Hannah and Je together

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Second Day – Two Shepherds’ Fields and Virgin Mary’s Well

I’ve been to Catholic (Franciscan) Shepherds’ Field twice, once with McCormick group last January, and the other by myself last month.  But there are three Shepherds’ fields in Beit Sahour – Franciscan, Greek Orthodox, and I think Baptists.  But everybody told me the third is not worth visiting, so I just gave up.

Before I left home this morning, I asked my hosting lady the way to Orthodox Shepherds’ field.  She explained me but I was not 100% sure, so I asked her to pick the point at the google maps.  And below is what happened:

Map is alien language to women

Map is alien language to women

Her verbal explanation was correct, but not her map picking.  I am wonder how she cannot read the map of her own town where she was born and lived for about fifty years.  She is now living in this house for eleven years and the Orthodox Shepherds’ field is about half mile.  And I remember that 80 per cent of the arguments with my wife are about the map reading.  Are women not supposed to read maps?  But women’s brains are better at linguistic abilities.  That makes even.

Greek Orthodox Shepherds' Field Gate

Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field Gate

When I was approaching the Orthodox Shepherds’ field, the gate was closed, but before I got there, a group of tourists went there and I was able to sneak in there with them.

Greek Orthodox Church Building

Greek Orthodox Church Building

This is the church building.

Ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church

Ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church

I am not 100% sure but all the Greek Orthodox church building I visited has a few things in common.  Among them, one thing interests me is that in the dome part of the sanctuary has the picture of Jesus looking down.

To the cave of Greek Orthodox Shepherds' Field

To the cave of Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field

Outside of the church building, there is a way to the cave.

Sanctuary in the cave

Sanctuary in the cave

When I went down the stairs, it was another sanctuary.

Shepherds' skulls

Shepherds’ skulls

And there were skulls displayed.  There is a sign saying that this is the tomb of the shepherds.  The cave and the floor mosaics are from 5th century.

Barbarian Destruction

Barbarian Destruction

Above and around the cave, you can see the ruins of the three ancient church buildings.

To the Virgin Mary's Well

To the Virgin Mary’s Well

Then I tried to go to the Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  I followed the street sign, but I’ve got lost and I went to around the downtown Beit Sahour.  I am wonder if I can call it downtown.  It is kind of city centre, and old city.  But it is higher on the hill.  Anyway, I realised that I am quite close to the Virgin Mary’s Well, so I decided to visit there first.  I asked a few people mixed with Arabic and English.  “Bti’araf wen Virgin Mary’s Well?”  People did not understand my English part – Virgin Mary’s Well.  So I used google translator.  Still people did not understand.  Finally I showed the picture of the street sign of Virgin Mary’s well.  “Bti’araf wen hada?” (Do you know where is this?)  Then people showed me with finger and it was just right there.  I checked the google translator, and noticed that it shows quite different Arabic from the street sign.  Google may translated literally and Arabic name may not be exact translation.  Jerusalem in Arabic is il-Quds which means “The Holy.”  And Damascus gate is Bab il-‘amud which means “Gate of the pillar.”

Virgin Mary's Well

Virgin Mary’s Well

There were several ladies (probably volunteers from a church) and one of them told me that Virgin Mary drank from this water.  The water is not from the rain, but from the spring underground.  They used to have full of water, but now they drained it for maintenance.

Entrance to the Franciscan Shepherds' Field

Entrance to the Franciscan Shepherds’ Field

Then I walked back and went to Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  I actually asked several people on the way there.  I’ve already been there twice, so I was not interested actually in seeing it again.  But the reason I went there is to know where exactly it is.  When you go there by taxi or bus, you may not really know where it is, but I walked there, and I know the location on the map in my brain.

To the Excavation site

To the Excavation site

I went inside and right before I left there, the sign above drew my eyes – the archaeological excavation site!

Ruin of the Ancient Church

Ruin of the Ancient Church

There are some ruins and remains of ancient church.

Deep Caves in excavation site

Deep Caves in excavation site

And there are more caves down there.

