Published: October 30th 2011October 28th 2011
Thursday night was a bit tough in the sleep department for some of us. Just as we were heading out to dinner a road repair crew arrived and set up camp outside the hotel. Using a jackhammer they started tearing up the street. Unfortunately they were at it all night. Thankfully I was on the 5th floor and got some sleep. Others were lower and were awake all night. During the presentation on Friday morning at the RTP office there were some heavy eyes.
After the presentations and a farewell lunch we headed for Jerusalem. At the checkpoint entering the City a very young soldier boarded the bus and asked us to show that we owned a passport. He didn’t look at them individually so it was a short delay.
We drove to the Mount of Olives which provides a great view of the old City . From there in one panorama we saw the most holy of places for so much of the world’s religion. After a short drive, we entered Jerusalem through the Damascus gate and the bewildering scene that is the holiest of holy cities.
Jerusalem is confusing because it is divided into four. In
the Christian quarter people have come from all over the world to follow the trail of Christ’s crucifixion. Every Friday afternoon the Franciscan monks follow the stations of the cross and today about 100 worshipers were in trail. For a short while we had a front row position as the monks sang at the place where Jesus lay after he was removed from the cross.
Fifteen minutes later after a security check and a free yamaka, we were at the Wailing Wall where a large number of Jews were singing in the Sabbath. The group at the wall was divided between men and women, separated by a six foot fence. While worshipers said prayers at the front, toward the back some people stood on benches to look over the wall and see what the other sex was doing. Our final stop was at the quarter where the Mosque held a large congregation of Muslims marking the beginning of their holy day.
In between these sites every square foot of space was leased out to retailers. You could but T Shirts that said “Guns and Moses” or spices from one of the largest displays I have ever seen. And
about everything else in between.
After the tour of Jerusalem our group split. Half went back to Ramallah for another night in the West Bank and a tour on Saturday of Bethlehem and Nazareth. The rest of us had flights to catch either later that night or early the next morning so we headed to Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv looked and felt completely different from all the other places we had been all week. Checking into the Carlton hotel and walking around reminded me of many American cities but Miami in particular. Tel Aviv is beautiful. It feels brand new and languishes along the beach and spectacular views to the West over the Mediterranean. That night a restaurant started by a grandmother morphed into a nightclub where everybody danced. Many on the bar. These folks were having a lot of fun.
Because the next morning was the Sabbath the airport was abandoned. Aside from our flight I only saw one other flight getting ready to leave. Nevertheless security was thorough. I kept count to see how often I would be asked for my passport. Including duty free and the place where I bought magazines the total
was ten! Once in flight we were told not to stand until out of Israeli airspace. Or else what I wonder? I decided not to find out.
Twelve hours later it was good to be home where nobody asked so see my passport, not even once.
There are more photos below