Shalom Israel and Palestine

Published: May 28th 2023
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Jaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem fortJaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem fortJaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem fort

Ultra orthodox Jews walking to the old city of Jerusalem on Sabbath
Shalom Israel and Palestine

- Piprey on wheels

Israel/Palestine is one of the most politically unstable regions of the world where the Jews and Muslims are still annoying each other despite standing together in the 21st century. The rife started centuries earlier with the tribes of Cannan, Philistines, Samarians etc living in the Judah and Israel region. David unified the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah after capturing it from the Jebusites, local inhabitants to establish his capital. Actually, most of the buildings in the old city of Jerusalem were built by Herod, who was a prolific builder. There were the Ottomans (Walls of the old city) and Habsburg empire (Churches) among others.

Jerusalem is an old vibrant city where religious identity is expressed strongly by most individuals. The values of peace, harmony and respect which is said in all religions probably does not show that strongly.

Given the extreme weather, tensions during the many festivals and flight costs, I was hesitant but decided any time was a 'bad' time. There was a sweet spot after a peace truce between Palestine and Israel, which I hoped will last while I was traveling and it did 😊

Israeli airport border questions can be harsh. When the middle-aged security lady asked why I was here, I said, "Tourist" and she said, "Very good".

I said I would be using local tours. She gave me the entry slip and not a stamp as an Israeli stamp may bar people from entering Arab countries. The airport
Jaffa gateJaffa gateJaffa gate

The Jerusalem bagel for 5 new shekels
was almost empty and flights were also half empty.

Took a shared taxi locally called sherut as during Shabbat (sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday there is no public transport). It seems all the taxi drivers anywhere in the world are the same! He wanted extra money for a 'small crowd'. The elderly man with his family and me made 4 of us enough for a private taxi, wisely negotiated that we would take a taxi for 400 new shekels when this taxi driver finally decided to start the engine doing us a 'favour'.

I reached Ibis style hotel at 6.30 am. A young Palestinian receptionist reviewed my itinerary and asked me not to waste time staying over at Nazareth in a hostel. I shortened the days from 9 to 7, hosting myself in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and made a superb compact itinerary.

All excited, walked up Jaffa gate of the old city of Jerusalem for my walking tour. A friendly guide of Caucasian origin showed us through the Muslim, Armenian, Christian and Jewish quarters. Munched a Jerusalem bagel. The houses, dresses, smell, music, crowd, age of houses and cleanliness of each quarter were distinct. Most women
Al Aqsa/ Dome of the Rock Al Aqsa/ Dome of the Rock Al Aqsa/ Dome of the Rock

Wailing wall (Original wall from Second temple built by Herod)
wore a dress. After the wonderful orientation tour, I ate falafel sandwiches and fresh fruit juices at the Jerusalem souk.

Next day, I walked to observe the walls, David's tomb (supposedly) and Schindler's tomb. Then took taxi to Israel museum, into the wonderful world of archeology. Ate fresh sandwiches and jumped into a taxi to reach the Al Aqsa/Temple Rock, just in time to admire the beautiful blue mosaic of the dome. The courtyard was massive. Non-muslims were not allowed inside the mosque.

I exited through another gate and walked on the supposed Via Dolorosa (Sad road of Jesus Christ). Then sat on a chair by the Wailing wall in the women's section. Most ladies were dressed in black and white with long skirts and sleeves as a show of modesty. Children wore matching dresses. One lady asked me not to take photos as it was shabbat.

I learnt humous is a day food and not night. Ate a shwarma sandwich at the trendy city zone which was full of young Israelites eating out and meeting friends just as in any other city.

The next day was one of my worst tours by Ben Harim to
Jericho wallJericho wallJericho wall

10,000 BC
Bethlehem and Jericho. Wasted almost 2 hours in pick up/coordination and mandatory "Christian" shop tour. The church had a star on the floor where it seems Jesus was supposedly born. There was a Catholic, Armenian and Orthodox church next to each other. Saw a bit of the famous Banksy art- satire on the struggles of the Palestines on the Palestine side of separation walls. It was painted by Banksy whose identity is a secret.

Administratively, there are 3 zones of control shared by the Palestines and Israel with checkpoints. Sadly, many Palestinians do not get Israeli passport but a residency permit with which they cannot travel to London.

