Friday, September 3, 2010

Today I am packing and getting ready to leave.  I'll have to pack a lot of memories also.  It has been a wonderful time  here exploring places I never knew about or even thought I would visit.  Let alone visit them numerous times to really appreciate them.  I hope that you have enjoyed reading my blog.  It was nice to think about the day's events and let you in on them.  This is my last blog from Israel / Holy Land. The pictures are of the Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem.  That was one of the few places that I didn't get to visit so I made a point of seeing it on Friday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today we went to the Holy Cross Monastery. It is down the hill from my apartment on Aza Street. It is in a valley with the Knesset atop the hill on one side and the Israeli Museum/ Shrine of the Book on the other side. This is the place they say the cross which Christ used was grown. The present building is from the 1100's and not much has been done to it since then which makes it interesting. Like a lot of the Greek Monasteries, they have birds in large cages, animals around.

After that we decided to go to a Mall to see the differences between ours and theirs. The only thing is that it is three stories instead of all one level, the stores are much smaller in size and there are a lot of bakeries there.

Then we went to Yad Vashem, the holocaust Museum. Every time there I seem to learn more about this tragedy. We walked around the outside memorials also.

We came back to the apartment and Steve and Judy prepared to leave this evening. I will be preparing to start packing myself as soon as they leave. The Pictures are from yesterday. They were taken from the top of the Mount of Temptation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Today we went to Bethany to visit the Tomb of Lazarus. The Wall now separates Bethany in half. Although it is still on the Mount of Olives, you can’t get there from the top of Mount. You have to go all the way around the city. The tourists no longer can get there easily. So there aren’t many that visit this beautiful sight. When we got back to Jerusalem, we went to St. Peter’s Church. That’s where St. Peter denied Jesus. It’s also a beautiful place to visit especially the view over East Jerusalem. Then in the evening we went to Mahane Yehuda, the local outdoor market for Jerusalem. It’s kind of like a perpetual Farmer’s Market except much larger. Then we went to Ben Yehuda Street to take in a little local flavor of the town. The first picture is of a sign showing that the USA is paying for the new road into the Palestinian Area of Bethany (or Al Eizariyah as it is now called because of the Wall being built right through the middle of the town.  The second picture is of the congested Arab Bus Station in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today we went to Jericho.  It is in a Palestinian  Area.  So to play it safe, we used my friend Walid, a Palestinian taxi driver.  He makes every trip enjoyable, memorable and fun.  We drove through these narrow roads to get to the main highway from Bethlehem. The USA has paid for many of these roads in Palesine, since Israel has cut them off basically from the world. It would be much easier to go out of Jerusalem, but Walid cannot cross the border / checkpoint.  What a shame.  Maybe the talks that start on September 2 can remedy some of this.  Anyways, first we went to swim in the Dead Sea.  That is always an experience since you can float in about six inches of water.  Then we went to Jericho.  The USA paid for a huge training area and also train the Palestinian Police and some Military in this facility.  With all the Mosque arguments going on in New York City, it's interesting that there is a new Mosque inside the walls of this USA paid facility. We went to the Mount of Temptation, Zachaeus' Sycamore Tree, a branch of the Jordan River, the spring that has fed the city of Jericho for 10,000 years.  On the way back to Jerusalem, we stopped at The Mosque of Moses. On to Bethlehem and said a final goodbye to Walid.  In the past month, he was a big part of my travels.  So I willl miss him. Did I mention that he is huge.  He has been Mr. Palestine for two years and also Mr. Egypt in the past years The pictures are of Walid, Steve and Judy.  The other two pictures are of the Dead Sea.  The water level has dropped so much that perhaps in 20 years, it might just be desert. By the way we did not go into the bar and it is 1371 feet below Sea Level or 418 meters.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today we did a lot of walking.  We took a total of three buses to get to the Mount of Olives.  Then we walked the Palm Sunday Walk.  We left from Bethpage up the Mount of Olives, down to the Dominus Flevit Church, on to the Garden of Gethsemane and Gethsemane.  Went to the Rock of Agony Church and the Tomb of Mary Church.  