Sunday, February 13, 2000

Trip to Israel: Feb. 2000


This is an alternate & expanded version of my webapage about this trip. Some of the pictures have been re-scanned at a higher resolution, but I've included some of the older (smaller) versions as well.

Link to all my videos of this trip

Departing Canada: Saturday/Sunday, Feb. 5/6

We flew out of Thunder Bay c. 16:20, February 5 and (after a brief stop in Toronto) spent most of Sunday in London Heathrow Terminal Four. Despite having only a vague plan communicated by e-mail we were able to meet up with Shawn Minor on his return trip from Israel (among many other countries). Thanks, Shawn, for taking the bus over from Gatwick.

After visiting with Shawn, we were able to find my mother's brother, Austin Griffiths, and my Aunt Rosemary.

Then we flew out to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. We arrived there near midnight and were met quite efficiently by a taxi driver who took us to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tel Aviv (Room 209).

Tel Aviv: Mon. Feb. 7

Jaffa: Mon. Feb. 7

After a buffet breakfast in the hotel, we joined our "Insight" Tour Group and boarded our bus to travel to the nearby ancient port of Jaffa (Yaffo). You may have heard it called Joppa. We walked around the artists quarter, stopping in at Frank Meisler's metal sculpture shop.

Tel Aviv - Carmel Market, Mediterranean, Yemeni Restaurant: Mon. Feb. 7

Our next stop was the Museum of the Diaspora at the Tel Aviv University, which features many models of famous synagogues throughout the world.

Our afternoon was unscheduled and so we followed our guide's directions to the bus that would take us to the Carmel Market. After a little looking around, we tried falafel for the first time at an outside cafe. By the time we had finished exploring the market, we weren't sure of the way back to the bus and so we decided that, if we headed for the Mediterranean, we were unlikely to miss it and then we'd be able find our hotel.

After wading in the Med, Mum and I got separated from Geri as we headed back to the hotel and had a little trouble identifying our hotel from the beach. We had to backtrack a bit, but we eventually found our way.

Supper that evening was with the tour group at a Yemenite Jewish restaurant. The restaurant was kosher but the meat on the shish kebabs sure tasted like pork. The waitress said, when I asked, that it was "chicken and turkish".

Leaving Tel Aviv: Tue. Feb. 8

We headed out in our bus c. 7:40 heading north up the coast.

Netanya: Tue. Feb. 8

Our first stop was at the Netanya Diamond Company. After viewing an infomercial, we were steered into the diamond shop where the clerks were very eager to do business. I got out of there pretty quickly.

Caesarea: Tue. Feb. 8

Further up the coast we stopped to walk around the Herodian ruins at Caesarea. Next were some Crusader ruins and a Roman aqueduct.

Complete Playlist of 14 Videos
beginning with
#1 Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Caesarea Maritima and the Roman aqueduct just north of CM.

Acre/Akko: Tue. Feb. 8

Our drive to Acre/Akko took us past Haifa. After a cafeteria lunch we walked around the old port city of Acre. As we entered the Inn of the Pillars courtyard, a little kid tried to kick me in the pants. I thought of retaliating and starting "The War of the Kicked Pants".

Nazareth: Tue. Feb. 8

At Nazareth we were shown the very spot at which Mary conceived!

Here's a picture for Nelson Muntz. Haw haw!

Our hotel that night in Ginosar is run by a kibbutz. After supper, we attended a video about kibbutzim, but dozed through most of it. We snuck out to our room (#42) during the Q & A time.

Ginosar, The Sea of Galilee: Wed. Feb. 9

Video #2 - Akko, Nazareth and our ride on the Sea of Galilee.

After mailing my first bunch of postcards, we walked with the tour group through the kibbutz to the Sea of Galilee where we boarded a replica of a "Jesus boat" for our ride on the "Sea". Afterwards, I ran down to the shore to get a film canister full of the water and (accidentally) mud on my father's Tilley pants.

Capernaum: Wed. Feb. 9

Video #3 - Capernaum, Huleh Valley, River Jordan and Salt ("Dead") Sea.

In Capernaum we viewed "Peter's Mother-in-law's House" and the 2nd or 3rd century synagogue. No one really knows why this synagogue was built backwards, i.e. facing away from Jerusalem. The earlier black stone synagogue underneath it may have been the one Christ visited.

The Mount of the Beatitudes: Wed. Feb. 9

At the Mt. of the Beatitudes we were left to wander for a while through the garden and the church building commemorating the site.

Huleh Valley: Wed. Feb. 9

Our next stop, Gadot, north of the Sea of Galilee is a good place to view the Huleh Valley as well as snow-capped Mt. Hermon. Fences and signs all around warned of land mines (on the other side of the fences!) Our guide told us a lot about modern Israel's history as we stood on top of what had been Syrian bunkers.