Jericho is an oasis, which is full of date trees. It had one of the oldest archaeological walls dating 10,000 BC. Looking at ruins in the hot sun with only date palms for shadow at 39 degree celsius was a melting experience.

Cooled down at Qasr al yahud, the 'original site' of the Jesus' baptism which was muddy waters. The water level of river Jordan has dropped significantly by several meters over the last decade.

I visited the Masada fort built by Herod as his place of escape in case of rebellion in the Judean desert at 40 degree Celsius.

Again, a silly dead sea product tour was added which spiked the temper in people like me along with the heat as we ended up taking the cable at around 12 noon with the sun right on top of our head.

At Masada fort, Herod had a knack of using the physical landscape to meet his luxurious living standard. Like a genius, he used the northern jutting rock to build his three-tiered palace with a proper Roman bath with sauna.

A clever solution, he built a solid wall to the south
Masada FortMasada FortMasada Fort

It is located in the Judean desert
to block the sunlight. The air was so much cooler.

To add, there were enormous water cistern cut into the rock to harvest rain water. The water was cleverly directed to the cistern from the valleys. Grains, dates, wine among others were stored. Some dates even germinated after 2000 years! This fort is famous because it was the last hideout of 960 Jewish rebels and their families who committed mass suicide rather than being taken captive as slaves. It is an inspiration for the state of Israel.

We headed to a privatised and a bit rough Kalia resort for a dip in the dead sea. I had to scoop mud from the shallow sea-bed. The dead sea is sadly dying and sink holes are developing everywhere because of lack of water. The river Jordan has fallen by several meters in the last 10 years. The baptism site of Jesus is now a muddy canal from a gorgeous river. John the baptist used to belong to a Jewish sect called Essenes who lived a celibate, monastic life in Qumran caves. Scrolls of Isaiah and others have been discovered in ancient Hebrew/Aramic etc in these caves.

In the midst
Capernaum - St Peter's house ruinsCapernaum - St Peter's house ruinsCapernaum - St Peter's house ruins

His home. He was called Simon and lived in this village as a fisherman.
of it all, there is Ein Gedi, an oasis of fresh water. We saw families of curious ibex goats jumping near our buses.

The journey felt like Canterbury tales. I headed to Capernaum, near sea of Galilee/Kinneret lake (a freshwater lake as the ancients in the region called all water bodies as 'sea'). Ate St Peter's fish which was Tilapia and so fresh that the whites easily fell off the bones. Saw the circular ruins of St Peter's old house, market place and a synagogue. Capernaum was an important trade post between Lower and Upper Galilee.

I visited Nazareth and supposed room where the angel Gabriel came to announce that Mary will have a baby. Apparently, Joseph was 94 years old and Mary much younger.

The Jezreel valley in North Israel/Palestine was full of banana, avocado, wheat, corn and even mango orchards. Israel/Palestine is keen to be self-sufficient on food.

The banana trees had nets all over so that it reduced evaporation by thirty percent.

The desalination plants supply almost eighty percent of water. Recently, Israel has increased the amount of water it supplies to Jordan and pumping water into Kinneret lake. A plan to pump more water into Dead sea from Red sea without altering the ecology is being evaluated.

Visited Tagbha church which had beautiful floor mosaics. Apparently, Jesus had turned 2 fishes and 4 loaves to many more to feed the people. This time, went to another part of river Jordan for baptism called Yardenit (Jordan river just leaving the Kinneret lake). So
Akko crusader castleAkko crusader castleAkko crusader castle

Excavated in the late 1960s
many fishes and a duck with her family. The privatised kibbutz (Kvutzat Kinneret) did not appreciate that I was swimming in the river and did not buy the white baptism gown.

Akko (Acre) was an ancient crusader fort, excavated in the 1960s. The ceilings had such impressive arched halls. The hummus and shawarma lunch for 50 New shekels was delicious. Managed to see some TV serial shooting with medieval period costumes.I

Visited the impressive city of Casesaria built by Herod with a theater and Hippodrome. He even built a pool of freshwater in his palace, jutting into the sea.

The Rosh Hanikra which are natural limestones caves on the medittarean sea, close to the Lebanon border were delightfully sparkling blue and filled me with joy. We saw the beautiful aqueduct which carried water from the springs to the Caesaria and Akko.

