This was going to be my very first Christmas all alone so I wanted to make it really special, and what better place is there to spend Christmas than in Israel?!
As I started my Israel adventure I put my I-pod on random. I stepped out of the flat with my backpack and the theme song to mission impossible started. Let the adventure start was what I thought at that moment.
Friday 23 December 2011
For a trip to count as an adventure you can’t expect everything to go smoothly. I got to the airport at 9am for my 11h30 flight to Tel Aviv, only to find out that it had been delayed for 2 hours. Not too bad, at least it wasn’t cancelled right.
It was -7 Celsius outside and snowing quite heavily so the weather was not ideal for take off and I was looking forward to a warmer climate. We eventually boarded the airplane around 12h30 but then had the “pleasure” of sitting in the plane until 15h30 when we eventually took off, 4 hours later but so the adventure starts!!
I started reading Exile by Robert North a couple of days previously so the delay gave me plenty of time to catch up on some reading. This book was definitely giving me a different perspective on Israel than the tour guide I read before it. It shows the Palestine and Israel issues from both perspectives; it also gives a lot of information on the history of how the tension between Israel and Palestine all started.
I arrived at Tel Aviv airport around 7pm, changed money and then took a shared taxi (sheirut) to Jerusalem. They dropped me off right in front of my hostel for just 60 shekel. I stayed at Abraham hostel and it really impressed me, each dorm room had its own bathroom and you were given clean towels and sheets, breakfast and free coffee or tea all day long. They also had a lovely social area and a row of computers for internet use.
Day 1: Saturday 24 December 2011
I walked down Jafa Street and entered the Old City through New Gate. I just walked around without a plan, looking at the buildings and following the music that was playing all over the city.
I came across 2 processions, one where they were singing Christmas carols and the second was of an old guy walking with a wooden cross and doing all the stations of the cross: the stations is the whole route Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.
I came upon the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. When I entered I was greeted by the stone of Unction where the anointing and wrapping of Christ’s body after death took place.
People were kneeling down and praying around the stone, a priest knelt down and poured some red oil on to the stone rubbing it in and praying while I was standing there. People actually came and packed candles and icons on to the stone and then removing it as it is now blessed!
Inside the church is Golgotha, the spot where the crucifix is believed to have stood. While I was standing there 2 guys carried a crippled dude all the way there just so that he could kiss the spot where the cross stood. People stood in line to kneel down and touch the spot and pray.
Downstairs is a place where they believed Jesus was buried, it had long lines to enter and loads of tour groups so I skipped going in.
I walked around the Old City some more and bought myself a falafel at Damascus Gate before I headed back to the hostel.