Then we walked the Via Dolorosa or the Way of the Cross being able to have all the stops including the sites of Crucifixion and the Tomb. They was hardly a line especially at the Crucifixion. When we went by St. Ann's Church it was closed over the noon hours, so we went back.  Got on a bus and came home.  The pictures are of the inside of the Church of All Nations or the Rock of the Agony Church. The church is deliberately dark to imitate the night time when Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Instead of using glass, they used Alabaster.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Today we spent time in the Old City. First we went to the Armenian Quarter to get a view of the whole Old City.  We went to the rooftops and walked around seeing all of the Old City from a different view than from the ground.  Then off to the Jewish Quarter which is all pretty new.  The Jordanians bombed it in 1967 when they retreated in the War.  After going to the Western Wall, we went to the Davidson Archaeology Center where we enjoyed  movies describing the recent excavations and discoveries.  Then we walked  out into the area to see first hand the items described in the movies.  It was very interesting especially the steps that they found that lead to the Second Temple.  Of course we climbed them and looked at other ruins from the 1st century throught the 7th.  Then we went to the Mt. Zion Area where the Upper Room, King David's Tomb and the Dormition Church are located.  In the evening, we went to Mass at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The picture above is of Mary "sleeping" before she was assumed into Heaven.  In the background is the Chapel of the Pentecost.  The Last Supper and all of these events took place in this area.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Today we went to the Nazareth Area. This is where Jesus grew in Adulthood and Middle Age.  We went to Mt. Tabor where Jesus showed himself to be God.  He was transfigured before the eyes of three of the Apostles. It is on top of a Mountain all by itself, up from the Jezreel Valley.  Even with four busloads of people it did not seem crowded at all.  It was hazy today, so you couldn't see as far as uusal, but it was still beuatiful.  We took a shortcut to Nazareth, really a rock road from a small town to a divided highway leading into Nazareth.  Went to the Church of the Annunciation and the Synagogue where Jesus studied and taught.  Even went to the Precipice where the Leaders of the Synagogue wanted to throw Jesus over for blaspheming. But he walked through their midst.  And then drove back to Jerusalem.  Another wonderful day.  I have named my project as "Praying the Path of Jesus". So I took a number of pictures today of paths from the Nazareth Village.  I will probably use one of them as the cover of the Project.  Here are a few samples.
This blog is for August 27.  Today we went to the Sea of Galilee area. We had a little more trouble than usual with the Car Rental & GPS. But got everthing worked out and off we went. After a two and half hour drive, we, we went first to the baptismal place of Jesus. Went through the city of Tiberias and stopped at the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish. After that we went to the Primacy of Peter and went to the Sea of Galilee. Afterwards we had Mass and was joined by a young man from Poland. His nickname was "Magic". He was a very nice person. Then on to Capernaum to see Peter's home and the synagogue where Jesus taught for many years. Our last stop was the Mount of Beatitudes. It was the most beautiful place of the day. We got to our guesthouse just in time for a swim in the Sea of Galilee before supper. The pictures today are of the view of the Sea of Galilee from my room's balcony.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Today we went to Bethlehem and went first to the Basilica of the Birth of Christ.  The last times I had gone there, the Armenians were having a very long service in the grotto.  This time a Franciscan was there, saying that the Grotto would be closed for an hour.  He said that a Mass was going to start.  I asked if we could attend and he allowed us to join a very small Spainsh speaking group.  It was really great to spend about 45 minutes in the place where Christ was born.  I'll always remember that time.  It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  When we were finished the Armenians were ready to start, so we were really lucky.  We went to the other sights that I have mentioned before in Bethlehem.  If all of you could meet my Taxi Driver, Walid, your minds would all change about Palestinians.  He is the most gracious, kind person you could ever want to meet.  He is Catholic, belongs to the Nativity Church, father of 4 children. His wife is Armenian and speaks very highly of her.  I have met some of his family.  These are not the Palestinians portrayed by the Government or the Media.  I will see him for the last time on Tuesday, I'll get his picture for all of you.

