Day Twenty-Two: Thursday
Today was spent mostly prepping for our upcoming weekend adventure.
Day Twenty-Three: Friday
We finally made it to Tel Aviv! I remember passing through it on my first day in Israel, but it was kind of a blur. Once we were actually inside the city it reminded me a lot of Florida, except everything is in Hebrew. Once we arrived at Yaron’s apartment we changed clothes and headed straight for the beach! On our way, Yaron told us about the history of the city and talked about the various memorials (both historical and for victims of terror attacks) we passed along the way. He wasn’t telling us this so we would be afraid, but he told us this to teach us that this is just life within the conflict. You just have to keep going.
After a twenty minute walk in the hot sun we finally arrived at the beach. Yep, it was our first time swimming in the Mediterranean Sea! It felt saltier than the Atlantic or maybe it’s just been so long since I’ve been the beach that I just don’t remember. It was so strange; I remember seeing the water when the plane was coming in for our landing, but I never thought I’d be swimming in it. Anyways, it was fun playing in the waves and laying out to tan. I swear, everyone in this country has a perfect body. I was definitely feeling the “I just ate don’t look at me!!” feel when we were sitting on the beach.
After a few hours we left and went back to our friends house to settle in. For dinner we went to this BBQ place nearby and it was awesome! The sauce was a bit different, but overall it was awesome! In fact, we got a special off menu rack of ribs designed for Americans! Oh! I mentioned before about how there are start cats everywhere in this place, but we found the cutest kitten! Kurtis taught him how to play with the hanging plant that draped over his little hide out. He was so close to taking him home too!
Day Twenty-Four: Saturday
We caught up on some much needed sleep that day. We didn’t realize how tired we were from going to the beach until we woke up the next day around 1! After finally waking up, Yaron, Kurtis, and I went to Moses for lunch, and Kurtis got a fried cheese burger with bacon and cheese. Yeah, it was horrible for the body, but it looked and smelled amazing. After lunch we walked along the boulevard and stopped by the Israeli Independence Hall. It was cool learning about its historical significance from a local. It was really hot in Tel Aviv that weekend (the weather reminded us of Florida), but getting a chance to sit and enjoy the breeze with nice cup of iced coffee made in bearable.
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by a chocolate shop (Max Brenner) and Kurtis and I shared an Italian hot chocolate. You can’t get it in the States, but it was so good! Just imagine hot chocolate so thick it reminds you of chocolate cake batter. Once we arrived home, we changed and went to the beach. It was a lot of fun until the blister on the bottom of my foot popped when I was in the water (I completely forgot to pack my walking shoes and my sandals gave me a blister the size of a quarter). We left the beach shortly after. I tended to my foot and finished packing to head back home. On Saturdays the buses don’t start running again until an hour after Shabbat ends. We made it back home by 10:00.
Day Twenty-Five: Sunday
Our friend Mike came to visit us this week! It’s nice having a familiar face from home.We started off our tourist time week by revisiting the Holy Seplechure. It was nice getting to actually take my time and look around. I saw so much more the second time around!
The Seplechure doesn’t look like much from the outside, but on the inside it is absolutely beautiful. As I described before, when you enter the Seplecure the dressing stone is the first thing you see. To the right of that you will see the stairway to Gogoltha. Once you’ve reached the top of the very steep stairs you will see the mosaics all over the ceiling and the alter where Mass is held. To the left of the alter sits Our Lady of Sorrows (beautifully light with candles btw). If you continue left you will see Calvary. It really is impossible to miss.
Once we made it back downstairs we explored some of the little chapels that are on the first floor. We eventually made it to the Tomb. The skylight is absolutely stunning. We went inside of the tomb and waited in line to see the alter. There was this group of Orthodox nuns that took forever! It was awful. They were literally just talking. We barely got a chance to kneel down and the Orthodox monk started yelling at us. He said,”leave, you’re taking too long. Kiss the stone and go, allonzy!” He was really rude. I understand that people need to be ushered along sometimes, but there are nicer ways to do that. After our tour of the Seplecure we took Mike and his dad to Mahane Yehuda Market (The Shuk). They wanted to see how different the markets were here in comparison to the ones in Abu Dabi. After a bit of shopping we went to Bardock for some pizza and finished the day there.
Day Twenty-Six: Monday
Monday was our longest tour date. That morning we met at the Damascus gate and set off to see the Wailing Wall. The security at near the Wailing Wall was intense (pretty much expected), but when we made it through the courtyard of the wall was filled with so many people. It was fun getting to see Mike and Kurtis in their kipas.
There were so many bar mitzvah’s happening that day! It was super cute, since the men and women have separate sections at the wall, the female family members of the boys were peeping over the wall to see the festivities. Most of the women were standing on their tip toes to see everything.
The closer I got to the wall the joyous atmosphere changed and it turned into one of more fervent prayer. It was really beautiful to see people of all ages gathered around. On my husband’s side of the wall there was a man wailing in prayer. I didn’t leave a prayer in the wall during my visit, but I did take a moment to touch it and say a prayer.
This place holds a special memory for me. It was a few weeks after my dad’s funeral, I received a card in the mail from a Jewish man who went to our church. He was always very kind to us, and I remember him visiting dad in the hospital. In his letter he sent his condolences, but he also wrote to let me know that a prayer for my father was placed in the Wall. In Judaism, if you pray before the Wall for forty days your prayer will be heard. I just remember that meaning so much to me. The prayers that are left in the wall are never thrown away. They are carefully buried in Jewish cemeteries. I never thought I’d ever see and pray there at the Wall six years later.
