come in. I had been warned, and I’m good at ignoring cat-calling and when strangers talk to me. As a tourist you have to have a thick skin, and not engage in it. I often spoke French so that they wouldn’t harass me, although that didn’t really work. The best thing is to ignore it. Since I arrived just after sunset, the shops were beginning to close down.

Night11 Night12

I walked through the Muslim Quarter and made my way to the Christian Quarter where I stumbled onto the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I’ll be back tomorrow in the daylight to see everything, but what a nice exploratory mission.

Night13

This is the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Everyone kisses the rock (although everything I read said this was a replacement rock after a fire in the church). All around Jerusalem are people waiting in line to kiss any rock that Jesus touched. I took it a step further and made-out with all of these sites (totally kidding).

Night14

This is the Aedicule. It’s “owned” by several religions and is said to contain the Holy Sepulchre itself as well as the Angel’s Stone which was covering Jesus tomb. This is all depending on what you believe of course. Funny story, since so many religions feel like they own this church, it’s in sections where each group is responsible for maintaining their part (ex. this wall is Greek Orthadox, this closet is Roman Catholic). And in order to keep it all fair, a Muslim family owns the keys to the church. They open and close it every day. It’s the only way to make it fair for all the religions.

Night15 Night16

My favorite part of Jeruslaum is wandering the walkways. At night it’s so quiet when the venders shut their doors. When it’s quiet and peaceful at night, it’s easier to imagine this in Jesus times.. or with Kings riding through these streets. I know that the real streets they were on are 30 feet below under many layers of buildings but its fun to imagine.

Night17 Night18 Night19

This is just outside the Jaffa gate, just before I headed back to the Mamilla for a bath soak before dinner. You can see the Tower of David lit up.

Night20

 

After the best bath I’ve ever had, we headed up to the Mamilla rooftop for dinner at their restaurant. This was clearly a special occasion restaurant. Next to us a couple got engaged. To the left of us a rock n’roll couple celebrated a birthday. And then mid meal security came through, and Tony Blair and guests took the table behind us. Tony is just to the left of my uncle in this photo. What a fun meal- it was delicious and a fun night dining with Tony 😉

Next up: We have a personal tour guide take us around Old City Jerusalem. You’ll see some duplicate photos from my night wandering, only now in sunlight.

Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
_________________________________________________________________________

This post is a photo-doozie, as exploring the Masada and the Dead Sea was so picturesque I had a hard time whittling it down. Last I left off we were in a rush to get from Nazareth to Jerusalem with enough time to return the rental car. We failed in our mission, but it all worked out thanks to the fabulous staff at our hotel, the Mamilla. But more on that in my next post.

The following morning after arriving late into Jerusalem, we didn’t explore the city at all, but instead joined a 7am group trip to Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea offered by Abraham Tours. My sister is a travel blogger (As Her World Turns) and she booked the day trip getting us a great discount too. This day trip was amazing and we all agreed was one of the best days of the trip. After driving all over northern Israel, it was so nice to have a tour guide (Alon, who was very funny and adorable) who took care of all the logistics of the day.

Screen shot 2014-01-22 at 2.43.13 PM

Above is a general map of where we went this day.The city on the upper left of the map is Tel Aviv, for a sense of scale.

Jer1

We all met up by the Mamilla mall, a 5 minute walk from our hotel, which is where Alon arrived with a van at 7am. We all got in (12 of us?) and our day began. We exited Jerusalem through the time-warp tunnel. On one side of the tunnel is a bustling crowded Jerusalem, and the other end of the tunnel is desert. The photo above is from the desert side of the tunnel. You can see the wall marking the zone. Israel has a zone system which basically restricts who can go where. As an American, it didn’t affect me much. It’s meant to keep the peace by segregating groups of people (Palestinians and Israelis). It’s a hot button issue as it traps people.

Alon explained the zone system to us. I’m paraphrasing (and dumbing it down for my own understanding of it) but zone A would be where Israelis can go. Zone B is where Palestinians and Israelis can go. And Zone C is Palestine only. At each entrance to the zones are armed guards checking IDs. Since we were a van full of clearly westerners, the zone crossing was very easy. Alon said he can’t enter the third zone. As an American, I would be able to. It’s fascinating.