In the Afternoon, we went to  Ein Karem.  This is the town where Mary visited Elizabeth while both of them were pregnant.  Also we went to the birthplace of St. John the Baptist.  It was a wonderful day.  Tomoorrow morning we leave for the Sea of Galilee Area.  They only have internet service in the lobby where we are staying, so I'm not taking my laptop.  I won't have a blog tomorrow but will resume when I return.
The pictures are of the market where the locals shop in Bethlehem.  I concentrated on the Meat Section because it is so unusual from our stores.  The meat hangs outside and people come and have certain cuts selected and cut while the animal hangs.  We think the pictures are of goats.  And the third picture is of some of the vegetables in the market.  I only took one picture but there are over 30 fruit stands with wonderful fruits for sale. Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This morning I went to the Holy Sepulcher Church for Mass. The Franciscans have it before the pilgrims come into the church or while it is still on the calm side. They live within the Church. Since there is only one door in the whole church, they are literally locked in every day. One said that a Friar had an appendicitis attack one night and the heads from the three controlling religions of the church had to vote to see if the Church could be reopened so he could go to the hospital. None of the religions have the key, it is owned by a Muslim family who gets paid to open and lock the church every day. The lock is on the outside of the church. Like everything in Israel, it is all very complicated. No one wants to lose the little they have. After that I came back to the apartment to make arrangements to go to the airport to welcome my new guests, Steve and Judy for the next week. They arrived safely at the ariport and after a long taxi ride through Jerusalem we made it back to the apartment. We headed out for the late afternoon and evening. We went to the Holy Sepulcher for evening prayer and then waited around for the crowds to leave so we could go to the crucifixion site. Above are pictures of the landscape between Jerusalem and the airport.  You have heard in Scripture, "Going Up To Jerusalem". They weren't kidding.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Since my time is running short in the Holy Land, I decided to go to different places in the City that I have not as of yet explored.  I went to some new developments.  If you would just wake up in this area, you would think of Miami Beach or San Diego.   The buildings are so similar.  Perhaps the architects all have gone to the same school.  I have pictures of two areas. 

Then I got back on the bus and went to the Ultra, Ultra Orthodox neighborhoods and everything sort of changes into black and white and baby buggies.  Even the stores are showing the latest in black and white.  The men wear white shirts with a black suit/robe and hat even on the hottest days.  The women wear a combination of  black and white or all black.  The women even wear something like snoods.  A fabric hood that bunches in the back.  Many of the women have to wear close cropped hair because of their Ultra Orthodox husbands and they wear wigs when outdoors.  All the wigs are the same style, so they are easy to pick out. They have to be hot, hot, hot.  The men wear a four cornered undershirt on the inside of their shirt which has a string on each corner, sometimes on the outside.  These four strings flap in the wind when they get in a hurry.  They also wear black big rimmed hats and even fur hats in the summer.  What's up with that.  Someone look up the reference in the first five books of the bible.  It must be terribly important.  Somthing we must have missed.  See the pictures of the Present and the pictures of the people wearing the clothes of the Past.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today I went to the newer part of the City and just walked around looking at the differences between the old and the new. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two. The buildings are all made out of stone. The architecture is basically the same; a lot of arches and walls. But there is a suspension bridge by the Central Bus Station that sticks out like a sore thumb. It is bright white and is built on hill so it is visible from over half of the City. The pictures are of the Soccer Stadium and also a new Arena that they have just started excavating the foundation. They decided to build the arena next to the Stadium so they could share the parking areas. The pictures are of the Stadium and a rendering of the Arena.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today, we toured through the Armenian Section. There is a wonderful observation area right at the corners of the 4 areas of the city, We walked through the Jewish Section. Most of it was destroyed in the 1968 War and is now mostly rebuilt. The most famous synagogue in Jerusalem at that time was totally destroyed and now is rebuilt. It just opened a few months ago. The Western Wall was next and we also saw the Plaza of the Dome of the Rock. One of the most interesting parts of the day was exploring the ruins of the Southern Wall of the Temple. These Excavations started in the 1970's and are really very interesting. Since they were hidden for centuries, nothing was removed or disturbed. We saw the steps to the Temple from the Second Temple and the Arched walkway and the market stalls below. It was fun walking around amid the ruins. Then onto the City of David. There we walked the ramparts walk for a short piece. We went to Schindler’s Grave. The tomb is overflowing with rocks, the symbol that someone was there to pay their respects. Then up the hill to the Dormition Church, King David’s Tomb & the Upper Room. So it was a full day. We had a bit to eat and some last minute shopping and Alex is ready to catch a ride to the airport. It was great to have him here for a few days. The pictures are of  the ruins of the Second Temple area.  