"...If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth..."
King David proclaimed Jerusalem his capital 3,000 years ago. David Ben Gurion selected the city to be the capitol of Irsrael in 1948. Dan visited it in 2000, during the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
The ship's trip to Israel was incredible. Dan did a couple of tours while we were there. The first one was a day trip into the Carmel mountains, which included horseback riding, mountain biking, repelling, and a large barbeque at the end of it. (they told us was chicken, but I'm pretty convinced it was some form of snake.)
The second trip, however, was the one that made this a special port call. For a mere $110, a sailor could sign up for a two day tour. This tour included a day at the dead sea and at Masada, an overnight stay in Tel-Aviv, and then a full day in Jerusalem. Lunch was included both days, but we had to fend for ourselves for dinner. Of course, an air conditioned bus and a surprisingly good tour were included in the tour.
The dead sea was great, as long as you did not get any water in your eyes. It was incredibly hot there though, and quite crowded with people at the spot we went to. Masada was awesome. The Jewish fortress is quite well preserved, and the remnants of the forts that the Romans built around it during the siege can still be seen. To learn what happened at Masada , click on this link. For the Israeli people today, Masada is a symbol for freedom and independence. Recruits to the Israel Defence Forces Armoured Unit swear the oath of allegiance in an annual ceremony on its summit. Their defiant cry: "Masada will never fall again!"
That night, we were whisked off to Tel-Aviv, to what we assumed would be el-cheapo hotel rooms. Imagine our suprise to find we would be in a $375/night room at the Hotel Sheraton Tel-Aviv! We hit dinner, walked around the boardwalk for a bit, then headed back for an early night.
We entered old Jerusalem on foot the next day through the Jaffa gate. After a trip through the Jewish quarter and the Armenian quarter, we arrived at the church of the holy sepulcher. This church (which was outside the walls of Jerusalem during the new testament times) was built over what is generally recognized as Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion of Christ. Here, we walked the stations of the cross, and had our crusader's cross's blessed on the stone on which Christ was anointed in olive oil after he died.
After this, we went down to the western, or "wailing" wall of the second temple. The rest of the temple was destroyed in the first war of liberation against Rome (66-73 AD), which was the same war in which Masada fell. We were not allowed to take photos down at the wall itself, so that first one below is the closest I could get. I did, however, manage to walk up and physically touch it with my hand.
The Dome of the Rock can be seen in the background. on several of these pictures. The dome is built over the spot that Muslims believe that Mohammad ascended into heaven. This just so happens to be on the same spot as the temple of the Jews, which is about a quarter mile from where Christ was crucified.. This city is considered holy by three major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
We then took a bus up to Mount Scopius, just a couple of miles away, from where we could look back upon the city, and also see the Mount of Olives, including the tomb of Mary, the garden of Gethsemane, (where Christ was betrayed), the church of Mary Magdalene, and the golden gate of Jerusalem (which the Muslims had walled up to stop Christ from re-entering Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives). We also drove past the "valley of the shadow of death" (as in "I shall fear no evil"). Yes, there is a real place, and it's called the Hinnon valley. Apparently, it was a place of worship for a Canaanite/Assyrian god named Molech, whose worshippers had some real distasteful practices you can read about here.
After this full day, we traveled back to Haifa via Nazareth, but we did not stop here. Next time, I'll take the Sea of Galilee/Nazareth 2 day tour.