Tiberias: : Wed. Feb. 9

We made an unscheduled stop at Tiberias so that one tour member could use an ATM. After that was done, we discovered our driver had disappeared! He was carrying a box when he returned and our guide said he'd been to a "pharmacy".

The River Jordan: : Wed. Feb. 9

Lunch was at a cafeteria at a spot called Yardenit where people like to be baptized in the River Jordan. There I waded in the midst of some fish and filled another film canister.

Qumran: Wed. Feb. 9

Though I had to struggle not to doze off, I enjoyed the ride down the Jordan Valley during which I could notice green hilly Galilee clearly transforming into rugged desert Judea.

We made a half hour stop at Qumran during which I had a brief ride on a camel.

We passed Jericho and Ein Gedi on our way to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel right on the Dead Sea. It was near the end of the day and so we had to hurry in order to get ourselves photographed floating in the not-terribly-warm Dead Sea. I filled yet another film canister. After using the indoor pool/sauna facilities as well, we had a late buffet supper and then retired to our room (#910).


Masada, The Shrine of the Book, The Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem Night Life: Thursday, Feb. 10

Video #4 - Another photo of the Salt Sea, Masada and a drive-by video of Qumran.

After Geri and I had another brief dip in the Dead Sea, the tour group headed out again. Our first stop on Thursday was at the ruins of Masada, which we reached by cable car. Our guide told us the story of how 960 Jewish men, women and children held out against the Romans for three years (A.D. 70 - 73) until finally the Romans used Jewish slaves to build a ramp up to the plateau and breached the wall. They were greeted by silence, as the Jewish men had all agreed to kill their wives and children and then themselves rather than be killed by the Romans.

Video #5 - Our approach to the city of Jerusalem past Bedouin encampments, the Israel Museum, Yad Vashem and then our approach to the Old City at night.

As we travelled to Jerusalem, we passed several Bedouin encampments: fairly primitive--no satellite dishes, only antennae.

In Jerusalem we visited the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and then the Holocaust Museum. I'm told that one of our group spotted Oscar Schindler's tree, but I couldn't find it. I also hoped to find one for the Ten Boom family, but didn't.

After getting set up in our room (#595) at the Jerusalem Laromme Hotel, most of our group ate together at an Italian Restaurant. The meal dragged on and so we had to leave right away once we were done. I didn't bother going to the bathroom. This was a mistake.

Video #6 - Our tour of the Old City at night, including my first visit to the Western ("Wailing") Wall.

Our bus wove through the narrow streets of Jerusalem as our guide described to us the Chassidic Jews we saw all around doing their shopping for Shabat. Shabat would be starting at 16:46 the next day and their cooking would need to be done by then.

By the time we disembarked to begin our walking tour of the Old City, I really had to go to the bathroom. There wasn't one open where we began at the Zion Gate heading for the Dung(!) Gate. We were walking mainly through the Jewish residential area and so there were no public WC's. I was extremely distracted! Once we reached a spot overlooking the Cardo (ancient main road), I spotted the word "Police" over a door in the courtyard below. I think they were quite surprised to see this "American" tourist burst in begging for a toilet. They directed me to a tiny pizza shop across the road. Afterwards, much relieved, I rejoined our tour group with much rejoicing as we made our way down to the Western ("Wailing") Wall.

Mt. Scopus, Bethlehem, Mt. of Evil Council, The Garden Tomb, Gethsemane, The Old City: Fri. Feb. 11

Video #7 - Viewing Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus and our day trip to Bethlehem (the Church of the Nativity and the olive wood souvenir shop).

As a group we began our day with a scenic view of Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus.

Then we travelled by bus to the Hadassah Hospital in Bethlehem where we viewed the Chagall windows in the synagogue (where we couldn't take photos).

Then we visited the Churches of the Nativity, St. Catharine and St. Jerome. The Church of the Nativity contains a cave which is honoured as the stable in which Christ was born.


Then we visited a shop featuring olive wood carvings in which I displayed my ignorance of bartering. Outside were many street vendors.

Video #8 - Viewing Jerusalem from the Hill of Evil Council, the Garden Tomb, Gordon's Calvary, Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.

After shawarma for lunch (lamb-fat soaked turkey in a pita), we viewed Jerusalem again from the Mt. of Evil Council.

Then visited one of the sites that claims to be that of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection "The Garden Tomb" or "Gordon's Calvary".

At Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives I reached through the fence and touched a tree that they have dated to the time of Christ. We also visited the nearby Church of All Nations.

We stopped by the Western Wall again, but I didn't "go to the Wall" this time.

