Danger, Mines!

Road tripping through Israel
Road tripping through Israel

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Throwback Thursday: Domica Cathedral of Jerusalem

Sometimes a place or a building makes a big impact on you and lingers in your thoughts long afterwards. The Domica Cathedral and my experiences inside a couple of years ago is still with me even today.

The Cathedral is a  grand structure surrounded by narow alley ways.  The church is very impressive and looms over the alley that leads around the building. There were no clear markers to where you could find the entrance and it is built like a fortress.

Once inside my eyes were drawn to the painted ceiling, decorated walls and even the floor. All of these colourful surfaces formed a stark contrast with the bleak outside of the building. The floor is decorated with the symbols of the Zodiac, names of Prophets, and a verse from Proverbs (8, 23-25) written on its circumference. The Cathedral was quiet and warm inside with the faint smell of insence everywhere.

Walking down a spiral staircases down to the crypt under the church I heard sof voices rising from below. In the center of the crypt is a sculpture of Mary’s deathbed, made of ivory and cherry wood. On the ceiling of the crypt above Mary is a beautiful painting of Jesus surrounded by famous Biblical women figures: Eve, Esther, Ruth, Yael, Judith and Mary sister of Moses, all here to honor Mary. 

Domica Cathedral
Inside the Domica Cathedral. The only photo I took as I didnt want to intrude on people while praying

People were nlighting up candles before the sculpture and a priest was conducted a service or reciting scripture. Although I could not understand a word he was saying I sat down to listen and to embrace the peaceful atmosphere. Sitting here amidst all these people praying I closed my eyes and for the first time in a while said a prayer of my own.

Without knowing why ears sprung to eyes and I will always remember how peaceful and loved I felt at that moment. I bought myself a beautiful rosary before I left the Cathedral and every now and again when I need reassurance I will hold the rosary while saying silent prayer.

This was a first for me. Has a place or building ever affected you in such a way?

This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral
This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral

The cobbled streets of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an amazing city filled with great people and extraordinary places to see. You can pick any street to wonder down and you will be surrounded by the most amazing architecture ever. Millions and millions of feet have walked across these same cobbled streets. Some in search of adventure and others on a pilgrimage through this historical city.

Early in the mornings the streets are quite deserted and you get to feel quite alone as you wonder through the city.  These are photos of some of the alleyways and lanes that I wondered through on my way from New Gate down to Zion’s Gate on the other sde of the Old city. After exciting through Zion’s Gate you nearly walk into  David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper.

King David’s Tomb is a site traditionally viewed as the burial place of David the King of Israel. It is located in a ground floor corner of the remains of the former Hagia Zion, a Byzantine church.

The Last Supper Room is arectangular room with gothic style pillars and a vaulted ceiling. This is said to be the room where Jesus and his deciples had their last supper together although it looks more like a small chapel to me.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow

This weeks photo challenge is Narrow: From spaghetti to the quiet alley behind your house, this week show us something narrow. This reminds me of all the narrow alley ways and lanes that fill the old city of Jerusalem. I got to explore these cobbled walkways a couple of years ago.

Throwback Thursday: Sea of Galilee in Nazareth

I dont always plan out all my holidays in detail in advance and my Israel trip was one of these. I didn’t have any specific plan of action once I arrived in Nazareth so when two strangers at the hostel mentioned a road trip to the North of Israel all around the Sea of Galilee I couldn’t think of one reason not to go. Going on a road trip with two strangers has never been on my bucket list but this ended up being one of the most amazing trips I have ever gone on.

Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with. ( I never could remember his name)
Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with ( I never could remember his name)

Pia was the designated driver and I sat in the front with the job as map reader in our little yellow rented car.The polish guy that was traveling with us lives in Ireland at the moment. (Jaric) He has lived there for 9 years but his English is really not that good and he doesn’t always understand our questions or give us straight answers. Whenever someone asks him where he’s from he says Ireland, you can see how confused the people seem as he doesn’t look or sound Irish at all. I could never remember his name so ended up calling him Polish Dude the whole time. Getting to see the countryside covered in mist while driving along the windy roads was absolutely amazing. It was chilly at 16 degrees and very foggy so we couldn’t see too far ahead, it actually gave the area an eerie fairy-tale feeling. It felt like we were entering the unknown and didn’t know what’s waiting around the next corner.

It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those Bible stories in the back of my mind

From Tiberias we headed up north all along the coast of the sea of Galilee to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is situated right next to the Sea of Galilee. It is a cute little church, although its modern, it stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches, right where it is said that Jesus divided the fish and loaves to the multitudes of people. Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic of the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid. It is said that pilgrims are known to have commemorated this site since at least the 4th century.

Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic

My last look over the Sea of Galilee, before heading up North into the mountains.  

Throwback Thursday: Towers and Markets in Jerusalem

The David’s Tower museum in Jerusalem is where Jesus was said to have been condemned, it was interesting but a bit of a let down compared to all the other sites in Jerusalem. The audio guide was definitely useless!! But walking around the tower and museum was still worth it all.

Built to strengthen a strategically weak point in the Old City’s defenses, the citadel that stands today was constructed during the 2nd century BC. It contains important archaeological finds dating back 2,700 years, and is a popular venue for benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances.

Inside David’s Tower museum
Inside David’s Tower museum

The name “Tower of David” is due to Byzantine Christians who believed the site to be the palace of King David.

