Day 13: Jerusalem - The Old City (very long)
Finally, it was Sunday, with everything open again, we left very early as we had an early registration at the tunnels and Ibrahim wanted to take us to the Western Wall first.
The security was much heavier than usual everywhere for several important reasons. First, there was a Reform group, led by a woman rabbi praying, singing and even dancing to the side of the women’s section. This created shouting, hissing and spitting by the group of Orthodox men watching them. We saw no other protests, but it can easily (and does) often escalate.
Wendy found the experience of praying at the wall extremely emotional. It was very crowded and took awhile to make our way to the front, but once there, she and a few others from our group joined the hundreds of Orthodox women,as well as other tourists in prayer. Then men’s side was also very crowded. Jim and the other men from our group made our way into an inside area at the far end of the wall.
From there, we went into the tunnels. They were excavated starting in 1967 and had been hidden for almost 2000 years. They were not open when we were there in 1976.
Alert readers will remember the word "several" before reasons for more security. It turns out that the Prime Minister, the President and a delegation from the Knesset were visiting today. Extra cameras were being set up, the guards and security people were clearly stressed, and our tour was slightly delayed. Luckily however, we were let in without further incident or delay. The VIPs did come later in the morning, but we were not aware of them.
Another history lesson at the beginning of our tour through using a cute model of Mt. Scopus which Herod actually cut down to build the temple.
These tunnels are filled with cisterns, and in several places you can see down into the more than the 230 feet just visible above ground. In several places you can easily see the massive pieces of stone that were used. They are over 100 feet long.
Coming out of the tunnels, we started walking through the Christian quarter. We think we saw the monastery turned hostel that we stayed at 47 years ago near the Via Dolorosa! Ah, memories😝.
At the end of the Christian quarter is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified and buried. All the holy sites are massively crowded, and the key areas like the tomb have lines that circle all the way around and take hours.
A long walk through the Arab and then Jewish Quarters brought us to the cardo and the Hurva synagogue that is open and quite beautiful. The front has a huge menorah that is the meeting spot for many groups.
From the old city we walked kind of towards our hotel until we found Gabriella’s Weaving, a shop recommended for tallit. We spent a bit of time there looking and asking questions. We were successful in finding just the right tallit for Stella’s Bat Mitzvah next year!
The walk home from there was about 10 minutes. We had bought tickets for the King David Tower light show that evening, and after a couple hours rest, and a call to wish Wendy’s mom a happy 96th birthday, we made a quick stop for a pizza dinner, then walked down again to the Jaffa gate for an incredible experience.
Telling the story of the history of Jerusalem through videos projected on the buildings encompassing three sides of this outdoor theatre, we appreciated the artistry of its creators and loved every minute!
What a long day— well over 20,000 steps. But we get to sleep in tomorrow ( if you call breakfast at 8:15 sleeping in😆).