First Impressions of Israel

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
Beit Yehuda Derech Haim A. Kulits, Jerusalem, Israel

Flag of Israel  ,
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My flight to Tel Aviv is for 7:55 p.m. - we leave at 4:00 p.m. for the airport.  The security check at Cairo airport when one is going to Israel (Tel Aviv) is quite the experience.  The have at least 10 people, five talking to you or checking your bags, open everything, and three or four looking around.  There is a scary moment when they claim someone in a green shirt has been pushing my luggage cart and they want to know who they are.  It is too long to go into here but my goodness do they get excited.  It is all a mix-up as only the guide and an employee of the airport have touched my bags, but I get the third degree and the one fellow will not believe me.  Finally I am cleared to go, but there are two other check points where your passport is looked at, your carry-on luggage is run through the x-ray machine, your shoes are taken off and x-rayed.  They certainly put safety first and I am actually grateful even though I am tired and just want to get to Tel Aviv.  When I arrive 2 hours later, the guide is not there - I get the staff who are helping me with my luggage to phone - he arrives 5 minutes later much to my relief. I will stay at the Beit Yehuda Guesthouse which worth a look if you click on the link, a cross between a hotel and a hostel.   It really is like a hostel and it is full of young people.  i do have a large sparsely furnished room and walk-in shower, but the cleaning staff only come once in a while.  i am constantly out of clean towels and toilet paper.  It is $100 a night US so you can imagine what the nice hotels are worth.  The breakfast is what they take as typical of Israel I guess - several different cheeses, breads, chocolate cake, cereal and milk, tomato, cucumber and pepper salad.  Eggs only on certain days.  I am not eating much and cannot buy lunch or dinner and am way out on the edge of Jerusalem with no restaurants.  So I have ended up having large lunches when touring and taking some small thing back the room. Free internet does make up for a lot as it was costing me $28.00 every day that I used it in the nice hotels and on the boat.  

When you are in the Old City, you are surrounded by a wall, and there are four quarters, Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim.  There is so much history that when you go to the top of the Mount of Olives, the places where Jesus was condemned, crucified and buried sit right next to the Mosque that the Muslims hold most holy.  There are cities under cities as this area has been under attack time and again by many groups, the Babalonians, Ottomans, Romans and others over and over again.  It is very hard to figure out the history on one visit.  Honestly I had not expect the Old City to be so small and the rules to be so firm.  Muslims cannot go in certain entrances to the old city.  Tourists are limited to some areas, Christians cannot go down a certain street.  There are areas where the Roman city has been exposed under the present street and created as an Archological park or just a site at the side of the street with the pillars and streets below set out and maintained for viewing.  There are police and guards everywhere. Even when you enter a shopping center your bags you take in are searched and the guards carry guns.   

Now as to the City itself - it is lovely, clean, even the markets unlike Egypt, every building has to be of limestone or at least faced with limestone by law and it is extremely hilly with narrow, narrow roads inside the Old City and even outside.  It also has wide freeways and main streets but it is the Old City that is interesting.  I could not attempt to explain here how awesome it is to be in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have been laid out after he died on the cross.  One never knows for sure but there is a stone there that people kiss and burn candles and it is a shrine.  The church has many different levels and spots that are said to represent different aspect of Mary and Jesus life.  Go to this site to read about it.  i saw the church with the guide the first day I was here.  I also stood on Temple Mount, and went to the 
Church of All Nations,

I could write pages about the things that have happened but I want to get the pictures up before I loose the internet in the morning.  I am on my way to Turkey in the morning.  

To see more about Dome of the Rock click here.

Old City of Jerusalem Virtual Tours - Jaffa Gate 
Located at the end of Jaffa St., is the main access to the Old City from West Jerusalem (the New City). From here you can reach the Citadel and the Tower of David Museum, situated just inside the gate on the right, as well as the market alleys starting from David St. This gate was given its name because here was the start of the old main road to Jaffa port at the Mediterranean.  To see HD virtual movie of entrance and wall click here.

Old City Damascus gate - Flash Virtual Tour
The Damascus Gate was built in 1542 by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent in the surrounds of the old city of Jerusalem. This wall is the largest and most splendid of all the other walls.
It is located on the wall’s northern side. Parts of this charming higher, imposing wall are built with massive stones that date back to the time of Herod. The wall is pierced by 8 gates-seven are open and one is closed. Until 1887, each gate was closed before sunset and opened at sunrise. There are three gates in the north wall:
Damascus Gate, New Gate, Herod’s Gate. Damascus Gate is the most beautiful one where the Arab bazaar and marketplace begins. In Arabic the Damascus Gate is called Bab-al-Amud :Gate of Columns” because of the column that once stood in the square inside the gate or because of the street of columns, which crossed the Byzantine city from the gate.  To see HD virtual movie of entrance and wall click here.  At the Damascus Gate is possible to see men and women in traditional Arab costume selling bunches of vegetables and fruits, young men straining to pull and push heavy carts up and down the sloping staircases that are so characteristic of the Old City, and Arab women out buying their family groceries.
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