Mar. 9 We had lined up a tour of Jerusalem via a travel company . Had to leave Haifa on the 5:30 am. train in order to catch the tour bus leaving from a hotel in Tel Aviv. Our guide that day was a perky young woman who spoke English well with only a slight accent. She explained that Tel Aviv is a relatively new city having only been in existence since 1909. There had been a settlement nearby- in what remains of some stone-faced construction on the city’s outskirts in an area known as Jaffa. As we neared Jerusalem there were a series of housing developments in the distance on the hillsides (everything is up and down in this country) The motif of the newer buildings is similar to older style- limestone facades with rounded, domed edges in white and cream colours that are still the favoured architecture in most parts of Israel.(Except for Tel Aviv with its western style hotels and office buildings.) Our guide said the land on these suburbs of Jerusalem city had originally been part of Lebanon (preceding 1948? can’t recall what wars were with whom?) There were several sites along the road where relics of military vehicles and equipment had been preserved in honour of soldiers who’d died in wars with Arab countries, such as the 6- day war with Egypt (in 1967?)

 Cue mosque spirals)Slide labeled beginning our tour of old Jerusalem: broken down building.

We began our tour in the old city of Jerusalem, strolling through myriad alleyways and ancient buildings with stone floorings as old as during Christ’s time – so many remnants of the past but also restorations of ancient structures of historical significance to Jews, Muslims and Christians – many within arm`s length of each other. The so-called ‘wailing wall’ (Western Wall) our guide explained, dated back many years. It had been destroyed – much of it- in the various military skirmishes over the centuries. There are now two stark looking, uneven sections of the wall reserved for people to pray- one section strictly for the Muslims and the other section for those who practice the Jewish Faith– (We weren’t shown the Muslim section) Bee walked over to the wall to join those who were in prayer- there were bits of paper stuck between cracks all over the wall – written prayers placed by individuals, Rabbis, etc. I waited nearby in a plastic chair –at the time the weather was cold and windy- possibly contributing to my somewhat depressed state of mind? as I contemplated upon the schism between two religions – both worshipping the same God.

cue caption “marketplace” Slide labelled “following our guide”

Our guide led us through walled alleyways that combined Muslim marketplaces featuring stalls similar to what we’d seen in Akko with the ever-persistent – and very loud- vendors attempting to sell their wares (prices sometimes went down to almost zero but very few buyers.) Their stalls were intermingled with intriguing doorways leading to churches, including one called the Via Dollerosa, maintained by Fransiscan monks (A couple of monks had made it through the milling crowds earlier lugging a huge wooden cross.) Later on, one popped by where we visited and distributed thick smoky fumes from a container.

 cue red tarp hanging- stone shack) Slide “we went through this very dark church on the way to the main part of the church”

 The most significant part of the tour for me was making our way through the huge, magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was extremely dark and low ceilinged where we entered – quite frightening for me as I could not get my eyeballs adjusted between the darkened tunnel and the candlelit areas- there were stone steps here and there with no railings to cling to. Bee had to guide me along as we crept through the narrow passageway. The church was enormous with many rooms. Our guide told us four or five Christian denominations continue to worship there to this day. Originally constructed during the 12th century, it had been almost totally destroyed. It has since been rebuilt and restored with colourful mosaics all over the walls and ceilings- final completion of mosaics in the 1920s and 1930s. One large panel in the ceiling we photographed was actually part of the original 12th century artwork. The rooms all featured many colourful chandeliers and tapestries, with numerous displays portraying the life and death of Jesus.

cue final view of city. Slide  labelled “commemorative stones on way to Hollocaust Museum”

The final leg of our tour was of the Holocaust Museum in New Jerusalem. It was a huge building divided off into oddly and narrowing shaped sections with disturbing content throughout. I could not handle too much of it -although it was a very well set up museum with photos, films and artifacts of that horrific period of time in human history. I did find the Nazi media propaganda of the times interesting -although deplorable. One newspaper cartoon depicted a large boot with a Nazi insignia on the sole– there seemed to be a joyous attitude about how much fun it would be to step on a tiny insect-sized Jewish person. Really creeped me out!




Slide: pic of Taylor and me

March 11- We are in Edmonton where Bee met her first grandchild Taylor, who is also my great-grandson. Very cute little guy!

I had a weirdly funny experience when we were about to leave from the airport in Tel Aviv. I should mention first that some years earlier I’d had surgery for breast cancer.

….Security for people leaving Israel seemed more lax than when entering- the guards did not carry assault rifles – just pistols.  The processing began with putting bags through a scanner and my big suitcase did not pass the test. It needed to be searched by hand at a separate counter where two agents regarded me with stern expressions on their faces. “Do you have some soil or maybe sand in your bag,” one asked. “Or perhaps some seeds?” “Only rose petals” I replied. (Marcia had given us rose petals as memorabilia) “Nothing else organic.”

“Someone may have put something like that in your suitcase?”he suggested. “No,” I answered firmly. I was beginning to panic. They stared at me stone-faced as I sifted through jumbles of clothing in search of the rose petals that I’d stashed in a plastic bobby pin container. “No need, we found the item,” my interrogator said. Despite his stern face he must have been a trifle embarrassed when he pointed out the felonious article – the weighted false boob I’d packed as a spare to fill the empty left side of my bra. It had been stuffed with barley or similar kind of grain. Bee and I managed to keep from giggling. For me that turned out to be the funniest and most comfortable part of the journey home. We gave a thumbs up once again for El Airlines for their delicious meals, cushions, blankets, entertainment.


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