Saturday, August 14, 2010

What a difference a day makes here in Jerusalem. The streets are quiet. A few people out walking early this morning. No buses running except a few tour buses. People going and coming from the Synagogues. I’m sure that the Western Wall is busy. Didn’t check it out this morning. After all the hustle of yesterday, today is a relief. If only it would stay this way. But come Sunday, everything will be back to normal. It is still hard to get used to Sunday beginning the work week.

I also went back to Ben Gurion Airport to meet my nephew, Alex. He will be with me for a little over a week. Some families coming into the Greeting Area have banners, balloons, cheering and singing. Others run out to meet the incoming guest. Some look like they brought every possible thing that they have ever owned. It’s all great fun to watch. It is also interesting to take a Sherut (a shared taxi, more like a mini van) from the Airport to Jerusalem. They are all lined up outside the airport and when they have 9 or 10 passengers you leave. Sometimes you even have to switch taxis before you head out. You never seem to know what part of town you will explore as someone is dropped off either at their hotel, bus station or even just a bus stop. And each driver is different, some real friendly, others want to get to Jerusalem and back to the Airport for another a pickup as fast as possible. It all makes life very interesting.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ramadan started Wednesday. It goes on for 30 days. The Muslims can't eat or drink when the Sun is up. They can eat and drink before it gets light. They can eat & drink after 7:30 PM. But not in between. This will be especially difficult on them during August, when it so hot here. You get thirsty just standing around, let alone working, etc. They use a lunar calendar and Ramadan keeps moving forward. When Ramadan occurs during the winter months, it's easier to keep. But that won't happen for awhile.

I  went to the Old City today, wanting to catch a bus from the Arab Bus Station.  I forgot that this is the Friday Prayer Service of Ramandan.  Friday is the Muslim Day where they have their main prayers at Noon.  While we have our Main Day of prayer on Sunday. Israel deployed a whole lot more police officers for today. Even mounted Police.  But the crowds were intense.  It was just a mass of people moving toward the Dome of the Rock and their Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The Israelis are even letting in people from Palestine and Bethlehem through the Wall.  But only to men older than 50 and women older than 45.  The younger men and women still need their work permits to get through the wall.  In Bethlehem, they have even put up security walk ways before the Checkpoint where there were usually taxis. One set for the men and another for the women.  So it is not a good idea to go the Old City or Bethlehem on Fridays. Of course the Jews are getting ready for Sabbath, so they are all out buying groceries, etc. for the next two days.  The traffic was even worse than on other days because the Arab buses were all waiting to pick up people from prayer and had roads blocked off.  I took some pictures of the crowds going towards the Mosque and some of the Police.  But tonight it will all be nice and quiet.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today I went to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem.  It sounds a little strange, but it is right by the Old City.  There is a huge, beautiful Orthodox Church right in the middle of the Compound.  It is dedicated to the Trinity.  But most of the Icons depict the Resurrection and Ascension.  It was built in the 1870's but has been very well kept.  Of course it is a destination for all the Russian Pilgrims that are here.  And there are many of them.  But there are people from all over the world here.  You never know where the person next to you is from.  I took the bus to the Western Wall and watched the Bar Mitzvahs taking place.  Quite a few number of families where there. Then I went to Mahane Yehuda, the local bazaar in Jerusalem where on Thursday & Fridays, it's alive with all kind of activity. Men selling all kinds of food products to a huge crowd of people.  There are many fish stalls selling fresh fish.  I'm not sure where the fish come from, but they are all sizes.  They have a lot of salmon. They have all kinds of vegetables, nuts, spices, fruits, clothes, household items. It's enjoyable watching the shoppers with their little, personal shopping cards being pulled behind them. But these little carts sure do get in the way on the bus and on the sidewalks.  But that's all being part of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This evening the Jensens are leaving. But before they left, we went to the town of Bethany which is the site of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Right around the site is a Catholic Church, a Mosque and a Greek Orthodox Church.  One of the problems getting there is that it is now separated from Jerusalem by the Wall. There are 2 Catholic sites in Bethany, one site is Lazarus' tomb and the other one is Martha's House.  But they are now separated by the wall. You have to go around the outskirts of Jerusalem and come back through the Palestinian Area to get to Lazarus' Tomb.  There is also a big checkpoint when you come back. The young Arab women and men have to get off the bus and have their papers checked.  The older ones and tourists from other countries can stay on the bus but you have to show and have your passports checked as the armed soldiers come through the bus.  They detained one person who had a mild handicap because he didn't get off the bus when he should have. We didn't have time to go to the Bethany on the Jerusalem side today.  Then we went to the top of Mount of Olives and walked to Bethpage where Jesus began his Palm Sunday Ride into Jerusalem and walked his path to the Kidron Valley.  We went to the Tomb of Mary and Gethsemane today because they were closed for repairs the day when we were there before. So thus ended a good day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today we went to Jericho.  It's one of the oldest cities continously occupied in the world.  It is over 10,000 years old.  We saw a branch of the Jordan River where Christ probably was baptized before going out into the desert. Then we went to the Place where Jesus was tempted by the Devil. There is an unique monastery hanging on the side of Temptation Mountain.  We got there by cable car.  Inside is a beautiful chapel that commemorates the Temptation.  Also had some Al-Sultan water from the local spring which feeds most of Jericho. You can even but it on the internet.  Then we went to Hiram's Palace.  It's an unique place where you can find the famous Tree of Life Mosaic.  It is protected from the elements and is in wonderful shape.  The US government has funded part of the restoration of the ruins.  During the day, we travelled on a few highways in Palestine that were also funded by our Government. One thing about the Arabs, they do not believe in signs of any kind.  On the US funded roads are nice big signs of what to expect.  On the other roads, there are no signs, not even the names of the towns you go through. After that we went with the taxi driver that I use in Palestinian Area, Walid, to a restaurant for a typical Palestine Lunch / Dinner.  There were about 12 different salads on small plates, then we had lamb kabobs and beef, afterwards we had baklava for desert.  Very, very good.  Said goodbye to Walid and headed home for the evening.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I tried to put the blog on the web the other night but it did not go through.  We went to the Galilee / Nazareth area,  saw all the sites in the area.  Even went to the Mount of the Precipice where the people of Nazareth wanted to take Jesus and throw him over because, he said these statements in Isaiah are now fulfilled in your midst. The area is really very beautiful and so different than Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is so hectic and always in a rush, whereas the Galilee area is more serene and peaceful. We wnt to Mt. Tabor (the site of the Transfiguration) where it seems to be the most peaceful of all.  I'll write more about our journey later today.