Our guide Alon was an orthodax jew who recently left his faith. That is fascinating to me because it is a completely different lifestyle that he grew up living and then at 35 (or 40?) decided it wasn’t for him. I can’t imagine at that age trying to learn what normal life is like for other people. In Israel especially, where almost everyone you see is orthodox and you’re seeing them lead a life that is so different.

Jer2

You know, just camels and Shepherds walking along the road. For realz?! This is a thing?!

Jer3

On the desert side of the “Time-warp Tunnel” you can see the edge of congested Jerusalem far off on the hillside. There really is a line where Jerusalem goes from city to desert.

Jer4

Along the highway in this desert are many Bedouin people. They live a nomadic lifestyle where the shepherd the land and move along in clans. This is really how people really still live here. It’s not homelessness, as they have several tent structures, fires going and animals to tend. It’s more elaborate and you can see kids running around and women cleaning. It’s just so different, and I love it.

Jer5

At sea level, Alon pulled the van over for photos and so people could ride camels. It was on my list of things to do in Israel and since I figured it would be my only chance, I did it. Cross that one off my bucket list.

Jer6

As the map far above shows, we took a long drive south along the Dead Sea to get to Masada (our first destination). Along the way we drove by the Qumran in the West Bank and it’s here in the photo above where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946-1956. Yes, you read that right. It was only 60 years ago when these zillion year old scrolls were found. And they were found by Bedouins in caves up in the mountains. Who knows, there could be so many more around Israel. It’s like going for a hike and finding THE bible. Like the first bible. So crazy.

Jer7

There’s Masada above. You can see how this mountain of land stands on it’s own and why it made such a great place for a King to vacation. If anyone was going to attempt attacking, they’ed see them coming and have plenty of warning.

Jer8

Since we were on a tour and only had a set amount of time to see the top, we opted to ride up the tram instead of the hike (which is on the right of the photo). It would have been awesome to hike it but we also wanted time at the top. We decided to ride up and hike down if there was time.

Jer9

The views from the tram were incredible.

Jer10

Higher and higher we went. You can see the Dead Sea straight ahead.

Jer11

Up at the top you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth… which was so frightening for someone like me.

Jer12 Jer13

We were warned that there was lots to see at the top of Masada and we ended up taking the tram down so we could spend a majority of our time exploring the top.

Jer14

It was a maze of ruins at the top, all open air. It was fun to imagine what it would have looked like as a fortress in its prime.

Jer15

The views from every side were incredible.

Jer16

This was taken in Harrods Palace at the most northern point.

Jer17

Above you can get a sense of scale with the people in view. There were many school groups at Masada, and I imagine everyday tour groups and school groups liter the mountain. Alon said it was a common field trip activity.

Jer18 Jer19

After taking the tram back down to be back at the van on time, we piled in and headed on back north to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.

Jer20

This reserve features many water falls and a short easy hike (as well as a much longer hike for people who want to make a full day out of it). The group split up and went at their own pace. Some people wore bathing suits and got into the water at each of the waterfalls.

Jer21

Personally I was more interested in the wildlife. Signs around the entrance talk about what types of animals live in the area and I really wanted to see them all.

Jer22

So I was quiet and on a hunt.

Jer23

Come on animals… peak out!

Jer24

The views were stunning and this truly was a waterfall oasis in the middle of this desert.

Jer25 Jer26

Here’s my uncle by the largest and final falls on our quick hike. We looped back and met up with the group where we continued on to our last destination: the Dead Sea!

Jer27

Alon explained to us that when he was a teenager, the Dead Sea used to come up to the road, it was so high. In Alon’s lifetime, the water level has dropped dramatically. It’s a big issue in Israel.

Jer28 Jer29

We stopped on the road for some photos.

Jer30

We arrived at our swimming spot, which is on the north end of the Dead Sea. I completely forgot to bring my waterproof camera (it was back at the hotel) so I didn’t get any shots of us in the water. Thankfully, my sister brought hers:

IMG_4920

Here we all are floating together and using the mud to make masks. Check out more of As Her World Turns photos here. It was a lot of fun floating and very difficult to get your feet lowered without it spinning you around. Also, don’t get the water near your eyes! It burns!

