Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Up at 6 AM, our ship stayed in the Port of Haifa overnight. Jim went up for breakfast, and I had room service so I could get ready for our long 10 hour tour. The bus left at 7:30 and our “front seat lady” was in place when we boarded. As I passed by her, she scolded me for having on a sleeveless dress when our bulletin said our arms had to be covered to enter the temple. I should have asked her why she wore high heeled shoes walking up to the Acropolis, when the bulletin said to wear sensible shoes. Anyway, she broiled through the day in her long sleeves while most of us enjoyed our cool frocks and used shawls when necessary.

The bus driver on our bus #1 and the driver of bus #2 were in competition all day, trying to keep in front. At one point when both buses had to stop for a red light, our driver made a quick right turn into a half circle turn out and got back on the highway leading us to. Our tour guide was stunned, and then we all had a good laugh when we realized why he did it. Later as we were about to make our pitstop, bus 2 passed us so they would get to the parking lot first. While they were getting parked, our driver pulled up right to the door of the building so we would be ahead of them after all. Shortly after our brief stop at 9:30, we arrived at the walled city of Jerusalem and entered through the Jaffa gate. We walked the 12 steps of Christ which mark the upward path upon which he bore the cross to his crucifixion. We toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which houses the site of the crucifixion and burial. It was a surprise to us that the two sites were so close to each other.

The walk through the narrow streets of the Jerusalem Bazaar was quite a “crowded” experience. Before exiting the walled city, we stopped at the “Wailing Wall,” which was actually a retaining wall built by Herod and 20 BC. Ever since the destruction of the second temple, Jews have prayed here. Its cracks are filled with hastily written prayers. There are separate areas for men and women. Because it was the Sabbath we were not allowed to take pictures, However Joy did sneak one. I contemplated it and Norm told me later I would never make a thief --- my intentions were too obvious! Only the four bottom stone layers of the wall were there in Jesus’s time. And they were at the top of the wall then. The valley of that time has since been filled in by the debris of the destroyed temple. So it would have been impossible for Jews to have touched the stones that remain today.

We returned to our bus through the Dung gate, fortunately in name only, otherwise our bus would have been very fragrant. We stopped at the King David Hotel for lunch and sat at a table with Bill, Audrey, Jeff, and Joy Dahlgren, and Bev and Norm Batterson, who were traveling together with the Walkers. The Dahlgren’s live in Palos Verdes and the Batterson‘s in Pasadena.

During our dessert, Joy asked Norm didn’t he like whipped cream. He had eaten all the way around his pudding, and a nickel sized dollop of cream sat on its pedestal. When I glanced over and saw it, it struck me so funny that I laughed out loud and spewed my pudding across the table.

Our driver after lunch took us to the Mt. of Olives where we got out to view the Garden of Gethsemane below. This is where Jesus socialized in the synagogue, then went out into the garden to meditate. Beyond that, barely visible, was the Dead Sea 1200 feet below sea level. The freshwater of the river Jordan runs into the Dead Sea, which is 30% minerals because of the evaporation of the water. Because of this you won’t sink. You can just fold your knees, sit and read, and float along. We stopped and photographed tombs over 2000 years old in the Kidron Valley. These graves in the Mt. Herzl cemetery are built on the side of the temple they believe will be resurrected first when Christ returns on a donkey.

We drove past Mt. Zion and Room of the Last Supper, and an area where excavating has been in progress for 15 years and seven layers of civilization have been discovered. We made another stop to get a closer view of the Garden of Gethsemane, and the original seven olive trees where Christ went at night to be alone.

Next we drove to Bethlehem where we passed Rachel’s Tomb and toured inside the Church of the Nativity, the site of Jesus‘s birth. He was actually born in a cave where the original entrance remains, but above ground level now. Norm saw me out searching for a rock for my collection, and when he got on the bus he handed me a small pebble with an inscription that said “birth rock.” I regret I forgot to get a rock at the pyramids.

We made a short stop for our souvenirs and a chance to get rid of our shekels. I got an olive wood carving of Jesus for our shelf, a carving of Mary for my mother, and olive wood beads for Joy who had been so gracious to loan me her gowns.

At 3:30 we started our drive back to the ship and came upon a demonstration on the freeway by Israel Airline employees. We thought there had been an accident when we saw all the cars facing the wrong way to block traffic going into Jerusalem. They were protesting the proposed closing of the airport on the Sabbath by saying, if you can’t fly, you shouldn’t be able to drive either. We were sorry to read in the paper after our return home that efforts to close the airport had succeeded.

It was at about this point that I realized I was coming down with a bug (most probably the black one from Egypt) and my throat was getting sore.

Before returning to the Port of Haifa we had a nice drive through the city, and 1500 feet up to Mt. Carmel which overlooks Haifa. This is a middle class section where people gather together on weekends to socialize and enjoy the views. We were told that there is a 200% tax on cars in Israel, so they are hard to come by. We passed a hamburger stand (with golden arches) called McDavid’s. McDonald’s tried to sue over it, but failed.

Arriving back on the ship at 6:30 PM, we only had half an hour to clean up and “dress up” for dinner. We stopped by the pursers office to “pick up my jewels,” and the photographers office to pick up pictures. It was the Dahlgren’s anniversary and I went over to get a picture of their table. Bill asked me to take one with his camera but I never could get the button to push in. He finally did something so it would work. I held up their waiter going through different contortions trying to get all eight people in the picture.

After dinner Ed joined us in the Ulysses Lounge for a while and I left soon after to go to bed with my sore throat.