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gloriajames Jerusalem - A travel report by Gloria
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Jerusalem,  Israel - flag Israel
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gloriajames's travel reports

Finding my religion in Israel

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There comes a point in one's life where faith is concerned, you have to go to where it all started, and that was I did in the summer of 2007. [This part of the report, takes you on my journey in Jerusalem + Bethlehem + Jericho + Dead Sea].

view of Jerusalem thru Dominus Flevit Church
view of Jerusalem thru Dominus Flevit Church
In the Old Testament of the Bible, Israel was the new name given to Jacob, which means “ruling with God”. And the birth of the nation of Israel only came in 1948, and brought with it the division of Palestine comprising of West Bank and Gaza. In 1967, the World witnessed the 6 days War followed by the Kopum War in 1973. Until today, not a day passes without the breaking news of unrest in Israel.

Despite all this, Israel is the cradle of 3 major faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam, making Jerusalem the hottest property in the world as it is home to all the 3 faiths and known as “the Holyland”. Do you know that every year, many pilgrims and tourists pay a visit to Israel? And I was one of them.

I travelled with a group of 22 people from Singapore and the first leg of our journey began in Egypt (Sinai) and we crossed into Israel by coach via the Taba Border into Eilat enroute to Jerusalem. I must add that security was very stringent and tight and I found that it was such a hassle. Further, we were particularly anxious that our passports should not be stamped and if that happened, we would have difficulty entering into Jordan which was the third leg of our journey. One particular incident that I found amusing was when one of my friends’ Lonely Planet guidebook – Israel and the Palestine Territories was confiscated by an Israelite immigration officer because the title was considered an offending material.

Enroute, we stopped at the site (@ Sodom) where Lot’s wife was turned to a salt pillar. Yes, being cheeky, I literally licked one of the small stones just to check if it was salty.

The next morning a Spiritual Director joined us for the duration of the Israel leg. He was Father Michael Tapajna, a tall smashing Canadian Priest, with blond and white streaks hair, and smoky grey eyes, looking very much like a movie star! You should see the reaction of all the young ladies (";). Awestruck!

Favourite spots:
Men's side of the Western or Wailing Wall.
Men's side of the Western or Wailing Wall.
1. Small picturesque biblical town of Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist.

2. The Church of Visitation, built in 1935, where the Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth ie John the Baptist’s mother. What was marvellous was the 45 mosaic tablets on the inner wall of the courtyard depicting the “magnificat” in 45 languages.

3. Next was St John the Baptist’s Church built in the late 1800s and where the grotto dates back to the 1st century, and to the spot where John was born.

4. Israel Museum, where we saw the model of the Temple Mount. Then to the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea scrolls are exhibited.

5. Via Dolorosa (way of the cross) - tracing the footsteps and agony of Jesus as he makes his way to be crucified.

6. Mount of Zion, Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. These were places where Jesus preached, suffered and was betrayed.

7. The Western / Wailing Wall - Judaism most scared site and remaining wall of the Temple of the Mount destroyed in 70AD.

What's really great:
Inside the Yad Vashem - Hall of Names
Inside the Yad Vashem - Hall of Names
Visiting the Yad Vashem –

the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Museum to the 6 million Jews massacred by the Nazis. The design of the museum is housed in a linear, triangular structure and holds 62 million pages of documents and 260,000 photographs. What was particularly enthralling was the Hall of Names – echoing at the entrance of the Hall, a quote from Isaiah 56:5 – “I shall give them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name.”

What captured my heart when at the museum, was a poem written by one Henryka Hazowert (1910-1942), to quote:

“The Little Smuggler

Over the walls, through the holes and past the guard

Through the wires, ruins and fences

Plucky, hungry and determined

I sneak through, dart like a cat

And if the hand of destiny

Should seize me in the game

That’s a common trick of life

You, mother, do not wait up for me

And, only one request

Will stiffen my lips

Who, mother of mine, who

Will bring you bread."

where Jesus was put to the test....@ the Mt Temptation
where Jesus was put to the test....@ the Mt Temptation
Jericho, a Palestine controlled area at the West Bank of the Jordan River. Did you know that Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world?? It is dated back to the Neolithic Age, ie 10,000 years ago. In the Old Testament, it is referred to as “the city of palm trees”.

Mount of Temptation is visited in this region as this was Jesus fasted for 40days and nights and was put to the test.

Another place to visit in Jericho is the Sycomore Tree, believed to be about 2000 years old, according to the New Testament, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus.

jerusalem hotel
jerusalem hotel
I stayed at a tourist hotel with basic needs.

Jerusalem Caesar Hotel

Located at 208 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem.

Both breakfast and dinner meals are provided. The cuisine is Khoser. When I asked for tea with my meal, I was told to get it upstairs (go to your room). I wondered what the waiter meant. I subsequently learnt that you cannot have your tea and coffee when you dine at the restaurants as its against Khoser diet.

Btw for souvenir shoppers, I found the shop at the hotel very reasonably priced and I bought many T-shirts & pendants.

