Yesterday's trip to Jerusalem was wonderful. Lea and Yonni chartered a bus for 40 of their closest friends (no joke) and off we went. Our first stop was at a Memorial for the foreign nationals who came and fought in the war of independence. Yonni's father and uncle were among them. His father helped found the Airforce and his brother help establish the Navy. His father died just a few months ago, but had a chance to meet Joe when the kids were here in Dec. They had a long talk and the general feeling is that the grandpa approved of our Joe. The uncle, Aaron, went back to the States to work after the war but has retired here and was at the wedding along with Hilla's grandmother Rose.
One of Lea's "Princeton" friends brought her 86 year old mother along and she walked all over Jerusalem with us yesterday. Truely an inspiration. As we came into the city we saw the newer parts, of course. Most still made of stone, this started when the British occupied Palestine and decreed that buildings would be stone, and continues today. Everywhere there were flowering plants. On balconies, rooftops, terraced gardens. Yesterday was a holiday in addition to being Shabat, a celebration of 7 weeks after Passover. A lot of things were closed in the new city, including the municipal parking garages so people were parked everywhere including in a line down the middle of the opposing lanes of traffic.
We got off the bus and were met by a very knowledgable guide who lead us all around the old city. He gave us so much informationon, history as well as the current affairs. Old Jerusalem is divided into quarters. Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armernian. Of course, all feel they have a claim as the original people and it takes lots of negotiation for even day to day stuff. We climbed to the roof of a couple different buildings where our guide pointed out all the different land marks. The cemetary on Mt Olive is huge as it's considered a final mitzvah to be buried there. Many people who have never been in Israel before come for their final resting place. We had coffee and strudel in a Catholic Hostel, and hummus and falafel in the old market. We saw several of the stations of the cross and saw parades of pilgrims following the route, singing and praying.
We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre (?) which is really several churches of different denominations sharing the ground where it is said that Jesus was crucified and buried. There was some sort of service going on and the monks or priests were singing so beautifully. The mosaics were amazing and so may icons and lamps, etc.
The market stalls had all sorts of things from household goods to religious items and of course tourist trinkets. We had fresh squeezed orange juice and boy was it good. Our last stop was the Western Wall. Holy Moses, I never saw so many people in my life. Because it was Shabat and an important holiday there were throngs of men, women and children gathered to pray. Trying to make one's way to the wall meant pushing through a wall of people standing and sitting and since men and women have different sides we had to dodge the strollers as well. I got to within about 4 or 5 feet and decided I did not want to further risk being crushed. But is was an experience not to be forgotten. It is so interesting to see people from all along the spectrum of Judaism. The reformed people look like us heathens, the super orthodox men wear their sideburns long and curled with the long black coats and we saw some with big round fur hats. The orthodox women cover their hair and seem to have lots of kids.
The gang went off to Masada today but I stayed behind. I was not ready to get up at 4 AM and travel 2 1/2 hours by bus as I'm moving on to Eilat tomorrow and was exhausted after Jerusalem. So far it's been a lazy day, I'm going to stroll a while but many things are closed as it is the Sabbath.
Hope all is well at home. XOXOX Jax
PS Sally has my camera today, her battery died so, I will post pictures later.