Published: November 17th 2009November 17th 2009
Once again, the day began with breakfast. Unfortunately, the choices aren’t great here, but meet the immediate need. After a short wait, we met our guide, Anat. Today, we began our exploring in the New City. We drove by the Prime Minister’s house which is very near to our hotel. We then drove through the government center where the Knesset, Supreme Court, and several government ministries are located. This was all on our way to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. It is difficult to express what the Holocaust was about and what it means to the Jewish people. But, to put it in perspective, this was a fairly recent example of genocide. . . the effort to exterminate a total group of people. Of some 11 million Jews in Europe during WWII, about 6 million of them were killed. This museum traces the history of this period from the beginning of the rise of Nazism through the end of the war. The museum was full of soldiers being given tours (and motivation!) and it goes without saying that it was very well done. One would have to have ice water in his veins to not be moved by this museum. Following Yad Vashem, we went to the Dung Gate and on to the Western Wall. We donned our yarmulkes and approached the wall, one of the holiest spots for Jews. This is so important to the Jews as it is the closest that one can come to the stone on the temple mount where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. We then toured the underground excavations of the remainder of the Wall which is now located under an Arab neighborhood. So now all of the Western and Southern walls of the original temple area have been revealed.
Following this tour, we met Anat for lunch and again walked the Via Dolorosa this time in the correct direction. Once at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we walked on through the Jewish Section of the city which is (as one would expect) very well done. We finished this part of our walking tour back at the Dung Gate where we had left the car.
Our final touring with Anat was to the Mount of Olives (from which there is a magnificent view of the Old City from the east), and the Church of Gethsemane which is supposedly located where the Garden of Gethsemane was located in Christ’s time. This is now a very nice church surrounded by olive trees. Near the bottom of the Mount of Olives is a very large, and old, Jewish cemetery. Most of the stones were desecrated when this area was under the control of the Jordanians. In fact, many gravestones were taken and used for construction on Arab buildings. This is another example of the lack of respect shown by one of the groups here toward another. The extreme dislike, and distrust, between peoples in this area is grounded in decades, if not centuries, of these insults.
Anat dropped us off at the hotel and said goodbye. She had done a good job with us and we were both pleased and sorry to see her go. After “freshening up” a bit, we again went out for dinner, checking e-mails, and having a latte. An observant reader will note a bit of a pattern here! Though I resist, Stephen insists on having lattes most every day. . .he’s very persuasive. Tomorrow, we’ll leave Jerusalem to check out Masada and the Dead Sea.