The exhibits depict 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history, from its beginnings as a Canaanite city to modern times. Using maps, videotapes, holograms, drawings and models, the exhibit rooms each depict Jerusalem under its various rulers. Visitors may also ascend to the top of the tower, which command a 360-degree view of the Old City and New City of Jerusalem.

As I walked from Jafa Gate to Damascus Gate I got to buy a couple of souvenirs along the way at some of the lovely stalls. The Arabs actually loved me in their stores and kept offering me coffee. Think it might have been the black hair and pale skin as I havent seen sunshine in ages in Moscow.

 

Who doesn't like chili's!!
Who doesn’t like chili’s!!

That evening I joined the market tour of the hostel where I was staying. We went for a walk through the market and bought loads of ingredients.  I just love the fresh vegetables and bright colours of the market. Everything was fresh and smelled so goo. I wouldnt know how to use or combine half of the herbs and spices sold here but would love to buy them and learn how to cook with them. After doing loads of shopping we cooked a lovely Arabic meal in the hostel with the help of the tour guide. It was a fabulous evening, cooking and drinking red wine!

I think from now on I should definitely try and do a cooking lesson in each new place I travel to.

The people in Jerusalem are very friendly, and not once have I felt unsafe or threatened. They are sometimes too friendly, seems like loads of SA people go through here because as soon as they hear I am from SA they say “hoe haan dit?”. One guy even commented “jy het mooi oe” and another started talking to me in Zulu. 

Jerusalem’s Dome of Rock Mosque

 The Dome of Rock
The Dome of Rock

Jerusalem is filled with so many beautiful and historic places that after a week of exploring this city, I still hadn’t seen everything I wanted to see. Early morning I met up with one of the other hostel ocupants, the Canadian girl, Bobbi who went with me to the Dome of Rock where Abraham had to sacrifice Isaac. The Muslims built a beautiful mosque covering this rock. The whole mosque is covered in mosaic and the dome is actually covered in gold leaf.

Walking through the Dome complex
Walking through the Dome complex
Artist drawing the Dome of Rock!!
Artist drawing the Dome of Rock!!

We stood in line for over an hour before finally getting in, you can only enter between 12:30pm and 13:30 and at 13:30 they actually chased us out of the complex.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, non-Muslims were not permitted in the area. Since 1967, non-Muslims have been permitted limited access, however non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, or carry any form of religious artifact or anything with Hebrew letters. The Israeli police help enforce this.

The Dome of Rock took my breath away the first time I saw it!!
The Dome of Rock took my breath away the first time I saw it!!
A closeup of the Golden Dome
A closeup of the Golden Dome

The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 CE. The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart. The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The Dome of Rock is just stunning!! I so wish that I was allowed to go inside it!
The Dome of Rock is just stunning!!

The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 20 m in diameter, which is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The outer side walls are made of porcelain and mirror the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 18 m wide and 11 m high. Both the dome and the exterior walls contain many windows.

I do wonder what this mosqye looks like inside, unfortunately we were not allowed inside, which is a shame.

Lunch with Bobby at one of the Old gates of Jerusalem!!
Lunch with Bobby after our adventure!!

 

Christmas night in Bethlehem, Israel!!

 Saturday 24 December 2011

At 3o’clock the afternoon on my first day in Israel I joined the Abraham hostel tour to Bethlehem. Unfortunately the guide was absolutely useless, he didn’t give us any extra information about the area or even tell us where we were going or what we were going to see.

Shepherd’s Field He took us to the Shepherd’s Field first.

Shepherd’s Field“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:8-10)

The fertile fields of Beit Sahour are believed to be where this biblical scene took place, 2 km southeast of Bethlehem. The ruins at Al-Ruwat include a cave used as a church from the 4th century, of which the barrel-vaulted roof (5th century) still survives. It is approached by a flight of 21 steps and has three apses with traces of mosaic and old frescoes.

After this we went into Bethlehem and to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians.

Floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica.
Floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica.

It is designed like a typical Roman basilica, with five aisles formed by Corinthian columns. The columns are made of pink, polished limestone, most of them dating from the original 4th-century Constantinian basilica.  There is also a vault in the eastern end, where the sanctuary is. The church features golden mosaics covering the side walls, which are now largely decayed. Trap doors in the present floor reveal sections of floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica. The mosaics feature complex geometric designs with birds, flowers and vine patterns, making a rich and elaborate carpet for Constantine’s church.

We stood in line for 3hours to get into the Grotto.

Lanterns Inside the Church of the Nativity
Lanterns Inside the Church of the Nativity
Church of St. Catherine
Church of St. Catherine

Church of St. CatherineWhile standing in line I wandered away from the group and went into the adjoining Church of St. Catherine, the Roman Catholic Church. It was built in a more modern Gothic revival style. This is the church where the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem celebrates Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Certain customs still observed in this Midnight Mass predate Vatican II, must be maintained because the “status quo” (the customs, rights and duties of the various church authorities that have custody of the Holy Places) was legally fixed in 1852, under the Ottoman Empire.

 

When I wanted to get back to the group the connecting door was locked seeing as they were busy closing and getting ready for midnight mass! Luckily I found a guard who then helped me get back in.

Inside the Church of the Nativity
Inside the Church of the Nativity

We entered through a very low door, called the “Door of Humility.” We then went down a Staircase on the side of the Sanctuary that leads down to the Grotto.