That evening while my Mum and Geri rested, I went alone to the Old City to figure out where things were so that the three of us could find our way around the next day. I entered by the Jaffa Gate and learned that one should not stand still, especially not consulting a map, because someone is sure to approach and say, "Would you like to see my shop?" When I said I was only trying to find the Christchurch Hospice (to meet a friend of a friend), he responded, "Oh, that's right by my shop!" Well, I managed to shake him, find the Hospice myself, but not my friend's friend.

Christ Church
PO Box 14037
Jaffa Gate, Old City
Jerusalem 91140, Israel
Tel +972 2 627 7727
Fax +972 2 628 2999

Then I went exploring and ended up at the Western Wall again. By now it was Shabat and the size and noise of the crowd praying there was quite impressive. I decided I did want to place a prayer in a crack in the Wall (written on my business card). To do so I had to reach over the head of a young man just getting ready to pray. Dumb tourist.

On the way back I struck up a conversation with a man from New York. "See ya", I said out of habit as we parted and then I thought, "Yeah, right."

As I was returning to the hotel, I waited at the lights with a Jewish girl (wearing, as many of them did, a long skirt) who was talking Valley Girl with her friend -- in a New York accent!

Back at the hotel our group gathered for our special Shabat meal.

The Temple Mount, The Via Dolorosa, Everest Cafeteria, David's Tomb, "The Upper Room", Armenian Market, Walking the Ramparts, Israeli Music Show: Sat. Feb. 12

Video #9 - Shabat at the Western Wall, the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques (outside only, of course) and a gift shop in the Old City.

When we visited the Mosques on the Temple Mount, we had to remove our shoes and avoid laughing or holding hands. We had our tour group photographed sitting on the steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock (which stands approximately where the Jewish Temple stood until A.D. 70).

Then we visited yet another tourist shop. A sign on the shelf read "Don't just stand there; buy something!"

Video #10 - Highlights of the Via Dolorosa: the Stations of the Cross up to the point at which we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Next we travelled along the Via Dolorosa which traces the route Christ may have taken to his crucifixion. There are some road stones at one point which were placed there during Herod's time. So there is some possibly Christ did actually walk on those stones at some point.

viadol model

Video #11 - Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre through the roof, some time in the main courtyard and reentering.

Video #12 - Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Video #13 - The basement of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, lunch accompanied by many church bells and the Cenacle (Upper Room).

The Via Dolorosa leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is the more anciently honoured of the two main sites claiming to mark Golgotha and Christ's tomb. We joined the shorter of the two lineups to touch (through a small hole) one end of the slab on which Christ allegedly lay.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre postcards:

Afterwards we sat outside in the courtyard of the CHS for a while. I believe it was on the bench pictured here from Google Street view, meaning that our view was what is in this second Street View picture.

After falafel again at a cafe in a square, accompanied by noon hour church bells, we went to "David's Tomb" and "The Upper Room", which is Crusader-built with Muslim additions. It may be near the site, but it ain't "it".

Here's a more recent Google Street View pic of the square near Papa Andreas restaurant.

That afternoon as my Mum, Geri and I walked to the Jaffa Gate, we passed the New York man with whom I'd spoken the day before. We greeted each other.

Mum, Geri and I did some shopping in the Armenian market. I saw several ceramic plaques with "Shalom, y'all" on them. I suggested to the young man manning the door of one shop that they should sell "Shalom, eh?" to Canadians. I wrote it out for him and, though I'm not sure he understood, he said he'd show it to his father. Let me know if you go to Jerusalem and see them for sale, eh?

A Google Street View of a typical Souk

#14 - My solo walk around the ramparts of the Old City, plus a pic of Sheila and Asher and a quick pan of the Jerusalem Laromme Hotel.

After Mum and Geri went back to the hotel, I started walking the ramparts (starting at the Jaffa gate and heading north). However, once I reached the Temple Mount, I realized I wouldn't be able to walk on the wall anymore. I had to come down into the Old City (or go outside it, but I didn't want to miss the sights). I checked my map, headed out and proceeded to get lost. I followed some monks along the Via Dolorosa for a while, but soon lost them. Then I hooked up with a tour group. We ended up at the Western Wall and so I walked back to the Jaffa Gate from there. Two Australian (?) women asked me how to get out of the city and I was able to direct them to the Dung Gate!

That evening we had supper at the nearby YMCA. I compared the English half of the menu with the Hebrew half and pointed out to the waitress that in Hebrew the chicken schnitzels cost eight shekels less than they do in English. She said the Hebrew price was the right one. No one in our group ordered it and so I didn't get to see what they would have been charged.

Then we attended the Israeli folk music show in the auditorium. Two of the songs I liked the best "Halleluya" (which has a sort of "Mack the Knife" feel) and "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" turn out to be on the CD I bought in the hotel gift store and so I've been listening to them a lot and feeling a little gooey on the inside when I do.

The trip back had its minor adventures, but I won't bore you with them here.

Link to all my videos of this trip