Ruth Restaurant

Ruth Restaurant

This is the restaurant near the Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  McCormick group may recognise it because we ate lunch there when we visited the shepherds’ field.  The land around the Franciscan Shepherds’ field is believed to be the Boaz’s field, the grandfather of King David.  And consequently the restaurant’s name is Ruth.

To my impression after seeing both Shepherds’ Field,  I think the Franciscan knows what the tourists expect to see.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifth Day – Second Walk

As I wrote earlier, I bought the postcards and stamps the first night in Jerusalem.  I was going to buy only cards but the Palestinian seller told me that the post office is far and hard to find.  I just thought he would not lie such thing.  Then I asked him that I am going to send many different countries.

He: Tell me the countries.
Je: USA, Canada, Korea and Japan.
He: No problem.  This stamps go anywhere in the world.

So I bought the stamps too.  And this morning, before I stepped out of the hotel, I asked the lady in the front desk to send my postcards to the post office.  The lady looked at my cards and said that I have wrong stamps.  I told her what happened.

She: No, these stamps only go to Europe.  If you cannot believe me, go to the post office and ask them.
Je: OK, then tell me how to get to the post office.  I heard that it is hard to find, so tell me in detail as much as possible.
She: Just right over there.

And I realised that the post office is less than one minute walking and even it is seen from the store where I bought the stamps.  So I went to the post office to confirm that she is absolutely correct.  I bought extra stamps.

I am so angry and mad not because I spent more money on stamps, but because he lied.  I felt so stupid and dumb that I trusted people.  If I just put the cards into the post box, none of them would be delivered! This is fourth bad experience with the Palestinians, and I am so frustrated and now desperately trying not to hate them.

Narrow Road in the Old City

Narrow Road in the Old City

This is the road next to the post office, and is so narrow but the truck passed through.  It is sometimes amazing how they drive in such small narrow roads in the Old City.

Model of the Tower of David

Model of the Tower of David

Then I went to the Tower of David Museum, right next to the Jaffa gate.  And as some people already know, this tower has nothing to do with King David.  People in the past misunderstood and named it Tower of David.

View from the Tower of David

View from the Tower of David

But the view on the tower is awesome, and worth paying.  And it looks like that this building was used as the hospital and medicine under Islamic rule.

Jaffa Gate from North Route of Ramparts Walk

Jaffa Gate from North Route of Ramparts Walk

After the Tower of David, I went to another Rampart Walk.  The other day, I walked the south route of Rampart from Jaffa Gate to Dung Gate.  Today I walked the north route from Jaffa Gate to Lion’s Gate via Damascus Gate.

Selfie above the Damascus Gate

Selfie above the Damascus Gate

I have to say that the south route has better view because it is higher for both sides, but the north route is almost ground level for the inner side of the wall for most part.

Then I went to the Rockefeller Museum because it is close from the Lion’s gate, but I just found that they do not open today.  Their website says open every day of the week, but when I actually went there, the sign says different thing that they close Tuesday and Friday.  So do not believe their website.  Actually not many things are trustworthy in the Holy Land.

Mamilla Street Arts

Mamilla Street Arts

Then I came near the Jaffa Gate and went to the Mamilla street.  Mamilla street is from Jaffa Gate to Mamilla Hotel and David Citadel Hotel.  This looks almost exactly Premium Outlet.  It has full of modern arts and American stores such as American Eagle and Crocs, etc.  Oh, and all the arts displayed on the street are also available for sale.

Aroma - best coffee shop in Israel

Aroma – best coffee shop in Israel

Then I found this Aroma.  McCormick Group went to the Aroma on the highway rest stop.  Some says this is Israel’s own Starbucks.  I ate Jerusalem Salad for lunch.  It is good to find new place, but it is also good to find the same place that I’ve been to.

King David's Tomb

King David’s Tomb

Then I went to Mount Zion – T.H.E. F.A.M.O.U.S. Mount Zion.  But it is quite small than that I expected.  There are lots of centres related to Torah, Talmud, studying and education.  And unexpectedly I found the tomb of the King David.  Admission is free unlike other tombs in Hebron.