Bethlehem candles

Candles at the entrance to the Grotto
Candles at the entrance to the Grotto

The Grotto of the Nativity is an underground cave located beneath the basilica, it enshrines the site where Jesus is said to have been born. The exact spot is marked beneath an altar by a 14-pointed Silver Star set into the marble floor and surrounded by silver lamps. This altar is denominationally neutral, although it features primarily Armenian Apostolic influences. Another altar in the Grotto, which is maintained by the Roman Catholics, marks the site where traditionally Mary laid the newborn Baby in the manger.

We were unfortunately rushed through a bit, and got held up because a very big lady bent down to kiss the Silver Star and then got stuck under the altar and it took two guards to pull her out of the little grotto again.

Unfortunately it started raining during dinner, it was pouring down and my shoes were not water proof. I bought a small umbrella but had to walk around with wet, cold feet the whole evening, my toes were freezing!

We walked down to see a part of the Israel Palestine wall with its graffiti; we only saw a small part of the wall as we couldn’t actually walk around much in the pouring rain. I got to see and photograph a Banksy original!!

Manger Square
Manger Square

I met 2 lovely Kiwi ladies who teach English in Cairo. I ended up chatting to them and spent the rest of the evening in their company. On our way back from the wall we sat down and had some mulled wine to warm up a bit. Luckily by then the rain had cleared up a bit so we headed down to Manger Square, a large paved courtyard in front of the Church. This is the site where crowds gather on Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the midnight services. We could watch the midnight service here on big screens, but unfortunately because of the rain there was no sound, a bit of a disappointment.

Standing right by the Barriers of Manger Square
Standing right by the Barriers of Manger Square

We were lucky enough to be right in the front when they set up the barriers in front of the church before the president arrived. I have never seen so many armed police and army guys standing around with their AK47’s.

When the president finally arrived it looked like chaos with all the police running around, but it was over quickly and the barriers were removed.

After midnight mass we all had some hot chocolate before heading back to the hostel.

This was definitely a very special and spiritual Christmas for me!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Last look over the mist filled valley before we left the Fortress
Last look over the mist filled valley before we left the Fortress

Driving through the mist covered valley  we were met by the silence of the deserted castle set on the top of the mountain. Staring out over the mist covered valleys below felt like I was in the middle od a dreamy, fairy tale world. It was as though we were cut off from the rest of the world and the mist left you wondering if there was still a world out there.

Ruins filled with Arabic writing
Ruins filled with Arabic writing
Love the fact that nature is slowly taking over the ruins
Love the fact that nature is slowly taking over the ruins

The medieval Nimrod Fortress in Israel is situated in the northern Golan Heights, on a ridge rising about 800 m (2600 feet) above sea level. Usually you would be able to see for miles in either fdirection, but this morning the mist was so thick that it was difficult to see where you wre going.

You are continuously warned that the Ruins can collapse at any moment!!
You are continuously warned that the Ruins can collapse at any moment!!

Wordless Wednesday: Glass Grass

Glass Grass!!
Glass Grass in Jerusalem, Israel!!

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Wordless Wednesday: Good Night Jerusalem

Last look at Jerusalem before the sun set.
Last look at Jerusalem before the sun set.

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist

Israel
Looking down over the valley from Susita in Israel

This week, share a photo of something that says “twist” to you. It might be that perfect ice cream cone, a yummy bit of liquorice, or something unexpected that surprised, shocked, or startled you.

Israel
Walking through the Ruins of Suista and looking out over the valley below

The Old City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an amazing city filled with great people and extraordinary places to see. You can pick any street to wonder down and you will be surrounded by the most amazing architecture ever. Millions and millions of feet have walked across these same cobbled streets. Some in search of adventure and others on a pilgrimage through this historical city.

Early in the mornings the streets are quite deserted and you get to feel quite alone as you wonder through the city.  These are photos of some of the alleyways and lanes that I wondered through on my way from New Gate down to Zion’s Gate on the other sde of the Old city. After exciting through Zion’s Gate you nearly walk into  David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper.

Entrance to King David's Tomb
Entrance to King David’s Tomb

King David’s Tomb is a site traditionally viewed as the burial place of David the King of Israel. It is located in a ground floor corner of the remains of the former Hagia Zion, a Byzantine church.

Inside he Last Supper Room
Inside he Last Supper Room

The Last Supper Room is arectangular room with gothic style pillars and a vaulted ceiling. This is said to be the room where Jesus and his deciples had their last supper together although it looks more like a small chapel to me.

I ended up in the magnificent Domica Cathedral which is located on Mount Zion, southwest of the Old City and it immortalizes the deep sleep of Mary, mother of Jesus. “Dormitio” in Latin means “to sleep”.

This Cathedral commemorates the memory of Virgin Mary, in the traditional site of her death (the name means “Eternal sleep”).

Heading towards the Domica Cathedral
Heading towards the Domica Cathedral
Walls of the Domica Cathedral
Walls of the Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral

The church was first built in the fourth century and called “Hagia Zion” (Holy Zion) but since then it has undergone many periods of destruction and renovation by the various rulers of Jerusalem. The church as it stands today was built in the neo-Romanesque style of the Middle Ages and was inaugurated in 1910.

It is maintained by the German Benedictine Order and is decorated in the style of many churches in the Christian world, with mosaics showing figures from the Old and New Testaments and paintings of a variety of saints.

The beauty and grand design of the church is very impressive as I approached it from the alley that leads from the Zion gate.

Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral
Up close to the Domica Cathedral
Up close to the Domica Cathedral
 Entering the Domica Cathedral
Entering the Domica Cathedral
The Domica Cathedral
The Domica Cathedral

Once inside my eyes were drawn to the painted ceiling, decorated walls and even the floor. The floor is decorated with the symbols of the Zodiac, names of Prophets, and a verse from Proverbs (8, 23-25) written on its circumference.

Inside the Domica Cathedral
Inside the Domica Cathedral

Inside the church are two spiral staircases that lead down to the crypt. The crypt is a round pillared room, which is located in a level under the church. In the center of the crypt, surrounded by six pillars, is a sculpture of Mary’s deathbed, made of ivory and cherry wood.  Visitors light up candles before the sculpture. While I was down there a priest conducted a service, it was beautiful to sit and listen to.

On the ceiling of the crypt above Mary are Jesus (in the center) surrounded by famous Biblical women figures: Eve, Esther, Ruth, Yael, Judith and Mary sister of Moses, they are here to honor Mary.

I bought myself a beautiful mother of pearl rosary here as it will have special memories attached with my visit to this extraordinary church.

The Bell Tower of the Domica Cathedral
The Bell Tower of the Domica Cathedral

The Bell tower of this church is crowned with a sign of the cock, similar to the Gallicantu church. The Biblical text (Mark 14: 26-72) describes the story of Peters’ triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice, which happened on Mount Zion.

  The story is as follows: Jesus was sitting with his disciples before his arrest, and doubted their loyalty.  Peter declared that he will not be among them, but Jesus predicted that within that night, even before the 2nd crow of the cock, Peter will deny him 3 times. This is exactly what has happened, as Peter found out himself.

This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral
This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral

Last day of my Israel adventure I spend exploring Nazareth

Doves in the alley just outside my Hostel
Doves in the alley just outside my Hostel

I stayed at Fauzi Azar Inn while in Nazareth. It is a great hostel with fabulous people and on my last morning I did their free tour of Nazareth.

Walking through the narrow alleys of Nazareth
Walking through the narrow alleys of Nazareth
Walking down the Cobbled streets towards the market
Walking down the Cobbled streets towards the market
Visiting a small street market in the heart of the city
Visiting a small street market in the heart of the city
Baker busy making lovely fresh flat bread!
Baker busy making lovely fresh flat bread!
Lovely old building throughout Nazareth
Lovely old building throughout Nazareth

It was a Monday morning and couldnt believe the streets were so quiet
It was a Monday morning and couldnt believe the streets were so quiet

It was very interesting exploring the old city and I really enjoyed it. I got to see what Nazareth really looks like away from the usual tourist sites. We walked through the town with a great guide who gave us a bit of the history of everything going on in Nazareth. Love exploring parts of a city that you wouldn’t have seen if you only followed a travel guide. 

Exploring the tunnels that run under the city
Exploring the tunnels that run under the city
The architecture of the city takes me back centuries
The architecture of the city takes me back centuries
Yellow seems to be the brightest colour that people paint their homes over here
Yellow seems to be the brightest colour that people paint their homes over here
Ruins found hidden in alleyways
Ruins found hidden in alleyways

That afternoon I took a sheirut (shared taxi) to Tel Aviv where I stayed at Gordon Inn before flying back to Moscow. That night I had fabulous seafood pasta at Goocha and went for a walk along the beach.

Walking along the beachfront in Tel Aviv
Walking along the beachfront in Tel Aviv

A perfect end to my Israel adventure!!!

Hiking to Waterfalls and Elephant DNA Hyraxes in Israel

Scenery of the valley as we started our hike in the Gholan Heights
Scenery of the valley as we started our hike in the Gholan Heights

Someone told me and my 2 new traveling partners about a lovely walk in the Gholan heights so we decided to do it. 

The little Hyraxes who  share 90% of their DNA with elephants
The little Hyraxes who share 90% of their DNA with elephants
The little Hyraxes live among the rocks of these valleys.
The little Hyraxes live among the rocks of these valleys.

One of the first things we saw on our walk were the little Hyraxes who live all over the place. They are little animals found around the Golan Heights that share 90% of their DNA with elephants. They are actually quite ugly if you ask me. 

Hiking between the mountains!!
Hiking between the mountains!!
At the start of our hike the clouds started to move in
At the start of our hike the clouds started to move in
Walking through mini forests to get to the waterfall
Walking through mini forests to get to the waterfall
I love the different plants that  grow here
I love the different plants that grow here

We walked through valleys and along the mountains to the White Waterfall which was not supposed to be very far away. It was a lovely walk to get there.

As we got close to the waterfall the sky started to turn darker
As we got close to the waterfall the sky started to turn darker
The White rocks of the White Waterfall
The White rocks of the White Waterfall
It was winter so the waterfall wasn't flowing very strong
It was winter so the waterfall wasn’t flowing very strong
Pink flowers covered the rocks around the waterfall
Pink flowers covered the rocks around the waterfall

The rock of the waterfall was white and we thought it would be a short walk to the Black Waterfall as well-they were close to each other on the map. Unfortunately it ended up being another 2 hour walk before we reached it, and another hour of walking before we reached the road. By that time we were all hungry and thirsty as we didn’t take a lot of water as we thought the whole hike would only take about 2 hours.

As we left in search of the Black waterfall it looked like it was going to rain soon
As we left in search of the Black waterfall it looked like it was going to rain soon
Walking across hills and through valleys
Walking across hills and through valleys
What, you are tired after hiking only 2 hours!?!?
What, you are tired after hiking only 2 hours!?!?
We must be close, we found a sign!!
We must be close, we found a sign!!
At long last the Black waterfall!!
At long last the Black waterfall!!