After our visit to the Wailing Wall we got in line to go through the gate to enter the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, an incident occurred earlier that day and they closed off Temple Mount until after Ramadan. So, we decide to explore more of the Jewish quarter. We went up this flight of stairs and we were giving a blessing by a rabbi on our way by. He wrapped a ribbon around our wrists asked our names and tapped us on the head with something. That was the priciest and most unexpected blessing I’ve received, lol.
During our unexpected trip re-calibration we decided to do the Wall Rampart tour. This is a tour designed to walk on top of the wall surrounding the old city. Yeah, I’m not going to say it was a waste of time, but it wasn’t the greatest. It was so hot outside and there is little to no shade on the wall. The tour started at Jaffa gate and ended the Lions Gate. It was supposed to stretch around the entire old city, but it stopped in the Muslim quarter. This led to a very distressing situation. Somehow we ended up on roads that weren’t even on the old city maps and it was really distressing because we ended up going deeper into the old city. We were stopped by a small group of giggling and smiling 4-5 year olds who set up a plastic chair barricade and asked for 1 sheckle for passage. We played along because it was adorable. Unfortunately, the cute quickly ended when we turned another corner into another alley way and found pictures of “martyrs” plastered all over the walls (mostly suicide bombers and political prisoners). I’ve heard of this, but I never expected to see it with my own eyes. Thinking about my young “toll rode” friends a block away who are growing up in poverty and knowing that they’re playing in these alley ways and looking up at those figures as heroes. It’s heartbreaking to see the brokenness of this city.
After about thirty minutes, we finally found our way back to a main road and we began our walk down the Via Dolorosa. It’s a very contemplative path to take. Well, kind of. It’s not exactly how I imagined it. The Via Dolorosa winds in and out of busy streets and churches.
The first station Jesus is condemned to death). When we first entered the court year to the right was the Church of the Flagellation. There church is filled with beautiful stained glass in beautiful earth tone colors. The confessional in the back of the church was really pretty too. Could you imagine going to confession there? Jesus was flogged here and each of those was you, brah. I tease, but it would be a very humbling experience.
The second station (Jesus carries his cross) is located in the same court yard, but directly across of the first Church. It was filled with statues and wall art displaying the dramatic scene when Jesus was given his cross.
The third station (Jesus falls for the first time) is located in an Armenian Catholic Church. This is one of my favorite stations because I never thought of this scene from this perspective before. To see the anguish of angles. Heavenly beings created to praise God in all things completely at a loss.
The fourth station (Jesus meets his mother). This one makes me teary eyed every time. The complete helplessness of a mother as she sees her child suffer. I used the word “child” because we all know that no matter how old we get, our mothers will always see us as the small babes they spent sleepless nights with and cherish those memories we were too young to remember. I always try to imagine what was going through her mind when I pray the sorrowful mysteries. The unanswered questions and the sorrow. The statue stands alone in a dark room only light by a single candle.
The fifth station (Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross). That poor man. Could you imagine just walking along your merry way and being grabbed by a soldier to help a stranger on death row? This had to be the worst and the best day of his life. Thinking about it, this would be an awesome point of reflection for the Year of Mercy.
The sixth station (Veronica wipes the face of Jesus) is a spot marked on one of the walls on the Via Dolorosa, but along the side of the road there is the Church of Saint Monica. I think this one of the Churches we couldn’t actually enter, but they had a section for people to be able to see inside the church.
The seventh station( Jesus falls for the second time) this was another modest plaque on the wall.
The eighth station (Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem ). I think this was just a marker on a wall on the Via Dolorosa. I don’t really remember. I think the foot traffic at this point was starting to pick up.
The ninth station ( Jesus falls for the third time). Is it weird to admit that the stations where Jesus falls are my favorite? One day after confession part of my penance that day was to reflect on the 3rd, 7th, and 9th station of the cross. How many times have we fallen into the same pattern of sin and become tired and frustrated? I can’t imagine Jesus with a grimace on his face after he’d fallen. I can only imagine an understanding smile and a determined face to keep going.
The tenth station (Jesus clothes are taken away) is located near the St. Helen Coptic Church.
The eleven station ( Jesus is nailed to the cross) is located upstairs in the Holy Seplecure .
The twelfth station (Jesus died on the cross ) is left of where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The alter is ornately decorated and below the alter you can touch the stone where the cross was placed.
The thirteenth station (Jesus taken down from the cross) is located back down stairs from Galgotha. This dressing stone is the first thing you see when you enter in from the court yard.
The fourteenth station (Jesus body was laid in the tomb) is down the stairs from Calvary. This is a very solemn and moving place. The alter inside of the room is dimly lit and very still.
After we walked the Via Dolorosa we made it back into the Jewish Quarter just in time for our Under the Western Wall tour. Yeah, it wasn’t quite what we expected and wouldn’t do it again.
The end of the tour led out in front of the Church of Saint Anne and the Pools of Bethesda. This has to be my favorite place in the old city. It was so peaceful and quiet. It reminded me of the peace I feel when I visit the Abbey back home. Oh, and it is the place where one of my favorite New Testament readings took place ( John 5:1-15).
Day Twenty-Seven: Tuesday & Day Twenty-Eight: Wednesday
Kurtis and I both were recovering from food poisoning and took these two days off. At first I thought it was just a stomach bug. I ruled out dehydration or heat exhaustion because we both drank about four liters of water that day. It wasn’t until Kurtis spiked a high fever that made me think it might be E. coli poisoning. That’s the second time that’s happened to me here.