The First is of the Cardo Area. And the second picture is of the main entrance to the Temple.  The steps closest are the ones that lead into the temple and the ones far were the exit from the temple.  There was greenery in between.  They already knew about traffic flow abck then.  It was great to walk the steps of so many from the past, especially Jesus.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Today we went to Bethlehem.  Our taxi driver, Walid - the one I always use, took us to all the religious sites in Bethlehem.  But this time I asked him to show us a few places within a  politcal aspect.  He took us to the Wall and showed some us of the graffiti.  There are some very clever pieces. We saw the wall from a different angle.   We went to two refugee camps in the city.  One has been in existence since 1948.  There are no longer tents but they have been replaced by very small homes all randomly placed in the area.  The roads are very narrow and bumpy.  A few terrorists have come out of these camps.  The UN has separate schools there for the boys and the girls.  We saw some buildings that were destroyed by the intifada of 2003/04.  There are other signs saying America Aid has helped build an elementary school and a local government building. We had a wonderful lunch of about 14 different salads and then kebobs and lamb chops. We said goodbye to Walid.  Of course, we had to go back through the checkpoint.  You walk up long paths that look cattle ramps. And then go through a very large and strong turnstile to go through Palestinian Control.  Then you cross no man's land to the Israeli checkpoint.  Americans can basically just walk through but the Palestinians have to go through metal security gates, all bags have to be scanned.  Then you go to the passport screening where we show our passports and walk through.  But the Palestinians have to show their work permit, have their hands / fingerprints scanned.  I think they even do a retina screen.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes to get through the whole checkpoint.  Sometimes 45 minutes.  It is very degrading to the Palestinians.  We heard that there are Talks scheduled in Sept.  The Palestinians are hopeful that they will bring some relief but not planning on it,  The first picture is of the New Wall between Israel & Bethlehem.  The second is of a bombed building from the Intifada.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Today we went on a massive sight seeing spree.  We had our difficulties though.  It is Friday of Ramadan, The afternoon starts the Sabbath preparations. and over all traffic.  We had a late start and with it more difficulty than usual to get to Damascus Gate, the Churches were closing for at noon for their break. So we decided to go to Bethany, the home of Lazarus' Tomb.  Of course, this is a Palestinian Area//We were there for the Friday Public Sermon and also went through the bus at the checkpoint with machine guns and looked at our passports.  When we got back to Jerusalem our bus was diverted to where we wanted to go, so we got off a few blocks from The Ascension Site at the Russian Convent.  Had a Shawma plate lunch on a rooftop over looking the Dome of the Rock.  Then we set off visiting the Mosque of the Ascension, the Pater Noster Church, seeing the overlook of the Old City.  Look above at the heading of the Blog.  Then down the hill or the Palm Sunday Walk to Dominus Flevit, St. Mary Magdalene, Mt. of Olives Garden, Church of the Agony, the Gethsemane (place of the Olive Press) and Mary's tomb.  Then we got on a bus to go the Mt. Zion Area.   You know you have been here too long when Israeli's ask you for questions on the bus about different routes. Went to Oscar Schindler's Grave but the cemetery was locked because of preparations for Sabbath.  So we ended our day with the Church where St. Peter denied Jesus three times.  Our other few stops would have to wait until a later day.  We hailed a cab.  The driver happened to be formerly from the
New York area, specifically Patchogue, Long Island.  We were very tired and hot so we called it a day.  The first picture is of the outside of St. Mary Magdalene Church.  The second is of the outside of Mary Tomb.  And the last is of the outside of St. Peter's Church with Christ forgiving him.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today I started off for somewhere and ended up at a totally different place. This is a nice thing when you are not on a schedule or have to be at a certain place at a certain time. I ended up at the Bible Lands Museum. It was nice place. You have to remember that most of the Museum Quality items are all at other Museums throughout the World especially in the British Museums. Other countries had control of Israel almost forever. But they still have quit a few little pieces of antiquity and a few bigger pieces of Egyptian artifacts. They also have a whole section devoted to the One God, It is the God of Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. The best part was a video that showed some of the best items of the museum in the context of a time-line from The Creation Story to the Destruction of the First Temple. It was nice to have seen the pictures and then see how they relate to history