The Cenacle

The Cenacle

This is what I was actually looking for.  The room where Jesus had the Last Supper for passover, and the room where the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples.  I have no idea if it is actual room or not, but if so, how could Jesus, the poor teacher with poor followers, get this room next to the tomb of the David?

Excavation on the City of David

Excavation on the City of David

Then I walked down to the City of David and I found that the new digging is ongoing.  I will do the same labour from next week.

And when I bought the ticket, something unexpected happened.  The Jewish girl working at the booth selling the ticket asked me if I’ve been there couple of months ago.  I was so surprised, and this is very nice surprise.

Je: Yes, I came here January.  How do you know?
She: Well, I just kind of remember you.

I looked around refreshing my memories.  Then I also went to the Hezekiah’s tunnel of course.  But this time, I was alone.  And I decided not to turn the lamp on.  I did not use any kind of light source – no lamp, no flash light, and no cellphone.  In the middle, I used only once my watch’s light.  My watch has so dim light that you cannot even tell if it is on in the day light.  And I was stunned that the watch’s light can be that bright.  In the complete dark, I walked so slow, and my eyes were useless, so I tried to feel the wall with my stretched out fingers.  I bumped like million times.  But thank God that I was wearing a farmer’s hat so that the hat touches the wall before my head bumps into it.

Step Walk to the Temple

Step Walk to the Temple

I came out to the Siloam pool.  But I did not get on the shuttle because the girl who remembered me told me that they found and opened another tunnel since January.  It is not actually a tunnel but the 2000 year old road from the pool to the temple.  Any way, it is underground for now.  So I walked back to the City of David visitor centre through the new tunnel.

Harp Player on Jaffa Gate

Harp Player on Jaffa Gate

When I came back to the Jaffa Gate, I found a woman in white was playing harp on the Gate window.

I walked a lot today, and am so tired.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Another Half of Second Day – Arrival

The flight from Zürich to Tel Aviv was good.  I still had emergency exit seat with enough legroom.  I had playful and delightful twin babies.  There were a few babies crying in the plane, but everybody around me was normal – no kissing, no drinking, no loud talking.

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel

Finally I landed at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport.  The immigration lines were long.  I guess this is because of recent violences in Jerusalem.  The officers were asking so many questions to people, including when and where they are planned to stay.  After long wait, I went to the officer.  I told him that I am taking summer course at Hebrew University and I am from America.  He just checked my passport and flight ticket, and let me go without asking any other questions.

Bathroom Sign in Ben Gurion Airport

Bathroom Sign in Ben Gurion Airport

This is bathroom sign in Ben Gurion airport.  It looks normal, but I think the Hebrew writing is funny.  Women in Hebrew is Women, but Men in Hebrew language says Warrior.

There are two ATMs in the airport, and one of them was broken, which caused huge line formed.  But six people in a row failed to draw money, and they said, “it’s not working.”  Instantly the line disappeared, but I decided to try, and it worked.  I’ve got my money.  And again, the huge line formed instantly after me.

Shuttle or Shared Taxi

Shuttle or Shared Taxi

My actual plan was to ride a taxi to Jerusalem.  I have to ride taxi when I come back to this airport because that would be around midnight.  But now, it is bright daylight, not even 4pm.  I thought there must be cheaper transportation to Jerusalem.  And I found a shuttle or shared taxi.  It costed me 64 NIS (New Israeli Shekel), roughly less than $25.

City Wall near Jaffa Gate

City Wall near Jaffa Gate

This is the city wall near the Jaffa Gate.  But I could not find my hotel easily, so I asked the security soldier with machine guns.  They pointed with fingers, “there.”  And they pointed another place, “or maybe there.”  Nice.  Thank you for being playful with a tourist.  You guys are very entertaining.  Then I found an information booth, so I went in and was guided.  It was really close.  Oh I miss Google Maps. And my wife more.

