Up at 6am with the thought I had to leave early not knowing how I was going to get to Tel Aviv, some 50 miles away. An angel met me for breakfast. Actually, her name is Kathy Bergen. She was up early getting ready to meet a friend to say goodbye at the Jerusalem Hotel. Nancy was headed back to Canada. She had directed the Mennonite Church mission to Palestine for 30 plus years. Yesterday, she ended a short return trip to consult with her replacement. She speaks fluent Arabic and helped me figure out how I was going to get to Tel Aviv. She helped me with a few other things too!
Late morning I was in the back seat of a “share-taxi” (20 seat van) headed west to Tel Aviv. It was packed. It was cheap – $10. We were delivered to the city bus terminal. On Saturday all is shut down till sundown, which ends the Sabbath.
I splurged on a taxi that took me to the Dan Panorama Hotel. There I checked in early and began to wait for the group to arrive. It is an upscale hotel. Here is a picture from my 17th floor room looking out to the Mediterranean Sea.
The group arrives at 6pm and I had about 6 hours to roam. And roam I did. I walked along the Sea. I visited the old city of Jaffa. I sat in and listened to about 200 Palestinian Christians (Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic Church) sing the Stations of the Cross. I stopped in a “hip” part of town (a trendy fashion district) and had calamari, beer, Americano Coffee and flan.
I got back to the hotel just in time to see the Lutherans arrive in the hotel lobby. We had supper (a huge – tasty – very first world buffet) together and then all headed for bed. The first big day of the group tour begins tomorrow, my Day 5.
It is now the end of Day 3. I began Day 3 writing about the end of Day 1 and all of Day 2. My jet lag is now lagging and I am feeling better.
This morning I enjoyed conversations at the LWF guesthouse and made arrangements to travel tomorrow, In Israel all of Israeli life closes down but to worship from Sundown Friday night till Sundown Saturday night. It is the Sabbath. Nothing in the Jewish parts of the city is open and travel is difficult.
Tomorrow morning I will rise early and head for the Damascus Gate of the Old City with the hope of catching a “shared taxi” (an Arab taxi most likely) headed for the Tel Aviv airport. A shared taxi is usually a minibus with 15-20 going to the same destination, in this case, the airport in Tel Aviv. I hope I can encourage the drive to take me into the city itself. I will hang there until 6pm when I hope to meet the 20 or so folks from Los Vegas at the Hotel Dan Panorama.
My Day 4 installment may not be sent until Sunday.
This afternoon I hitched a ride with Pastor Martin Zimmann and his confirmation class (two girls, one his daughter and the other a daughter of a UN diplomate – Cloe (for short) and Esther. We drove to near the place that John the Baptist was baptizing and where the legends of Jesus have him being baptized by John. Unfortunately, as we arrived, it was just a little after 2pm and the Israeli security guards had closed the site. So, we returned toward Jerusalem and stopped at a cafe for milkshakes and confirmation class. The class included a written quiz the girls did between sipping their shakes.
At the cafe I also took photographs of a local camel that was for hire and a familiar sight, mountain bikes.
(A caveat, as I type this note, one of the interesting things of the area that I cannot photograph are the five daily prayers made to God by Muslims. The prayers are broadcast over loud speakers. Currently an evening prayer is being sung. Christians ring really loud bells, too.)
After the class was over and the milk shakes consumed, we headed back to Jerusalem and did a little detour. We stopped at the Wadi Kelt gorge. It is Israel’s version of the Grand Canyon. A photo of it is attached.
Finally back in Jerusalem, I said good-bye for the moment to Martin as he prepared to meet Pilgrims from France and had an Arab version of a burrito a Shawarma. Check out the photo. At that roof top restaurant I took a picture of my companion and the steeple of Redeemer Church. After the Shawarma I went back to the church and sat-in on Martin’s conversation with the Pilgrims from France. The interesting part of the conversation that has stayed with me is the comment that before the 1948 war, 30% of the population was Christian, today it is only 2% and that number might go down to 0% within my remaining life-time.
That is it for Day 3. Peace and hugs to you all.
The Arab bus 75 runs from Augusta Victoria Hospital (the grounds on which the LWF guesthouse is) to Herod’s Gate of the Old City. It costs maybe 5 NIS (new Israel shekels). I had yet to exchange any US$ so I walked to the Old City and Herod’s Gate. It took about 25 minutes. The challenge of the walk is that it goes down Mount of Olives/Mount Scopus and backup a small valley to the city.