A new port, Haifa has the famous Headquarters of the Bahai faith. The guide said that this area had a high rate of cancer probably because of industrial air pollution (sulphur dixoide) used by the Israel Corporation power plant.

I checked into a hotel in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Avenue which had lovely free Israeli wine. Ate popular Schnitzel and a lovely cocktail with Hendrich's gin and mint at Cafe Noir.

The Tel Aviv beach was clean and lively with a Jewish community partying. Most women wore beautiful party dresses in white. People played beach volleyball and there were all facilities for showers like any international beach destination.

At Tel Aviv, I walked up to the great synagogue and tasted one of the softest and delicious chicken/tahini sandwiches for 40 new shekels (7 GBP). The Rothschild boulevard reminded me of the pictures were there was a central lane with green lawn, benches and coffees shops. People were using cycles and e-scooters. Lots of trees. Very well laid out.

That night slept fine as no more tours! I checked out and took a bus for a leisurely walking tour of the ancient town of Jaffa. The greek myth of Andromeda was in Jaffa. The whale which swallowed Jonah also supposedly here.

St Peter (alias Simon) performed miracles of bringing people from death and started to convert pagans. Earlier he was only concentrating on the Jews.

Learnt from the guide that Rameses 2 had an Egyptian passport with date of birth
Rosh Hanikara Rosh Hanikara Rosh Hanikara

Beautiful blue caves. It is very close to the barbed wires, high up the hills which is the border with Lebanon. Very recently, a sea border has been agreed. It is the first step towards peace.
1303 BC (It is true. His mummy had to leave Egypt to France for restoration). He traded with Jaffa. Jaffa prospered because it was an important port to reach Jerusalem

Enjoying my favourite blue meditteranean sea, I took a return by bus collect my suitcase from the hotel and took the train to Ben Gurion airport before the start of Shabbat. A bus trip for 90 mins is 5.50 new shekels and train from Tel Aviv to airport only 9 new shekel.

The airport security asked me questions like what the meaning of my surname is, names of my parents, siblings and if anyone else had packed my bag. They put such a sticky sticker on my passport which took ages to be scratched out.

In the plane, I tasted red wine of Galillee, it was smooth for sure but I did not enjoy the taste.

Israel- Palestine is an interesting place. As a young nation, trying to capitalise on antiquity which makes it a hot tourist destination. If Christianity had any mandatory rule like Haj, this region would be rich. I wonder why the European powers did not create a Jewish land in Europe itself. So many caucasian Jews were encouraged by Israel to migrate to the middle east. They could have stayed home.

A fascinating region which is still vulnerable to external influences of global geo-politics, the 'promised land' ideology is still the driving force. A place enduring constant conflict, Israel-Palestine, I wish you Shalom.

Additional photos below
Photos: 52, Displayed: 30


House decorated with signs of attending HajHouse decorated with signs of attending Haj
House decorated with signs of attending Haj

Doing Haj is considered very important in Islam. This house is in the muslim quarter of Old Jerusalem.
Cardio in old city JerusalemCardio in old city Jerusalem
Cardio in old city Jerusalem

Used to be a market place and still is on the other side.
Wailing wallWailing wall
Wailing wall

The wooden structure leads to the Al Aqsa/Dome of the rock. It is controlled by Jordanian. It is open to public but check the entry times. Women might probably be given a loose top and skirt in dull colours to wear over their dress.
Church of Holy SelpuchurChurch of Holy Selpuchur
Church of Holy Selpuchur

Jesus was probably crucified at this place. This church was built by Helena, mother of Constantine. She encouraged the holy roman emperor to accept christianity.
Walls of JerusalemWalls of Jerusalem
Walls of Jerusalem

The latest standing walls were built by Suleiman of the Ottoman empire. The rocks are different and can be distinguishable.
Jezreel valleyJezreel valley
Jezreel valley

Lower Galilee
Tomb of SchindlerTomb of Schindler
Tomb of Schindler

It is the one with a number of small rocks, on the outskirts of Jerusalem near the Zion gate.

30th May 2023
River Jordan

Constant conflict
As we travel the world we see some countries fighting over religion, and some fighting over land. Here they fight over both. It is a complex and difficult country.
30th May 2023
River Jordan

amazing how different religions exist together!

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