When we eventually reached the road we caught a ride back to the car and started heading back to Nazareth.We drove along the bottom of the Galilee, crossing the Jordan River on our way to Nazareth. The last hour back we drove through pouring rain. Rain was pouring down the street in rivers and made driving very difficult.

We made a lovely dinner and had some red wine when we finally got back to the hostel.

Susita,the City of Hippos in the Gholan Heights of Israel

The countryside is littered with barbedwire and danger landmine signs
The countryside is littered with barbed-wire and danger landmine signs

Early Sunday morning, 1 of January the 3 of us headed up to Susita- an excavation site on the top of a mountain close by. We drove past a UN truck and along some more danger landmine signs all the way there.

Looking down over the valley from Susita
Looking down over the valley from Susita
Looking East over the valleys and mountains
Looking East over the valleys and mountains
I was too scared to test if the warnings about landmines were valid..
I was too scared to test if the warnings about landmines were valid..
The city of Hippos, also known well as Susita
The city of Hippos, also known well as Susita

The city of Hippos, also known well as Susita, was founded on this hill overlooking the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee during the Hellenistic period in the second century BCE. The first residents of the city were pagans who later converted to Christianity. At their side lived a small Jewish community as well. Most of the ruins visible today date to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Ruins is all that is left of Susita
Ruins is all that is left of Susita
This now Ruined city must have been filled with columns
This now Ruined city must have been filled with columns
Walking through the Ruins and looking out over the valley
Walking through the Ruins and looking out over the valley

The city was apparently destroyed by an earthquake in 749 CE and was never resettled. During Israel’s war of independence in 1948, members of Kibuts En-Gev, located at the foot of the hill, took control of Susita. It served as a front-line military command post until the six day war in 1967.

Cherry blossoms among the Ruins!
Cherry blossoms among the Ruins!
Looking out over the whole Sea of Galilee from the top of the mountain
Looking out over the whole Sea of Galilee from the top of the mountain
Loved looking out over the Sea of Galilee with my 2 travel buddies
Loved looking out over the Sea of Galilee with my 2 travel buddies

We sat and looked out over the whole Sea of Galilee from the top of the mountain, just amazing!

Driving down the Mountain to the Sea of Galilee
Driving down the Mountain to the Sea of Galilee

 

Stopped in Ein Gedi right next to the Sea of Galilee for Coffee
Stopped in Ein Gedi right next to the Sea of Galilee for Coffee

We had a lovely coffee in Ein Gedi right next to the waterfront for lunch.

Had a cup of lovely Mint tea after my coffee!!
Had a cup of lovely Mint tea after my coffee!!

Road trip in the Gholan Heights of Israel part 2

Warnings all along the road that there might be landmines!!
Warnings all along the road that there might be landmines!!
Barbed wire fences and landmine warnings all along the main road!!
Barbed wire fences and landmine warnings all along the main road!!

Driving up north to Nimrod Fortress we drove through the mist covered mountains. All along the side of the road were fences with “Danger, Landmines” signs covering them. We couldn’t see down into the valleys and coming around one bend we saw the castle perched on top of a mist covered mountain. It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.

The entrance to Nimrod Fortress
The entrance to Nimrod Fortress
Walking through archways that look as if they can fall on you any minute now.
Walking through archways that look as if they can fall on you any minute now.

Walking around the ruins of the castle midst the thick layer of mist gave the whole day an eerie feeling.  Nimrod Fortress is a medieval fortress situated in the northern Golan Heights, on a ridge rising about 800 m (2600 feet) above sea level.

Going down and to the outer walls of the fortress
Going down and to the outer walls of the fortress
The Inner wall of the Fortress
The Inner wall of the Fortress

The fortress was built around 1229 by Al-Aziz Uthman, to pre-empt an attack on Damascus by participants of the Sixth Crusade. It was named Qala’at al-Subeiba, “Castle of the Large Cliff” in Arabic.

Ruins filled with Arabic writing
Ruins filled with Arabic writing

At the end of the 13th century, following the Muslim conquest of the port city of Akko (Acre) and the end of Crusader rule in the Holy Land, the fortress lost strategic value and fell into disrepair.

Looking out over the mist filled valley next to the Fortress
Looking out over the mist filled valley next to the Fortress

The Ottoman Turks conquered the land in 1517 and used the fortress as a luxury prison for Ottoman nobles who had been exiled to Palestine. The fortress was abandoned later in the 16th century and local shepherds and their flocks were the sole guests within its walls. The rest of the fortress was ruined by an earthquake in the 18th century.

Looking out over what is left of Nimrod's Fortress
Looking out over what is left of Nimrod’s Fortress
Looking out over the Fortress before going down the winding stairway
Looking out over the Fortress before going down the winding stairway

Love the fact that nature is slowly taking over the ruins
Love the fact that nature is slowly taking over the ruins

As we entered the fortress we found that the first section contains “secret corridors” — winding staircases and underground water cisterns with some of the original plaster still visible. There are many windows that are narrow on the outside but wide on the inside. They were designed specifically for shooting bows and arrows or crossbows, giving the defender inside the fortress plenty of room but the attacker only a narrow slit as a target. The central part, which we accessed by a path within the fortress, contains the remains of a keep surrounded by large rectangular towers.