My nephew returned about 4:00 from Jordan and Petra. He looks pretty tired. So we will go out and get something to eat and it looks like it will be an early evening. The pictures were taken in the museum. The first is of a model of the residence of the Moon God when he came to earth. This was the god that Abraham worshiped before God spoke to him.  The other picture is of an exhibit in the museum.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today I went to the Wohl Archaeological Museum. It gives you an idea of what may remain hidden under the Old City. It is located underground and preserves the remains of six houses from the Herodian period that were excavated in 1967. In Temple times, this part of the city was home to wealthy priestly families. Homes were built on the hill overlooking the Temple Mount, with the roof of each home at the basement level of the house above it, so that every house enjoyed a spectacular view of the Temple.

After that I went back to the Western Wall. It is day and night different from our concept of praying. We like silence for private prayer or unison in public prayer. There is basically chaos at The Wall. People reading out loud. People praying silently. People bowing in small motions all around you. Visitors like me walking around. People moving chairs and tables over the stone pavement. People discussing (or yelling about) the Torah or the commentaries or whatever. The men and women are separated for prayer at The Wall. I don’t know about the women’s side but the Men’s side has a tunnel that is air conditioned. That’s where a lot hang out or even take a little nap. Another strange item is that there is a covered ramp right over the Jewish area leading non-Muslims to the Temple Mount or the Dome of the Rock. But the Jewish people will not go the top because they are not sure where the Holy of Holies of the last temple was located and so they are afraid they might step on it and become impure. I have two pictures of the ramp shown today. Also a picture of the Dome of the Rock.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

   Today my nephew left around 9:00 for a few days with some friends to travel on their own. It should be an adventure for them. So I took this time to wrap up my Scripture Project. All I have to do now is to assemble the Package when I get back and I will be finished. And in a few months, you will be able to “Praying the Path of Jesus”.  I already have volunteers to help with that. So I feel real good about ending it today. 

   I went over to the Holy Sepulcher (really it should be called the Resurrection Church - because Jesus is no one in the tomb) for evening Prayer at 5:00 with the Franciscans. They are really a nice group of Friars from all over the world. I have made a real good Franciscan friend from Ghana. After that I went into the empty tomb for I don’t know how many times since I have been here. It always is an inspiring moment to be where Christ suffered, died and especially rose.

   I got a little bit to eat and waited around for the end of Ramadan at 7:30 PM. A cannon goes off to end the day and everyone starts drinking liquids (they are not allowed to drink alcohol unlike some friends of mine) and start eating. The food stands really get ready around 7:15 with food, drink and Hookahs. There are lights everywhere to celebrate the end of the day. I wish I was here for the end of Ramadan. It really should be an all nighter. I hear it is really a celebration. Maybe if Bishop Gettelfinger reads this, he’ll give me permission to stay longer. Just kidding! My staff will kill me if I stay any longer, especially Debbie. I’m going to post more pictures than usual today to show some of the old streets decorated and food being prepared for the end of the day. I don’t have any photos of their bakery goods, that will be a another segment.

   The first picture is of a man and probably his son starting the kabobs for the evening. The second is of another wood fire being started for the evening. The third is of the lights decorating all the market places. The fourth picture is another booth getting ready.  Personally, I think Resurrection's Steak Fryers should come over here and set up a booth. We could show them how it's really done! And the last one is of the market place and some of the young men glad that the day is over. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Today we went to Tel Aviv. The bus trip started off very strange. I had been to Tel Aviv before but this time we went to a different Bus Station . We went to the real Bus Station. Iit is huge, even bigger then Jerusalem’s. You had to exit on the 4th floor which was strange. First of all we went to the Old City of Joffa or in the bible it is Joppa. This is the site where Jonah tries to escape God's command to go the Nineveh and also where Peter saw the everything that God created is good to eat, even pork and shell fish or jewish unclean items. We walked around in the Old Market for awhile. After a few stops, we went to Downtown Tel Aviv. You have to remember that the city is built right on the Mediterranean Sea. So it really is a resort town. It was also very hot and humid because of the Sea. There is a beautiful beach there named Alma Beach. We had an wonderful Aunt name Alma who died the other year. So we went there and toasted her and our other departed aunts and uncles. After that we went tot he Arisraeli Building. We had a spectacular view of the city from the 49th floor and even further out. Then we headed back to the bus station that I was familiar with because it was much closer. On the way our bus started having mechaical problems and eventually broke down. This must happen often because in a matter of a minute or two, two busses were there to take us to Jerusalem. We saw at least a dozen trucks or vehicles having trouble along the way. But we made it home safe and sound. The pictures are of Old Jaffa with New Tel Aviv in the Background and the second picture is in the market at Joppa.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Even though today is Sunday, it doesn’t feel like it’s Sunday. Today is the first day of the work week for Israel, but the Christian shops, restaurants, etc. are closed today. It gets a little bit crazy. Last night Alex & I went exploring the Ben Yehuda District. Just walked around as the area began to come alive after Sabbath. Today we are going to the US Consulate. Today in the Jerusalem Post, there is an article about the Israeli’s wanting to take over an abandoned Muslim Cemetery to build a “Museum of Tolerance”. Quite ironic isn’t it? They say that they have discovered 30 fake graves. This controversy has been going on since 2004. Then visit the Protest over the kidnapped soldier by the Hamas & talk to his parents, go by Benjamin Netanyahu’s home and see if he’s taking visitors. Yeah right. Then we are on our way to The Knesset, the Senate building for Israel. Today is the last day for many weeks that they are giving tours. After that we are going to their Supreme Court building. Then we went to the Old City for the way of the Cross. So it looks like a busy day in store for us but an enjoyable one.  The pictures are of the Supreme Court Building and The Knesset.