Seeing where it all began and where it ended

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
1
7
18
Trip End Dec 04, 2013


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Jerusalem and Bethlehem November 18 
Weather report: outstanding, sunny and 70 degrees. Cloudy later in the day.  Perfect for walking around the old city of Jerusalem.
 
Biggest negative to our visit here in Israel is the fact our ship is in Haifa which is north of most of what we are trying to see.  So it takes about 3 hours to reach Jerusalem . The good news is the outstanding tour guides fill that down time with information and stories about Israel and its people. We had a different guide today but he was equally outstanding. 
  
Comments on our visit to Jerusalem:
A chaotic city-cars, people, tourists, peddlers!  And it is a slow time of the year. As we experienced in other big religious locations, the spiritual aspects of the visit lacks.  Too many people trying to cram their way into small places, talking when there should be silence, and cameras clicking everywhere.  Worse yet is that the sites are surrounded with souvenir shops and restaurants.  The mental image we all have about places like the stable in Bethlehem, the tomb of Christ, the Garden of Gethsemane get totally destroyed when you visit the location. 
  
A common theme you hear is that the actual locations and dates of events from biblical times are simply "guesstimates" and based on what people think are likely locations and dates. As our tour guide says:  " we have a gap in knowledge and time", which prevents us from being truly accurate about events we read in the bible.
 
It simply amazes me that three major religions( Jewish, Catholic, Muslim ) all claim the same space in this city. How that happened and how they seem to make it work is beyond me.  There is a new IMAX feature film called  "Jerusalem " which nicely describes life in Jerusalem and is worth seeing. 
 
Of the things I saw in Jerusalem I think I liked the visit to the Western Wall the best. It was further enhanced because today was a special day with many Bar Mitzvahs being held so we got to see and hear the celebrations as they occurred.
 
Bethlehem, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment.  I did not know Bethlehem is in what is the Palestine territory, which is located in the middle of Israel and surrounded by a wall and manned by security checkpoints at limited entry points. The Palestine /Israel issue is a whole another complex story worth a chapter of it own. We even had to have a Palestinian tour guide lead us while in the city.  Back to comments on Bethlehem.  A small church, consisting of 3 separate interior designs (reflecting guess what) built over what supposedly is thought to be where the stable (?) was.  Could not get anywhere near seeing the small grotto chapel because of the crowds.  We did all sing "silent night" with our tour guide in the church courtyard since it is near the Christmas season.
 
Headed back to the ship now. There is supposed to be a local 30 person folk group on board tonight to entertain us with singing and dancing.  Should be fun.  Rest of entertainment has been so-so.  Food, however, continues to impress us with its quality and creativity. 

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Comments

Annette Landvatter on

Day 3 of your Blog is so interesting. I hope to hear more about the City and the sites when you get home. I have always wondered what the Gardens of Gethsemane look like. What types of flowers are there. Who planted the flowers and what is the significance in relationship of the Bible. I have to say I am very ignorant when it comes to the Bible teachings. I love the Blog, I feel as though I am on this trip with you.
Annette

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