You are continuously warned that the Ruins can collapse at any moment!!
You are continuously warned that the Ruins can collapse at any moment!!
This is all that is left of the towers
This is all that is left of the towers
Must have looked amazing in its time!
Must have looked amazing in its time!

In the western section, there are the remains of a fortress within a fortress, which was protected by its own moat and drawbridge. This is the oldest part of the castle, which was built first.

One of the few whole carvings left in the Forrtress
One of the few whole carvings left in the 

Fortress

We got to see the little Hyraxes who live all over the fortress. They are little animals found around the Golan Heights that share 90% of their DNA with elephants. They are actually quite ugly if you ask me. 

The little Hyraxes who live all over the fortress
The little Hyraxes who live all over the fortress

It got dark around 5h when we made our way down the mountain, all along the Syrian border with their landmine fences and barriers to the Genghis Khan village next to the Sea of Galilee.

Last look over the mist filled valley before we left the Fortress
Last look over the mist filled valley before we left the Fortress

It was misty and so bad we couldn’t see anything in front of us. Was very stressful driving along these winding roads in this mist. More than once we went through barriers and had a couple of hairpin turns to make. The Genghis Khan tents are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains. Although it was close to a very small town it felt like it was far removed from everything. The tents were big and warm inside which was a big plus.

Genghis Khan tents are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains
Genghis Khan tents are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains
The inside of our Genghis Khan tent
The inside of our Genghis Khan tent

The polish guy disappeared around 7h30. He was like Houdini’s cousin, every time we turned around or just got out of the car he would be gone.  He would turn up again later but he would just wander off without saying a word. That night he only returned after 11pm, we were a bit worried as it was dark out and he didn’t even have a map with him (he believes he has a built in GPS).

We then drove to the waterfront and greeted the New Year looking out over the Sea of Galilee with a cup of mint tea. 

Road trip in the Gholan Heights of Israel part 1

In Nazareth I stayed at Fauzi Azar Inn and there I met Pia a German girl looking for someone to rent a car with and drive up north in to the Golan Heights. I haven’t actually made any solid plans on what I wanted to do yet and a road trip in Israel sounded like loads of fun. We also met a polish guy at reception who wanted to join us so we decided it was a go!

It was Saturday 31 December, Day 8 of my Israel adventure

I woke up early and as I got out of the shower it was raining quite hard outside. I met up with the 2 people I met last nights and thought that maybe a road trip in the rain would be a bad idea. Luckily it stopped raining just before 9am and we headed out to the car rental place.

Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with
Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with

Pia was the designated driver and I sat in the front with the job as map reader in our little yellow rented car.

Getting to see the countryside covered in mist while driving along the windy roads was absolutely amazing. It was chilly at 16 degrees and very foggy so you couldn’t see too far ahead, it actually gave the area an eerie fairy-tale feeling, that you were entering the unknown and don’t know what’s waiting around the next bend.

Sitting on the shore of the sea of Galilee
Sitting on the shore of the sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee with a layer of mist covering it
The Sea of Galilee with a layer of mist covering it
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind

 We headed towards Tiberias and from there up north all along the coast of the sea of Galilee to Nimrod Castle. Back down again and around the other side of the sea of Galilee.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
This pond was right at the entrance!
This pond was right at the entrance!
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

Our first stop was on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Tabgha at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.  A sweet little church, although its modern it stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches, right on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic of the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.

Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
 Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
The entrance of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
The entrance of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Beautiful stain-glass window of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Beautiful stain-glass window of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter was our next stop. This church is right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to “Feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. 

The Church of the Beatitudes
The Church of the Beatitudes

The Church of the Beatitudes, a Roman Catholic Church was our last stop. It is located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and actually overlooks the small loaves and fishes church.  It was built on the traditional site of Jesus’ delivery of the Sermon on the Mountpilgrims are known to have commemorated this site since at least the 4th century.

Looking out over the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes
Looking out over the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes

Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside but walked around the church an got to look out over the valley and the sea down below.

Last look at the mist covered Sea of Galilee before we head North
Last look at the mist covered Sea of Galilee before we head North

The polish guy that was traveling with us lives in Ireland at the moment. (Jaric) He has lived there for 9 years but his English is really not that good and he doesn’t always understand our questions or give us straight answers. Whenever someone asks him where he’s from he says Ireland, you can see how confused the people seem as he doesn’t look or sound Irish at all. I could never remember his name so ended up calling him Polish Dude the whole time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Inside David’s Tower museum
Inside David’s Tower museum

This weeks Photo Challenge is Unique.  I traveled to Jerusalem a while ago and there I came across this beautiful “fake grass”. It is GRASS made out of GLASS!!! I have never before seen anything like it and thought it was stunning!!

This was inside David’s Tower museum and it was part of a glass art exhibition that was going on inside the museum.

Grass made from glass, absolutely beautiful!!
Grass made from glass, absolutely beautiful!!
Part of a glass exhibit!!
Part of a glass exhibit!!

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. You can also link to this post to create apingback here and to encourage more people to participate.

3. Subscribe to The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

 

A glimpse of Nazareth during my Israel adventure

It was 29 December, day 6 of my Israel adventure as I headed towards a rainy 15 degree Nazareth.

I had a lazy morning before heading to the central bus station to catch a bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth. I couldn’t believe how much security I had to go through just to get inside the bus station. Think my backpack and I were searched twice!!

Walked through small alleyways to get to the hostel
Walked through small alleyways to get to the hostel

I got to Fauzi Azar Inn late that afternoon. The hostel had coffee, tea and fresh cake out the whole time, and it was for free!! The staff was really friendly and it was in a great location and stunning old building!