I then searched for a place to change money. I walked around several side streets with small shops and finally found a bank. I waited in line at the bank to discover that I was unable to change money there. I walked more and found a Western Union/Bank/Money changing spot. I changed money. The sad news is that the US dollar is a little weak at the moment. The exchange is 3.4 NIS to 1 US. It had been 3.8 NIS to 1US just a few weeks ago. So the first picture attached is a view of one of those streets.
Once I had shekels I walked into the Old City through Herod’s gate. The Old City is divided into four quarters – Moslem, Christian, Armenian and Jewish. I walked and walked and walked. Lots of narrow streets. Many with shops. Churches, synagogues and Masque hidden between stone walls. I will revisit the Old City again when with the tour. This time, I did a little eating, shopping and sight seeing. The photos attached are of a couple of shopping streets and of the Western (waling) wall (sacred wall of old temple) and the Dome of the Rock (Moslem sacred space).
About 5pm I walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. I entered a modern shopping mall. It was in the Jewish part of Jerusalem. Three pictures of it are attached. Not unlike what you might find in Ohio. Then, I began my journey back to the LWF guesthouse. I walked back to the Moslem part of Jerusalem and bought a bag of nuts and a bottle of apple juice. I had that for supper. I road the 75 bus back to the hospital, got to my room and my feet had “had it.” I was on my bed by 9pm. I had an okay sleep. Day 3 is just around the corner.
Day 1a & 2a
First, the end of Day 1.
I joined 25 or so folks who gathered for Ash Wednesday service and soup supper at the home of Martin and Angela Zimmann. Martin and Angela are ELCA pastors working as Special Assistants to the Bishop of Jordan and staff the english speaking ministries at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Attached are two pictures from that evening – one of the gathered people and another of the view of the Old City from the pastor’s parsonage that is on Mount Scopus just north of the small Mount of Olives.
Began with breakfast and conversation around the LWF guest house table. People from Denmark, Germany, Australia, Sweden and the US, where at the table. From student social workers to Arab language teachers to doctors to tourists.
After paying for my lodging I walked to the highest point of the city, the top of the bell tower of the German Church St Augusta at the Augusta hospital. A picture from the bell tower looking toward the Old City and a picture of the inside of the church are attached. The photo looking toward the Old City also has the roof of the LWF guesthouse. It is in the lower right of the photo.
I will have lots more photos. Not all great. I doubt I will be able to load many to each of my email messages. So, when I am back I will need to show them all. And so I don’t mess-up too much. I will end this message and start another – Day 2 – B.
I arrived in Tel Aviv at 9:30am. The airport is beautiful. After we checked in with customs, I picked up my luggage and went outside. It was sunny and felt like 75 degrees. A bit hazy. Later, I was told Israel, like California, has been experiencing a drought. I was kinda in a haze myself. I slept a bit but not much. As I am trying to be modern (I downloaded an I-book travel book to my computer), I did not have much of a map to know just where I was and how I would get to my destination.
for $20 I took a shuttle to the Damascus wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was about a 35 minute drive. I suspect this is where I was dropped because the East Part of Jerusalem is Arab speaking. This is one part of town where the worlds between Jews and Palestinians slowly pulls apart. I got out and pulling luggage I started walking. I didn’t get far before I connected with a taxi. The driver was able to take me to the Augusta Victoria Hospital. It is on the Mt of Olives. On its compound is the Jerusalem center for the Lutheran World Federation. I am staying at LWF guest house. It is modest and very affordable. Below please see two photos, one of olive groves on the Mountain and the other of the guest house across from a small parking lot.
I took a quick shower and walked around. I needed to take the Arab bus 75 to the Old City, but was too much of a haze. I fortuitously bumped into two pastors from Ohio who are also pastors at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City. They invited me to an Ash Wednesday gathering at their home. It will be for english speaking Lutherans associated with Redeemer. You can guess what the meal will be, soup and bread.
I walked back toward my house, stopped in at a cafe on the hospital grounds and had a sandwich and then I went back and had a nap. I woke with a rather large cat wanting out of my room. I think he came through a window. Most of Day 1. The balance of day 1 and day 2 comes tomorrow. Peace.
The trip to Israel begins today. Day 1.
I am at the Newark airport. I have three hours to “lounge.” Not much yet to report other than humanity is represented by many different shapes, colors, sizes and looks. Be well.