I had decided (before we ever left) that I would try to do a detailed, written account of our adventures, and so I did my best to jot down all the details from every single day…don’t worry, I have no intention of sharing those all here, basically I just want to hit some of the high points. As I sat down to journal though, in those spare minutes I found myself struggling to remember just what all we’d done that day. We literally had every single day packed about as full as is possible with adventures and explorations.
We’ve had people ask us what our favorite part of the trip was. That’s an extremely hard question to answer. What do you say when you’ve just experienced a week of unforgettable places and learned many, many incredible details about history of a fascinating land…?!
The tour we went on was guided by Cliff Graham, who heads up Good Battle Tours. I had linked his website earlier. He is extremely knowledgeable and shared so much information with us, I constantly felt as though I should have be recording as he spoke, just because I knew there was no way we could begin to remember it all.
I could start this off by telling you about our adventures in traveling internationally…we were new to all of this, and had never flown internationally before this trip. We had some memorable experiences! 🙂 I will leave those for now. We were very blessed to have some friends go with us–a trip like this is meant to be shared and enjoyed with others!
We arrived in Tel Aviv Friday afternoon December 7th. We waited at the airport for many hours, so we could ride with other members of our tour group to our hotel in Jerusalem. Because of little to no sleep on the flights over there, we were exhausted and were able to get a really good night’s sleep. Our hotel was great! (just before we left we learned that it was almost new and had only been in operation for several months) It was on the edge of Jerusalem, quite close to the Bethlehem checkpoint, and felt like an ideal location. We parked our suitcases and stayed there the entire time we were over there. This did make for quite a bit of bus time, but it was so nice to not have to be moving our luggage every day!
On Saturday, which was the day most of our tour group was arriving, we had a day to ourselves, so we joined several others of our group, and went and visited the Old City. This was quite the experience! To get to the Old City, we left our hotel and walked down to a bus stop (probably less than a quarter mile), got aboard and rode for a little ways. One adventure we had on the bus was that they didn’t accept American money, and we had yet to get ours exchanged. A passenger offered to do it for us, and we had no idea if he was ripping us off or not. 😉 So then we paid the driver 10 shekels apiece for the ride. And we were surprised when we got more change back than we’d anticipated.
We disembarked at the Old City. And… here..I had no idea what to expect, and was really captivated by this section of Jerusalem. Although it is called the Old City, it is actually not the oldest part of the city, and I don’t think it was in existence yet at the time of Jesus. The streets are narrow. More like what we’d think of as sidewalks or narrow alleyways. They are made of stones. Worn from being walked on for many hundreds (or even thousands) of years. We browsed various areas. The shops in the Jewish Quarter were not open because it was their Sabbath. I think we did see parts of it though, because we saw Orthodox Jews in their traditional dress, walking around.
Even though the streets felt narrow, just enough space for walking…every now and then a small vehicle would push through…I’m not quite sure how to describe them, but about the size of our golf carts, it was quite interesting to see how they’d get through the crowds of people walking.
Because we were not familiar with the Old City, we’d try to figure out our location by looking at a map, but weren’t always sure because our map did not have all the street names marked. And then before we’d realize it, we’d have passed into another quarter. We saw many little shops. A lot of the shopkeepers could speak at least a little English. They love to barter, and would, when you’d ask about an item for sale, give you a price that was entirely too high. One thing we found very interesting was the fact that some of these little shops had been in their families for many generations. They are big on tradition over there, and cling to keeping alive what their ancestors have started.
We ate lunch at a little cafe on the side of the street. We were still trying to figure out the exchange rates…we did change some money into shekels, but it was hard to know exactly how much they were wanting unless they gave the price in $$. (later we discovered the one plate of food we shared, although very delicious, was also very pricey–that plate of food, and two little cups of tea ended costing us $28!!)
The day was rather overcast and rainy, and we were glad to get back to our hotel again. They fed us very well there–our breakfasts and suppers were included, and they always offered us a buffet of foods to choose from. We started getting to know others from our tour group over the evening meal, and our tour guide arrived at the hotel as we were finishing up.
That gives you a brief overview of our first full day in Jerusalem.
(Israel trip – to be continued)