Entering Fauzi Azar Inn
Entering Fauzi Azar Inn
My view when sitting outside drinking a coffee at Fauzi Azar Inn
My view when sitting outside drinking a coffee at Fauzi Azar Inn

I checked in and went for a walk through the market to the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Basilica of the Annunciation
Basilica of the Annunciation
One of the doors of the Basilica of the Annunciation
One of the doors of the Basilica of the Annunciation

The Basilica of the Annunciation
The Basilica of the Annunciation

The church was established at the site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place. Greek Orthodox tradition holds that this event occurred while Mary was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth.  Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.

Looking out over the city while standing inside the church complex
Looking out over the city while standing inside the church complex
In front of the Basilica of the Annunciation
In front of the Basilica of the Annunciation
The Bell tower
The Bell tower

It was a beautiful church!

Entrance of the church
Entrance of the church
Inside Basilica of the Annunciation
Inside Basilica of the Annunciation
Some stunning windows!
Some stunning windows!
The lights inside the Church
The lights inside the Church
Inside the church
Inside the church

I absolutely loved the cobble stone streets, although there were loads of steps as the whole place is built on hills. I sat in a small café opposite the Basilica and had a red wine and falafel for dinner while listening to the church bells ring.

Sunset in Nazareth
Sunset in Nazareth

Oskar Schindler, Mary Magdalene and hot Sahlab in Jerusalem

The entrance to the small graveyard where Oskar Schindler  lies buried
The entrance to the small graveyard where Oskar Schindler lies buried
Tombs inside the small graveyard
Tombs inside the small graveyard

After lunch on Tuesday 27 December, I walked down to a small cemetery just outside the Old City. It was one of the most peaceful cemeteries that I have ever been in, it overlooks a valley and is filled with shady trees.  There after walking around a bit I found Oskar Schindler’s Tomb. It was totally covered in stones as the Jews don’t put leave flowers at a grave; they put a small stone on top of it. It was a beautiful graveyard and very peaceful.

The small graveyard overlooking the valley
The small graveyard overlooking the valley
Schindler's grave
Schindler’s grave

Steven Spielberg ionized Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List”. After the war, Oskar Schindler moved to Argentina with his wife and tried his hand at farming. Having failed, he returned to Germany on his own and lived out his life alone and in poverty punctuated by annual visits to Israel, where he was treated like royalty.

Schindler's grave
Schindler’s grave
I love the fact that the grave is practically covered in small stones
I love the fact that the grave is practically covered in small stones

I had a lovely Arabic coffee just outside the Church of the Redeemer, which was unfortunately closed for the week so couldn’t go up the bell tower. I walked down Via Delarosa towards Lions Gate. While walking I passed most of the Stations of the Cross, the places where Jesus stopped with his cross on his way to be crucified.

 

I went into the Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up. According to tradition the church enshrines the spot where Jesus Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers before his journey down the Via Dolorosa to Calvary.

 

Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up.
Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up.
Church of the Flagellation prison, the first station where he was  locked up.
Church of the Flagellation prison, the first station where he was locked up.

 

The birth place of the Virgin Mary
The birth place of the Virgin Mary

The next little gem that I stumbled upon was the house of Mary’s parents, where I went in for a look and I descended down a very narrow staircase. The ceiling is very low and you stand bent and cramped inside this small house. Was very interesting to see where and how they lived.

Church of the Flagellation
Church of the Flagellation
Church of the Flagellation while walking to the city gates
Church of the Flagellation while walking to the city gates

I eventually headed out of the Old City through Lions Gate to Mary Magdalene’s tomb.

Mary Magdalene’s tomb
Mary Magdalene’s tomb

Walking into this grotto the whole ceiling is covered in hanging candles and chandeliers. It is beautiful inside and definitely worth seeing the inside of.

The whole ceiling of the grotto is covered in hanging candles and chandeliers
The whole ceiling of the grotto is covered in hanging candles and chandeliers
Walking down the steps into the grotto
Walking down the steps into the grotto

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most celebrated disciples, and the most important female disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of “seven demons”, [Luke 8:2] [Mark 16:9] sometimes interpreted as referring to complex illnesses. She became Jesus’ close friend and most prominent during his last days, being present at the cross after the male disciples (except John the Beloved) had fled, and at his burial. She was the first person to see Jesus after his Resurrection, according to both John 20 and Mark 16:9.

Mary Magdalene is considered by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches to be a saint, with a feast day of July 22. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrh bearers.

Unfortunately the Mary Magdalene church was closed for the day.

The Garden of Getsame is right next to the grotto
The Garden of Getsame is right next to the grotto
The Garden of Getsame is right next to the grotto
The Garden of Getsame is right next to the grotto

On my way back into the OldCity I walked behind a guide telling someone about this excellent view that you get over the whole city from the roof of a small hospital. I followed them and went up to the roof, he was right, the views were amazing and you could see over most of the city.

Jerusalem beyond the dome
Jerusalem beyond the dome
Jerusalem beyond the cross
Jerusalem beyond the cross

After having lovely chocolate cake and coffee at this hospital I took a lovely night stroll through the old city. Love the fact that the markets are open late into the night. Each little street I walked down felt like a different small town.

I stopped for a falafel and some hot sahlab at one of the stalls in the city. Sahlab is a hot thick milk drink with coconut and cinnamon in, I love it!! Tastes like “melkkos” from South-Africa.

