Today was our last day touring Israel with our tour guide. Raed took us all over Jerusalem to see all the holy sites.
Before I tell you about the holy sites I want to write about the Sabbath since it is today. The Sabbath is the Jews day of worship, similar to the Christian’s Sunday. Although there are rules that go along with the Sabbath. We got to experience some of those at our hotel. There is a Shabat elevator. Jewish people aren’t supposed to do any work on the Sabbath so the special elevator stops at every floor to eliminate having to push any buttons. There was no computer access in the lobby of our hotel (I’m using the wireless connection on my laptop) and the hotel gift shop is closed. All Jewish run businesses are closed. The meals served today are also kosher. For breakfast there was no hot food served so the traditional Israeli salads were served along with yogurt, cold cereal and breads.OK, on to the holy sites.
Yesterday we were in Bethlehem and we visited the Shepards Field. It is said that this is where Joseph went there with Mary for the census. We also went to the Church of the Mother of God. According to the Bible, Joseph brough Mary here and she fed her newborn. A drop of milk fell to the ground and the walls turned white. Today, people take the chalk from the limestone walls and mix the chalk with milk in hopes of becoming pregnant or if they are having trouble nursing their child, Raed said.
We also went to the Church of the Nativity. In the crypt of this church there is a star, which is said to mark the place where Jesus was born. Today we began our day at the Garden of Gethsemani.
We then walked through the old city of Jerusalem and walked to each of the 14 stations of the cross, which included the place where Jesus was whipped and sentenced to carry the cross, where he fell for the first time, where Mary saw him carrying the cross, where he was stripped of his clothes, where he was nailed to the cross, where he died on the cross and where Jesus was taken to be burned on the cross. This journey was very emotional for many of the people on our trip. Some were moved to tears as we visited these places where Jesus is said to have walked.
We went to the Holy Sepulcher Church where some of those places mentioned above are located. I know many will be disappointed when they read this, but I thought the experience was incredibly unpleasant. It was interesting to hear the history from Raed and see these places, but the church was filled with hundreds and hundreds of tourists. People were pushing and shoving to get to the different sites. There were unorganized lines to get to the rock where the cross was supposedly placed, to the annointing rock where Jesus was annointed with oil before being buried and empty tomb of Jesus. It was madness. People were so rude and it was incredibly loud in there. It was hard to sit back and appreciate the moment and the place. It’s interesting to me that people acted the way they did in that place.
We then had lunch in the old city, which was fun. There are hundreds of shops and dozens of winding walkways. It’s an incredibly interesting place. Our last few stops were at the room of the last supper, the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall.
Tonight we have a relaxing night. Some of the girls spent some time by the pool, I’m enjoying a Maccabee (an Israeli beer) for happy hour and others are relaxing in their rooms. We’re meeting in a little while to talk about the trip and then for dinner.
Tomorrow we have a free day. I think most of us are planning on going back to the old city to do some shopping. Some want to go back to the Holy Sepulcher Church and wait in line to see the tomb of Jesus.
I can’t believe our trip is coming to an end. I’m not ready to come home! I want to keep traveling and learning more. I feel like there is so much more for me to learn here.