We had an early wake-up call so we were able to watch the sun rise over Judean Hills. Our touring began with a drive up to the Mount of Olives which has a commanding view over Old Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Mary's Tomb and the Jewish and Muslim cemeteries. All of the old religious stories of Christ came came back about the Agony in the Garden and the betrayal by Judas. Nurit pointed out the steps where Jesus walked to enter Jerusalem.
From there we drove to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. It is hard to put in to words the feelings and emotions that I experienced when faced with the grim reality of this memorial. The approach to the building is the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations. This is where trees are planted to honor those non-Jews who risked they lives trying to save Jews from the catastrophe which swept Europe under the Nazi regime. Oskar Schindler and his wife are two names that we saw along with many Dutch, Polish, French and English heroes .
Then we entered a stark, concrete building which was like entering the gates of hell. The story begins by showing how
normal life was for the Jews before the beginning of the end. Then came the arrests, the ghettos, wearing of the Star and then Kristallnacht. Seeing architectural renderings of one of the gas chambers and the furnaces at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp makes one realize how organized, planned and coldly calculated the Final Solution was. The Nazis dutifully recorded much of the process from the pictures of the Warsaw ghetto, the deportation lines and train cars, the mass grave pits, the piles of children’s shoes and eyeglasses and the mounds of confiscated silver. Finally the death marches and the liberation of the few remaining survivors of the concentration camps are shown in heartbreaking detail. The final gallery is called the Hall of Names which is the memorial to every Jew who perished in the Holocaust. It is a difficult museum to visit. But it should be experienced.
From there we went to the walled city of Old Jerusalem. Every square inch holds thousands of years of history—Jewish, Christian and Muslim. It is no wonder that this city has been fought over for centuries. Each major religion of the world claims its heritage in this small enclave. We went to
the Western Wailing Wall and stuck notes in the crevices with our hopes and prayers. Seeing the Orthodox Jews lined up at the wall in the shadow of Islam's Dome of the Rock is pretty eerie. We noticed that most of the Old City was surrounded by Israeli security forces in full riot gear due to the recent flare-up of tensions in this part of the world. We only had a few hours to explore this living history site. There was Herod’s gate, the Armenian Quarter, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the El Aksa Mosque, the Citadel, to name a few of the interesting places. Sometime I would like to stay overnight in Old Jerusalem in order to walk around after the day trippers and tourists have left just to be able to get a feel for the significance of this solemn place.
We left Jerusalem and stopped in a small country town for lunch on our two hour drive to Haifa to meet up with the Voyager. We only had a short time to see Haifa so Nurit took us by Mt Carmel and to the impressive Bahia Shrine. Israel is a fascinating place and while we
did see many things in our three day visit, we just skimmed the surface--making us anxious to return to the Holy Land. We arrived back at the ship just minutes before the gangway was pulled up. We were greeted by the staff, crew and the band welcoming us home. We had to rush up to our room to get ready for a big night—dinner with Captain Scala in his quarters!
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