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Jerusalem, Day 1 (and Bethlehem)

  March 28th, 2009

We met up this morning with a graduate student, Masha,  from Hebrew University who is studying historical geography. She gave us a tour of the old city, including the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter and the Christian quarter. We were able to see so many historical sites, and with our tour guide we were able to get the (brief…the tour only lasted 3 hours) history of each. We entered t’hrought the Jaffa gate and then went to the Jewish quarter where we were able to see the original city wall (named the “Broad Wall”), the Ruins which is a synagogue that has been destroyed  and is currently being re-built. Then we made our way over to the Western Wall; since it was the Sabbath there were restrictions on taking pictures, smoking, and writing (as in writing notes to put in the Western Wall). The Western Wall is split into two sections, one for women and one for men; at frist glance this looks quite sexist as the womens ‘part’ of the wall is much smaller, but as Masha explained, Jewish men a obligated to pray whereas women are not and therefore not as many women pray as men do. Before we went down to the Western Wall we were standing in a place where we had a view of the Mount of Olives, the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock…a really great view! From here we walked through the Muslim quarter where we were able to see some amazing Mamaluke architecture. Afterwards we went towards the Christian quarter where we were able to walk down Via Dolorosa until we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is split between Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and a few others. We first walked through the Ethiopian sanctuary, which is just adjacent to the Holy Sepulchre. Once we got inside the Holy Sepulchre (which was crammed full of people…I can’t imagine what it would be like during Passover and Easter!) we saw the stone Jesus was laid upon when he died, the place where Jesus was crucified, his tomb and the place of his resurection; in addition we saw the burrial place of Adam. There was plenty of gorgeous mosaics and other regigous icons and artwork to look at as we walked around.  After this, the group split up with some people going to the Israel Museam (home of the Dead Sea scrolls), some (including us) went to Bethlehem and some staying in the Old City to explore on their own.

We went to Bethlehem for a few hours which was really awesome…only 5 of us went (us, Ana, Paris and Steph).  Bethlehem is within the West Bank, so we had to go through a check point. Paris and Steph met up with friends while we were there while the rest of us went to the Church of the Nativity and the walked around. The Church of the Nativity was suprisingly empty (compared to the Old City, at least!)…Ana and Sara were able to touch the spot where Jesus was born. We then walked around the markets and quickly realized that we were close to the only tourists in the area…it was awesome. We stopped in this one shop where we spent quite some time becuase the owner was very hospitable, he gave us tea and wanted to talk about why we were her, what we had seen, and where we were from (he also gave us some great deals on pashmina scarves). This seems to be a theme we have been experiencing while in the West Bank, everyone is so friendly and hospitable it is just amazing!

After dinner back at our hostel, some of us walked out into town in the New City and we able to do some more shopping, as the Sabbath ended around 730pm and then the stores all bein to open; it was pretty cool because when we got down there most stores were still closed and watching them open up one by one and then watching the streets start to fill with people again.

Tomorrow we start our day before sunrise and will go all day until we get on the bus one last time to head to the airport at midnight. We will return to the states Monday a little before noon.


-Tiffany and Sara A.

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9 Responses to “Jerusalem, Day 1 (and Bethlehem)”

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