Jer31

After we finished up our floating, mud baths, and dried off we got in the fan and headed back to the Mamilla Mall where we had been picked up 10 hours earlier. The above photo shows the old war bunkers we drove by. This was one of the most fun days on the trip and I highly recommend Abraham Tours. Try to get Alon as a guide if you can.

Next up, we get back to Jerusalem where I venture off to explore the Old City by myself at night and we also end up having dinner next to a former Prime Minister. Pretty exciting!

Israel VIII: Nazareth

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
_________________________________________________________________________

nazareth-map

We spent a little too much time in Golan Heights, so when we got to Nazareth we had to marathon it through the city. The map above shows you just how many sites there are to see here, but we drove through the city looking specifically for the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was on our “Top 10” list of Israel. We had time for only one site, so we knew it had to be the one from the “Top 10”. 

Naz1

At least to get to the Basilica it meant we had to drive through Nazareth, so we did get to see the city from the car. Up until now, everywhere we visited felt predominately either Jewish or Christian and as we entered Nazareth we could tell this city was predominately Muslim by the dress code. It’s funny how in every city, the clothing “gives away” the religion of that area. 

Naz2

NY Pizza in Nazareth. We had to get a photo. 

Naz3

The streets in Nazareth are winding, hilly, and narrow. We got a little lost searching for the  Bascilica. We could see it from afar (it has a huge domed steeple) but it was hard to find the streets that would take us closer to it. Once we saw tour groups on foot, we figured we were close, parked the car and started walking. 

Naz4

I love the narrow passages throughout the older cities in Israel. It feels European with a Middle Eastern flare. It’s just not something you would find in the US. Above you can see we are getting closer to the Basilica. 

Naz5

Alas we’ve made it to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This building is a Roman Catholic place where in the Catholic faith, Mary was contacted by the angel Gabriel and told she would conceive and become Jesus’ mother. This place also sits on top of where Mary lived. I should note that different religions have their different places in Nazareth where they believed this happened. For example, there is a Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation nearby in Nazareth where they believe this took place. This was our first taste of how the religions each have their own “this happened here” landmark for the same historical story. 

Naz6 Naz7

In the upper level, we could hear music being played as part of a mass. On the lower level you can see this shrine set up outside of the ruin believed to be where Mary lived. 

Naz8

The reason this building was on the “Top 10” guide was for architectural reasons (the top 10 includes sites of all religions). It really is a beautifully made building. 

Naz9

From behind an iron gate tourists like myself could see into Mary’s dwelling (depending on your faith). 

Naz10

It’s so hard to envision this space as a house, but everything was so different back then. 

Naz11

You can see they built around the ruins. 

Naz12-1

The photo above and below are taken on the upper level, where mass is held. When we arrived the mass was ending, so we were able to enter the upper level. 

Naz12-2 Naz13

This building is quite large and it is one not to be missed if you’re traveling through Nazareth. 

Naz14

I love that in the design of the building, they preserved the ruins that they were building over. Later in the trip we saw Jerusalem, and how in most cases things where built right on top of the buildings below. In this case they designed the building to showcase these ruins instead of covering them up. 

In Israel political power and agenda has changed hands so many times, and when a new regime takes over, their religion becomes the most important politically and it is in their best interest to cover up historically significant buildings of the other faiths that threaten their faith. This is true of all the faiths. It’s why a historically important mosque, is also a historically important church, and also a historically important temple.

Naz15 Naz16

We had to get back on the road after our short Nazareth stop in order to get the rental car back to Jerusalem by the end of their working day. On we went! The next several posts will be of Old and New Jerusalem, Masada, and the Dead Sea.

 

Israel VII: Golan Heights

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
_________________________________________________________________________

Map2

Off we go, leaving Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee behind as we head north into Golan Heights (A to B on the map). Our next destination was Mt. Bental, right on the edge of the UNDOF Zone in Golan Heights. Golan Heights is where Syria, Lebanon and Jordan meet Israel and has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967 (a CIA map shows that It’s Syria, but occupied by Israel). Lets just say it’s a peaceful place but also very much an active military zone, where you don’t want to wander off the road (land mines). I was very excited to see this section of Israel, not just because of the history, but because it’s an area known for it’s wine and chocolate. Plus it’s the closest I’ve been to an active military zone, and I felt like I needed to see it.

