Israel 2010- Days 23-26- Return to Jerusalem

This article finishes my three week reflection and reposting of articles from my trip to Israel in May of 2010. I’m publishing the last three days together since the article I wrote last year covered all three days in one post.

Return to Jerusalem

After the two exhilarating day trips to Petra and Mount Sinai and baking in the heat of Eilat for 5 days, I headed back to Jerusalem. My original plan had been to spend the last week of the trip between Jordan and Egypt, and then fly straight from Eilat to Ben Gurion Airport then home all in one day. I knew I didn’t want to spend three more days in Eilat, there was nothing to do there and it was too hot to even walk around during the day. So I booked a 7 A.M. bus trip from Eilat to Jerusalem. Before I booked the bus trip I’d made sure I was going to be able to get a room at the same hotel I had stayed in on my pervious visit there, the Hotel Hashimi, which I had liked quite a bit. The trip took a little over 5 hours, and followed a route up the Eastern edge of the country, passing by the Dead Sea. I had driven much of the route through the area a week before. The biggest issue was getting all of my stuff to the bus station, which was a thankfully short walk from my Eilat Hostel. I’d spent a couple hours the night before trying to cram it all in the bags I’d brought. I’d done it, but knew that I would need to find another bag in Jerusalem to make the journey home easier.

View from Mamilla on May 27

The same view 20 days earlier
We arrived back in Jerusalem to find it in the middle of a sandstorm, which didn’t bother me too much. I’d had great weather on my first visit, and the lack of visibility gave me a perfect excuse to spend most of the afternoon at the hotel napping, exhausted from carrying my 125 pounds of baggage to the hotel through the Muslim Souq. In the evening, I had a leisurely meal and then a long conversation with the owner of my hotel. I took a grand total of 3 pictures the whole day.
The morning I took a walk over to Mount Zion, one of the areas I hadn’t explored on my earlier visit. I had seen Mount Zion from the walls of old city when I did the ramparts walk, but I hadn’t actually walked around in the area. Mount Zion is an area of biblical importance, with many of the events of the last week of Jesus’ life taking place here. The building above is the Church of the Dormition Abbey, built on the spot where the Virgin Mary is to have ‘gone to the eternal sleep’. The basilica is one of the most beautiful I saw anywhere in the holy land, but pictures were not allowed inside.
Right outside of Zion Gate is the Armenian Church of St. Savior. The complex was in surprisingly poor condition, and I was told by a monk who took my entrance fee that they had planned a major renovation, but the money had just never come. The guidebook I had with me which was written in 2002 said the complex was expected to be under renovation for a couple of years, but I couldn’t see any evidence of that.
Also on Mount Zion, I visited the Coenaculum, or The Room of the Last Supper.

A short walk west brought me to Jerusalem’s Catholic Cemetery, where I visted the grave of Oskar Schindler. This grave was made famous by the closing scene of Stephen Spielberg’s epic Schindler’s List.

Winding downhill toward the City of David, I came to St. Peter in Gallicantu, the church built on the site of the home of the High Priest Calaphais. This is the spot where Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, as Jesus had prophesied the night before. Today, the site holds the beautiful modern church, with some of the most impressive stained glass I have even seen. The basement of the facility also contains the excavated cells where Jesus was held while awaiting trial by the high priest.
I continued back up to the walkway that took me around the east side of the old city walls, right next to Temple Mount. From this walkway I was able to view all of the Mount of Olives and the impressive churches and shrines that are built on it.
I was also able to take in the ancient tombs of the Kidron Valley. Many of these tombs are falsely labeled (example, one is called the tomb of Zachariah), but archeologists believe these tombs are more likely from the 5th or 6th Century A.D., and instead of holding prophets, they more likely hold wealthy or important citizens of those times. Nonetheless, they are impressive buildings in a dramatic setting.
The above picture is of the thousands of Jewish graves on the side of the Mount of Olives. As mentioned in the post about my day on the mount, the Jews believe that these people will be the first to be resurrected when the savior returns.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre from above

Temple Mount from the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

On my last day in Jerusalem, I took another short walk around the Old City. The only sight I took in was The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. This church is adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and had a bell tower that you can climb for sweeping views over the Old City and it’s immediate surroundings. I spent close to an hour up in the belltower, taking pictures and observing the Old City from a new perspective.
Finally, on Sunday, May 30th, I walked the short walk from my hotel in the Old City to the front of the Jerusalem Hotel in East Jerusalem. Normally this walk would have taken only a few minutes, but it took me close to an hour because I was carrying all of my stuff, which by then weighed over 125 pounds. From there I caught my share-taxi to Ben Gurion airport. Security at Ben Gurion was the most intense I have ever seen, but once that was done, the flight home was uneventful, which is about the most you can ask of a 10 hour flight. I arrived in Philadelphia about an hour early, and was able to catch an earlier flight to Detroit, which allowed me to be home almost 5 hours before I though I would.

One Response to “Israel 2010- Days 23-26- Return to Jerusalem”

  1. Sebastian says:

    I hope I can go and visit Israel soon! Always wanted to go there!

Leave a Reply