Glorious Gloria Hotel

Glorious Gloria Hotel

My original booking was Knights’ Palace around New Gate (still in Old City), but they emailed me two weeks ago, saying they will maintenance shut down the Knights’ Palace, and would like to move me to Gloria Hotel since they have same staff, same service and same owner.

After I unpacked, I just walked in the old city.  Today is Sabbath, so when I was in the Taxi, the West Jerusalem looked like a dead city with nobody on the streets.  But in the city market, so many people walking and living.  I just walked without any plan, destination.  I just walked just to be lost in the market.  But I was not lost.  When I looked around after a walk for a while, I found myself outside the Damascus gate where the White Sister’s Guest house is.  My McCormick travel group stayed there, and we walked always through this gate to go back to the guesthouse.  I think I just remembered the way to the guesthouse.

Then I bought some postcards with international stamps.  They are not cheap at all!  After supper at the Gloria Hotel, now I am dying of fatigue or Jet lag.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Israel Trip Third Day: Jerusalem Old City

The guesthouse is in Palestinian neighbourhood where Arabic is commonly spoken. And it is obviously noticeable for the signs too.

Signs in Arabic

Signs in Arabic

From the guest house, we walked to the Jerusalem Old City through Damascus Gate.

Damascus Gate - one of the major access to Old City Jerusalem

Damascus Gate – one of the major access to Old City Jerusalem

This gate is called in Arabic as Bab Al-Amud which means Pillar Gate. There used to be two pillars by Hadrian and people still used that name even though the pillar is not there for more than thousand years. But you can see the mark where the pillars were in the Old City right after the gate.

Pillar Mark

Pillar Mark

We walked straight to the Western Wall, namely Wailing Wall. It shows a few different era’s construction with the Herodian wall at the bottom. And we went to Western Wall Heritage Centre where we saw some of the historical and architectural information in visual way.

Temple Mount and Temple model

Temple Mount and Temple model

Herod’s temple is much more bigger than the previous ones even way bigger than that of Solomon. Because the land was not level, Herod made the south side much higher to make the temple mount level, and both corner on the south side is called Pinnacle and the horn was blown for many reasons. At the north end, Herod used the natural bed rock as part of the temple mount.

Herod's Frame

Herod’s Frame

This pattern is Herod’s distinctive frame pattern. If you see the picture below, that is just little part of the one rock. They are all huge and giant. The average weight of those stones is 5 ton.

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Huge Stone

As we all know, this glorious Herod’s temple was destroyed by Romans A.D. 70, and some of the destroyed parts are still preserved:

Destruction of the Temple by Romans

Destruction of the Temple by Romans

We were walking under the centre ramp (see the temple model above), and we came out to the open field at Herod’s time but it is still covered because the houses were built after that over those areas. And we met two pillars by Herod.

Herodian Pillar

Herodian Pillar

And on the floor of the same level with the pillar, there are stone-pavement from the same time. In other words, Jesus may walked on those stones.

Pavement from the Jesus' contemporary.

Pavement from the Jesus’ contemporary

And then we kept walking through the water channel/tunnel and to a water basin.

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This was built at Hasmonian Dynasty which means it is even before Romans came to Israel. This water tank was used for more than thousands of years. One thing is that nobody knows where the water comes from and how it collects waters.

St. Anne's Chapel

St. Anne’s Chapel

We went to St. Anne’s Chapel by the White Fathers. White fathers is the missionary group and the father in charge of this site is from Canada. More than 80% of the members are from Africa, so the white is colour of the robe not the skin. Once they tried to rename, but almost all the black members voted against it.

This chapel has amazing acoustic design.  A few of the McCormick group sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ and it echoed like a band of angels was singing together.

Birthplace of Mary

Birthplace of Mary

St. Anne’s Chapel is dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of Mary. So she is grandmother of Jesus. Catholics believe that mother Mary was born here while Anne was living.

Crusader's Chapel

Crusader’s Chapel

Next to the St. Anne’s chapel, there is huge ruin. It is the ruin of many different things – Hadrian’s pagan temple, Byzantine, Crusaders … You can see the crusader’s cross on the bottom of the pillar.