Getting myself some hot Sahlab!!
Getting myself some hot Sahlab!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

This weeks Photo Challenge is Beyond. In Jerusalem I shot this photo from the top of a small hospital. I had an amazing view of the Old City of Jerusalem.  I captured the old buildings of the city in the background as the first thing your eye actually catches is the cross in the foreground.
Jerusalem beyond the cross
Jerusalem beyond the cross

The Old city of Jerusalem is filled with church domes. If you look past the dome in the front you will notice that beyond is the dome of the Dome of Rock Mosque!

Jerusalem beyond the dome
Jerusalem beyond the dome

The view of the Old City is absolutely breathtaking!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination from the Sea of Galilee

This weeks photo challenge is Illumination and what better form of light is there than candlelight!?!?

I went on a road trip to the North of Israel with 2 other travelers that I had met the night before we left.  The three of us headed towards Tiberias and from there up north all along the coast of the sea of Galilee up to Nimrod Castle and back down and around the other side of the sea of Galilee.

We stopped on the North-West shore of the Sea of Galilee in Tabgha at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

It is a very sweet little church and stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches, right on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic of the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid. What caught my eye were the paintings of The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ in front of which all visitors lit little candles and said a small prayer. 

The Virgin Mary in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

Jesus Christ in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

I loved standing in this little church, it was peaceful and quiet and had a religious feel about it. I was glad that the little church was not advertised around every corner and over run by tourists. You could still stand here and feel a closeness with God.

Exploring Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel.

Monday 26 December 2011

The rain finally let up so this morning I took the hostels free city tour, it is a 3hour walking tour that was very informative and we had a great guide that made it a lot of fun!

A priest standing in front of his small church
A priest standing in front of his small church

We walked through little alleyways and past so many old buildings it was a bit overwhelming.

 

The Western Wall or Wailing Wall of Jerusalem
The Western Wall or Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

We went to the Western Wall where everyone goes to pray. I also put a small paper with a prayer in the wall, they say you have a better than average chance then that it will be answered.

 

At The Western Wall or Wailing Wall of Jerusalem
At The Western Wall or Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

I met a Canadian Girl that morning, Bobby, she was also staying at the hostel and decided to join me for the days outing.

 The two of us took a small local bus number 75 up to Mount Zion. We went into the Mosque of Ascension where there is supposed to be a footprint of Jesus in stone. Couldn’t actually make out the footprint, it looked distorted but was still interesting.

Mosque of Ascension
Mosque of Ascension
Paternoster church
Paternoster church

Unfortunately the Church of Ascension was closed for the day. We walked down the mount and entered the Paternoster church where the Lords prayer is in tablets in every known language. This church is built over a cave in which Jesus was said to have taught the disciples the prayer that begins “Our Father who art in heaven”. It was absolutely beautiful and I even found the prayer in Zulu and Afrikaans.

Paternoster church
Paternoster church
The Paternoster in Afrikaans
The Paternoster in Afrikaans

 

Walking through the Paternoster church
Walking through the Paternoster church

Leaving, we stood looking out over the graves that fill the side of the hill right next to the city and enjoyed the stunning sunset.

Looking out over The Old City of Jerusalem
Looking out over The Old City of Jerusalem
Graves fill the side of the hill right next to the city
Graves fill the side of the hill right next to the city

Right after sunset we went into the Garden of Gethsemane, the last remaining rays shining through the trees and we watched the sun disappear behind the olive trees and the Old City walls.

The Church in the Garden of Gethsemane,
The Church in the Garden of Gethsemane,

There are eight olive trees in this garden that may be at least 2,000 – 3,000 years old. They still bear fruit. If they are not the actual trees in the area where Jesus prayed, then they could have been young saplings when Jesus came here with the disciples on that night after the Last Supper.

 

Stunning end to a great day!!

Christmas Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem

Day 2: Sunday 25 December 2011

 It rained all day long and was about 15 degrees and very foggy. The city was covered in a white mist. I took the tram to the Holocaust museum, it is a stunning building and everything was so well presented. It was a stunning yet very depressing experience.

Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off”.

Located in the western region of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem on 804 meters above the sea, Yad Vashem is a 180,000 square meters complex containing the Holocaust History Museum; memorial sites, such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, archives and a research institute.

Yad Vashem honors non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust at personal risk, as the “Righteous among the Nations”.

Yad Vashem is the second most visited tourist site in Israel, after the Western Wall. It receives on average one million visitors annually. Admission is free.

Afterwards I went and walked through the food market close to the hostel to cheer myself up. I had a fabulous bowl of whole wheat pasta before spending the rest of the evening at the hostel reading and just relaxing with a glass of wine.

Travel theme: Multiples from Israel

Here is my contribution to Ailsa’s travel theme: multiples this week. I took this photo in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians.

Bethlehem candles

Wooden crosses in Jerusalem

I came across this stack of wooden crosses outside the the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  People on a pilgrimage carry these wooden crosses through the Old City along all the stations of the cross: the stations is the whole route Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.

Christmas in Jerusalem, Israel starts!!

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.

Leaving Moscow
Leaving Moscow

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.

Abraham Hostel
Abraham Hostel

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.

The entrance into a small church
The entrance into a small church

Day 1: Saturday 24 December 2011

Jerusalem

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.

The entrance to the church courtyard
The entrance to the church courtyard

 

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.

The stone of Unction
The stone of Unction

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!

The ceiling of the church...I just love the lanterns!!
The ceiling of the church…I just love the lanterns!!