My tour guide was concerned about safety and he recommended that we stayed at cheap hotels rather than high-end hotels. Further, you would be safe from terrorist attacks or bombing.

Though 5* hotels are cheap in Bethlehem, there is a risk factor. In the event of a shut-down, you will not be able to leave Bethlehem and enter into Jerusalem. And security would be so tight, that you can spend hours just waiting to get pass the walls of Jerusalem.

i placed this pic here, as i wanted to share that even muslims were paying respect @ Holy Sepulchre
i placed this pic here, as i wanted to share that even muslims were paying respect @ Holy Sepulchre
As my hotel was situated near to the city, a 30mins walk led me into the town – ie Benni Yehuda. That particular night was a Sabbath, and as I walked into the town, the shops and cafes, opened from 8.30pm and to about 2am. It was a joy for me!! I was able to shop finally! Because I was on a pilgrimage, the tour guide has 'forbidden' us to shop :(.

Must-buys are the jewish star of david pendants, the jerusalem cross, the olive wood rosary, and if you fancy beautiful jewellery set in semi-precious stones, check out the Adava Jewellery Shop. We ladies did serious damage!!!

Oh....I was surprised to see the streets so alive with people walking, busking and singing! I met people travelling even from Argentina, Mexico, and Alaska!

Reference to the pic:

It was truly an eye-opener to see that even the muslims recognise jesus as a prophet before prophet Mohamad.

Chasing the fountain of Youth @ Dead Sea
Chasing the fountain of Youth @ Dead Sea
We had lunch at Neve Midbar restaurant first which charges a flat entry fee for food and usage of that part of the Dead Sea. We all floated and slapped on the Dead Sea mud on themselves, chasing the ‘fountain of everlasting youth’.

What's interesting to know, is that at about 400m below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and measures 67km x 18km, and is located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan. The Dead Sea was a place of refuge for King David, and one of the world's first health resorts for Herod the Great.

Around the region of the Dead Sea, is the Qumran Caves, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Qumran Caves were the settlement of the Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect of the Second Temple period, who lived and studied there for 200 years. The scrolls were found in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd whilst chasing a stray, found the scrolls in earthenware jars preserved for 2000 years.

Oh at the shops, pls buy stamps of the Dead Sea and post it out.

Star of Bethlehem marks the spot where Jesus was born.
Star of Bethlehem marks the spot where Jesus was born.
I decided to talk about Bethlehem here as most restaurants are Khoser.

Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and under Palestine. It was rather ‘exciting’ to go through the tight security and being told to have our passports in hand. On Bethlehem, Christina and I, did the “Pope thing” by kneeling and kissing the ground of Bethlehem.

The highlight, was celebrating mass with us at the Church of Nativity. The original basilica was built in 325 AD by Emperor Constantine the Great and is the oldest Christian church in the world.

Entrance to the church is through a small door - door of Humility. Upon entering, the wooden panels on the floor reveals the original mosaic flooring. The steps leading from the entrance leads downstairs to the Grotto of the Nativity.

See the star on the floor inscribed in Latin – Hic de virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est (Here the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ). Next to the ornate and gilded grotto is the Chapel of the Manger.

Other recommendations:
Top view of Masada Fortress
Top view of Masada Fortress
Masada - an ancient fortress, towering almost 450 meters above sea level of the Dead Sea, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the eastern fringe of the Judean Desert near the shore of the Dead Sea between En Gedi and Sodom. In 43 BCE, Herod the Great seized the fortress and used it as a retreat. There was a magnificent three-tired palace, which extends down the northern cliff, the Roman Bath house with fine mosaics. To get to the fortress, we ascended by cable car, and had amazing views of the Judean Desert and Dead Sea. Famous in Jewish history as the spot where nearly 1,000 Jewish zealots in 74AD died rather than let themselves be taken prisoner by Roman soldiers. The summit of Masada sits 59m above sea level and about 470m above the level of the Dead Sea.

Published on Friday November 7th, 2008

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Thu, Nov 27 2008 - 01:49 PM rating by marianne

what a lovely read and such beautiful photos

Tue, Nov 11 2008 - 05:20 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Oh Jerusalem!

Mon, Nov 10 2008 - 06:43 AM rating by tokyomike

I've always found myself drawn in most by reports of "travel for a reason." When people visit a place for some for of personal quest, education or some other reason that goes beyond the simple search of beautiful beaches (that would be me, by the way), the reports are incredible insightful. Well, yours always are anyway -- and this is no exception. Plus, it has some great logistical points and historical facts as well. Nice :)

Sun, Nov 09 2008 - 11:27 AM rating by yuliangpang

you are setting an very good sample on how to write the travel reports, very useful for me.

Sat, Nov 08 2008 - 03:29 PM rating by rangutan

A lot of useful info well beyond Jerusalem, almost a country profile. A journey I would like very much to do too.

Fri, Nov 07 2008 - 07:40 PM rating by mistybleu

I so want to do this pilgrimige as wel. Nice report

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