Golan1

I was in the front passenger seat, so I was able to take some fun landscape shots from the road.

Golan2

You can see above that there are remnants of war still left behind, as well as the military academy actively training in those spaces. While on this drive we had a white UN vehicle who was behind us most of the way, headed to the United Nations zone that separates Syria and Israel to keep the peace.

Golan3

This horse was just after we missed the road to go up Mt. Bental. Which by the way, you don’t want to get lost in this area, not due to fear (as it’s not scary, the photos are proof of this) but because you really are right on the border of the UN zone which keeps Israel and Syria from attacking each other. As my sister put it “How adventurous are we feeling today?”

Golan4

I loved visiting Golan Heights and the views from Mt. Bental (above) are amazing. There’s a great sandwich shop at the top of the mountain, as well as old war bunkers from the Six Day War and incredible views.

Golan5

Here’s the view across to Syria. You can see the white buildings on the left are UN buildings.

Golan6

There are also large creative metal sculptures around the top of the mountain.

Golan7 Golan8

We went down into the maze of bunkers underground in the mountain. We were following a family who had a tour guide, so it was handy listening into the history he was explaining. There isn’t much up here explaining the history (at least not in English).

Golan9

It’s wild to think this was once used by military personal to view Syria during war.

Golan10

This is in the bunker, with a narrow opening to see (and my guess- shoot) at Syria.

Golan11 Golan12

After our meal and exploring the mountain, we had to retrace our steps south west to visit Nazareth. On our way back through Golan, we saw more and more ruins from a war that was only 60 years ago.

Golan13

Everywhere we went in Golan Heights, there were “tank crossing” signs, and military personnel passing us. On our way back south, we decided to stop and take pictures of these tanks near the side of the road. We thought the were inactive old tanks, so we thought it would be okay to see them closer. Just to the left of this photo, in a lower ditch where several soldiers with large guns. This was a reminder that even though it’s calm and quiet, we were still very much in an active military zone. These are not old tanks, but new tanks that are ready to go.

Golan14

We exited Golan Heights behind a large truck with a tank on it. I highly recommend visiting Golan Heights. The history and beautifully unique landscape made this place one of my favorite sites along the entire trip. But alas, we were behind schedule and still had to visit Nazareth and travel into Jerusalem by 6pm (to return the car). On we went! Next up: Nazareth!

Visiting Home 4: The Joys of Home

To catch you up on my Connecticut trip check out Visiting Home: Getting There, Exploration and Touring Wallingford. This is the last installment of my week long trip home. It’s a hodge-podge of some of my favorite parts.

IMG_1662

I got to paint Grandma Gertrude’s nails one day. Gosh she’s so cute. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it was a sparkling light pink (on of grandma’s favorite colors).

Home1

I got in a game night with my parents. I (we) LOVE board games. Love them. We have so many because it’s one of our favorite past times. The above photo is of my favorite game (and my father’s least favorite game), Masterpiece. This board game is all about collecting and selling paintings (based off the Chicago Institutes Collection of classics).

Home2

Another day I got to layout in the sun in our backyard (notice David Sedaris’ new book? Amazing).

Home3

While laying out side I was being watched by a curious cat.

Home4

My mom brought me to a place in Hamden CT called Urban Miners. I want to own a store like this. It’s filled with recycled architectural materials. Just walking around this place the creative part of my brain was freaking out. So many ideas!

Home5

I could use this whole stack of wood. Badly.

Home6

Another day I met up with friends and went to Hubbard Park in Meriden.

Home7

We just laid out on the lawn like bums. It was awesome.

Home8

Such excellent weather in the park.

Home9

On my last night I got to see my good friends Alex and Jess play hockey (they are in a coed league). They didn’t win, but they played well and we tailgated under the stars afterword.

It was hard to say goodbye, but it was time to get back to normal life. This was a special trip home and I hope to sneak another one in before we approach 2014.