Pool of Bethesda

Pool of Bethesda

And the ruin also has a pool named Bethesda, where Jesus is believed that he healed the sick on Sabbath day.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Now, it is time to talk about the Via Dolorosa, the most famous Christian pilgrimage.

Church of Condemnation

Church of Condemnation

The Church of Condemnation is at the original place (as believed) where Pontius Pilate and his army stayed, namely Antonia Fortress.

Game board

Game board

On the floor, there is a mark – the play of the soldiers. According to the guide, the mark was drawn around Jesus’ contemporary.

Church of Flagellation

Church of Flagellation

It is believed that Jesus was whipped at the Church of Flagellation. And you can see the patterns of nails, whips. Above the gate, you may identify the thorns.

Ecce Homo Church

Ecce Homo Church

Ecce Homo means “Behold this man,” which Pontius Pilate said to the people. There is huge arch in and out side of the church. But the scholars believe now that the arch was built at Hadrian after Jesus.

Jesus fell first time

Jesus fell first time

Via Dolorosa identifies three locations that Jesus fell, and this is the first one.

Jesus met mother

Jesus met mother

Right next to the first falling location, this point is believed that Jesus met His mother Mary.

Simon of Cyrene

Simon of Cyrene

This place is believed that Simon of Cyrene was forced by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. There are a few more scenes in the Via Dolorosa such as Jesus meeting pious women. Via Dolorosa may correct but may not correct since different churches claim different spots, and different scholars says different things. We do not know any thing for sure. But what is important is not to identify historical accurate locations but to feel it and add it to our faith.

Holy Sepulchre

Holy Sepulchre

After that, we went to the Holy Sepulchre though the Coptic Church. In  the Holy Sepulchre, there was no line and our guide said it was miracle. Only two or three can fit in, and I went in with another lady, and she cried a lot over the casket. I just wonder if I had to tell her that the casket is empty and Jesus is alive.

The Holy Sepulchre is so-called the holiest place for Christians. And several different churches owns different parts of it. There are serious dispute between them, so two Muslim families open it in the morning and close it in the evening. What a shame.

Adam's Tomb

Adam’s Tomb

Some Church says that Adam is buried here. It is very important to their theology. The rock over the glasses is the rock of Calvary.

Broken Stone

Broken Stone

The rock seen over the window is Rock of Calvary. It is broken into two. Because when Jesus died, there was earthquake, and the rock was broken into two.

Calvary Rock

Calvary Rock

This is actually on the Calvary. Still you can see the huge crack. There are a few more things to see including Anointing Rock. We went out to the Jewish neighbourhood.

Manora

Manora

This giant manora is not the only one telling you that you are in Jewish quarter. So many males are wearing black hats and dressed like Jewish.

Golden Dome

Golden Dome

That golden dome, so called Dome of Rock, is the most famous thing in Jerusalem. And you can see the western wall under it. Tonight is the beginning of Sabbath, and many Jewish people came to pray here.

Western Wall

Western Wall

This is very sentimental place for all Jewish. The women are not allowed to pray with men. They have their own section. And all men must cover their head. The wall is continued inside to the left side when you face it. And there is a library with all Hebrew pray books.

Skull rock

Skull rock

Then we went to Garden Tomb. It is based on the bible (of course) with the name of Golgotha whose meaning is skull. And the rock is very similar to the skull shape (the mouth piece is hidden by the reconstruction).

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The first and third picture is the entrance of the tomb and the middle one is inside of it. For the last picture, you can see the rail for the rock to roll which covers the tomb. Some scholars think the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was crucified, others think Garden tomb is the place. Again, we do not know for sure. But I do know that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive.

Segregation

Segregation

This is the separation of Jerusalem. One city, one Jerusalem but one side is Jewish part, the other is West Bank, the occupied land. Jerusalem means peace. When can we really have true peace in Jerusalem?

We went to Sabeel, and listened to Cedar, one of the founding member of Sabeel. It was eye opening. I want to write about it later in more detail. If I do not go to bed right now, I may die.

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