Israel: Parts VII and VIII – So long, farewell…

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

November 20, 2017

With only two days left in Israel, we found ourselves quickly running out of time in the site-seeing department. Looking at our options, I declared today to be King David Day – an all-day excursion focused soley on his majesty…

Located inside the Old City walls next to the “traditional” entrance at Jaffa Gate (photo on the left), the Jerusalem Citadel is mostly famous for its Tower of David. Looking to the right, it’s the first thing you walk by as you enter the Old City walls.

An interesting fact about the “Tower of David” is that King David never stepped foot in his alleged tower, having been built by the Hasmoneans over one hundred years after his death.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-the-tower-of-david-a-glimpse-into-a-citadel-touched-by-everyone-but-the-legendary-king/

The Citadel also houses The Tower of David Museum – the only museum in the world devoted exclusively to the history of Jerusalem. Beginning with the Canaanite period, assorted rooms fabricated within the original walls of the Citadel follow Jerusalem’s history through the First and Second Temple eras and ends with the Six-Day War, each room covering a specific time period. We were delighted to see a new room being added that will cover modern-day Jerusalem and anticipated it being open by our next visit.

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Chandelier in the entrance foyer
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David slays Goliath
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Miniature of Jerusalem in 1873
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Mohammed ascending to heaven on a flying horse

Although a fascinating museum, I wanted to spend most of my time outside exploring the ancient ruins thousands of years old, the Citadel’s history told through each and every stratum…

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Archaeological Garden
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Ancient manuscripts
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Inside the Citadel

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Tower of David from outside the Old City walls

 

Carefully climbing the narrow and slippery stone steps on my way to the Tower, I came upon an enormous sukkah in the process of being dismantled. I was saddened to have missed the festivities that had taken place only a few weeks before our visit. And then I was informed that climbing to the top of the Tower was no longer permitted…

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At least the views from the ramparts are worth the hike!

 

Continuing on our day-long excursion in honor of the king and meandering our way down the labyrinth of stone streets through the Armenian Quarter, we headed toward Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem and believed to be the final resting place of Kind David. Quickly passing the swarm of tourists surrounding the infamous statue of David playing the harp, the hubby and I made our way to Kever David (Tomb of David).

My next mission was to find the overlook above the tomb leading to the Cenaculum (“Upper Room”) a.k.a. the “Last Supper Room.” Once at the overlook, the view was dominated by the Church of the Dormition, believed to be where “the Virgin Mary passed from earthly life.”

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Church of the Dormition (on right)

Peeking over the railing enclosing the rooftop, I cringed at a pile of neglected bicycles and resisted the temptation to visit a stranger’s sukkah…

Entering the Cenaculum, I studied the Christians who stood in awe and recalled the first time I discovered this place…

Israel was not an actual place for me when I was a child. When learning Bible passages, I imagined a magical land in some nether region of the world that no longer existed. Considering the State of Israel was created when my parents were teenagers and the Six-Day War occurred when I was two-years-old, my vision was not exactly fiction. And being fairly new to the Jewish religion in 2011, my Christian memories were definitely piqued my first visit to Israel. Almost 15 years since my conversion to Judaism, I too found myself in awe – for years I had learned about Jesus, the Last Supper predominant in my memory. But the following day, exploring Eir David (City of David), my mind would be forever blown – the Bible was brought to life and I’ve never been the same…but that’s a story for next time…

Having purchased package tickets earlier in the day allowing us access to the museum and a light show at night, we decided to have dinner and make our way back to the Tower of David for The Night Spectacular. Viewing the show from stadium seats, one is taken on a journey through the history of Jerusalem via giant images projected onto the walls of the Citadel accompanied by music. If you’re ever in the Old City, this exhibition is a must see!

With King David Day coming to a close, the hubby and I wandered back to the hotel where we discussed our plans for our last day in Israel…

November 21, 2017

Waking up to pouring rain and 40-degree temperatures, we resolved to be indoors for the day and agreed on the Bible Lands Museum, staying in our hotel room until the very last second before checkout. The highlight of our morning was watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motorcade drive by, his home being a mere two blocks up the street from our hotel. Every time I’ve been to Israel, “Bibi” (as Israeli’s like to refer to him) has made an appearance…well, at least his limo has…

First you hear the spastic honking of the police car warning that the motorcade is approaching, followed by a police officer’s voice over an intercom telling everyone to stop driving and the police car is planted in the middle of the intersection. Always to my astonishment, people actually stop (albeit their car horns expressing dissatisfaction with the inconvenience), as the officer’s voice continues to urge drivers to “stay put.” That’s when you can hear the motors of the patrol roaring down the street, whizzing through the intersection like bats out of hell. Depending on who’s traveling with good ole Bibi is reflected in the number of cars, limos and SUVs hauling behind.

As checkout rolled around, we stored our luggage with the front desk and hailed a taxi to the museum. Taking the kid’s advice, I ordered the hubby to sit in the front seat and demand “HaMetre!” after a lame attempt to haggle a price based on what we paid the last time we drove to the same neighborhood, the driver blaming the traffic (of which there was none) for the hike in charges and refusing to “HaMetre!”. And off we went to the Bible Lands Museum.

http://www.blmj.org/en/

The hubby was somewhat annoyed with the museum, primarily because of its title of “Bible Lands.” I think we both assumed the museum focused on the Bible, plain and simple. However, the title of Bible Lands Museum is actually fitting – the museum covers the people, places and things that existed in the time of the Bible and explains what life was like in relation to Israel and the Bible’s narratives. Of course, I wanted to see every.single.little.thing, but the hubby’s disappointment and the museum’s imminent closure, no other hints were necessary in convincing me to move along…

Having four hours to kill until our sherut arrived, we opted for dinner at a cafe up the street from the hotel. We had eaten at the same cafe upon our arrival to Jerusalem and were very pleased with the results. However, tonight was definitely an off night – our waitress was no doubt in the top three worst food servers we’ve ever experienced. As soon as she took our order, she went on break, sitting at the bar eating her dinner and playing on her smart phone. As we waited…and waited…and waited we managed to get the hosts attention and questioned the whereabouts of our meals. Running back to the kitchen and swiftly bringing out food, we informed the poor chap that it was not our order and yet another waitress appeared to straighten things out. Needless to say, the hubby refused to leave a tip, but I insisted on leaving a tip that was more direct and to the point – a few agorat (equivalent to pennies in American money).

Disappointed with our last meal in Israel, we walked back to the hotel and made ourselves comfortable in the lobby while waiting for the sherut to pick us up. Reserving our ride the day before, we knew our driver was due around 7:45PM, a little over an hour wait. Surprised at his promptness, our chariot to the airport arrived precisely on time…and stoned…this was not a good sign…

As we stopped to pick up each passenger, we endured the driver’s complaints about passengers not being ready, along with some other expletives in Hebrew we didn’t quite understand. As far as taxi rides go, that ride BY FAR was the most scariest one I’ve ever encountered. Driving what I believed to be the speed of light with a dash of psychedelia , all I could think about was Harry Potter on the Knight Bus…

The hubby and I nervously chatted with the girl behind us who had moved to Israel the year before but never made aliyah and ended up meeting a man from South Carolina and was now moving back to the States to live with him. Thank G-d for this woman! If not for her, I definitely would’ve had a stroke…

Breezing through security and customs, to the mild amusement of our ticket counter representative, we questioned if any Economy Plus seats had miraculously opened up. Hey…it never hurts to ask…And even though the hubby had changed our seats prior to leaving the States so that we would be sitting together on the aisle, they were reassigned – a religious gentlemen who didn’t know English and slept the entire flight…not to mention the nasty lady from Philadelphia sitting in front of me who kept reaching around and poking me awake to complain about me pushing her chair. Aside from a few choice words on my part, I just reminded myself that our next trip would be during Purim…and we definitely had Economy Plus seats…or else…

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight”

So Long, Farewell – Julie Andrews/Bill Lee

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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