A Travellerspoint blog

Day 10

For the last full day in Israel, we headed south to Masada and En Gedi.
So, into the cars at 8am for the drive out of Jerusalem, past the place where we had swum in the Dead Sea and onto Masada.
It was decided as a group that we would take the cable car to the top then those who wanted to could take the snake path down.
Armed with audio guides, we made our own way around the ruined site of Herod’s Palace which the zealots used as their last stronghold against the Romans in AD 73.

The excavated remains of the Roman garrisons were also clearly visible from the summit.

Herod had cisterns cut out of the rock for water storage which are now empty and have great accustics so we sang a few favourites, left our mark for the next HCP group to find and headed back out into the sunshine.
The steep decent helped us feel a great deal of compassion for the donkeys and slaves who would’ve had to make the trip heavy laden!
After lunch at the bottom and a bit of shopping, we boarded the trusty vans again and headed to En Gedi.

The beautiful oasis in the desert was a peaceful way to finish the day trip before heading back to Jerusalem for our last night inside the old city.
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It had become tradition to head out after dinner to the Mamilla Mall just outside the Jaffa gate for an ice cream and to watch the passing parade. As a final goodbye, Toby was dared to eat 1kg of ice cream and he slowly but surely plowed his way through it to victory!

After another early morning, we farewelled Jerusalem, bound for Tel Aviv where we glimpsed the Med before heading to the airport.
And now the journey comes to an end... just about to board our final flight from HK to Perth, not quite refreshed from our 10hr layover.
So tired and thankful for the experiences and memories we have shared.

Posted by HCPTrip 20:54 Comments (2)

Day 9 - Mt Olives, Gethsemane & Golgotha

And Laura’s birthday!!

Today was Laura’s 18th birthday!!! ...that meant all us girls got woken up early just so Sarah could give Laura a birthday card!!! Great start.

At 8am people had the option of either doing the cold, hilly, 2km climb to Mt Olives or taking the warm, dry white van there. Only 6/14 took the warm van!! At Mt Olives we took in the view of Jerusalem & talked about all the bible stories that have occurred there...like Jesus ascending into heaven from where we were standing!

Then we walked/drove to garden of gethsemane which was cool (both cool...awesome & cool...freezing cold!). A church and other buildings had been built all around the garden, but what was left of the it was very cool... ie. some 2000 year old olive trees!! Apparently olive trees are like starfish, if you chop them down, they just grow more shoots from the stump and regrow!!

When we couldn’t get any colder, we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick stop. By now 11/14 people were choosing the warm, dry car option!!
Back at the hotel, we layered up in thermals, more jumpers & beanies. (In Sam’s case: packed a light jumper in case it got too cold for short sleeve t-shirt!!) Now we were all ready to walk to Golgotha thru the Muslim market area. (The old city of Jerusalem is split into 4 religious corners: Jewish, Christian, Armenian & Muslim.)

Golgotha was awesome! We walked through a garden path to a tomb dated back to Jesus’ time. We could go in & get a feel for how the disciples could’ve looked right into tomb and seen it empty!
After looking round, we read Matt 26v30-28, took bread & wine in the garden & sung some songs. It was a really awesome moment to be able to share in the place where Jesus most likely died & was resurrected for us.

Next was lunchtime... shawarmas and/or pizza from Jacobs pizza place!!
After lunch we had a bit of a chill before heading up on a rampart walk along Jerusalem’s old city walls!! When a few of us climbed up on the parapets of the walls to get better photos, U Steve’s duty of care mode switched on!! It was hilarious! “You’re making me sweat. Be careful up there! I’m gonna hold your jeans so you don’t slip! That way if you fall, I’ll be holding onto you...or your jeans if you slip out of them!!”

At the end of the rampart walk, half of us went to off to do more shopping in the cardo (street markets), the other half went to people watch at the western wall & explore some poorer and less well kept parts of the city.

Then it was back to the hotel for some chill time before our 6:30 dinner at the hotel. Laura arrived fashionably late to dinner on her birthday and was suitably greeted with constant “HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA!!!”s and “Hey, table over there, did you know that it’s LAURA'S BIRTHDAY today??”.
When Laura was about as embarrassed as she could get, the waiters brought out a birthday cake for Laura & we sung happy birthday to her nice and loud!

After our buffet dinner & birthday cake we decided that gelato ice cream was still needed. We kept up the “HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA!!”s on our walk to the gelato shop and even managed to find someone selling helium happy birthday balloons...which we attached to Laura's hood without her noticing!! :)
Also, quite a surprising sight was seeing a very Orthodox Jew busking on the street... playing & singing modern music!!

And finally bedtime!

Posted by HCPTrip 19:13 Comments (0)

Day 7 - Jerusalem

Thursday morning was a very early start! We left the hotel at 6:55 to get onto the Temple Mount as soon as it opened at 7:30. The dome of the rock was stunning and we got lots of gorgeous shots!




For a place in an incredibly tense political position, it was very peaceful and serene first thing in the morning!

Our first tour of the day was an underground tour of the western wall. It was very interesting and we learnt heaps about the stones Herod used to extend and strengthen the wall and the expense he went to to build the flat platform that is the Temple Mount.
This is the largest stone in the wall and is said to weigh as much as a jumbo jet!! Experts are unsure as to how it was moved into the wall as such a feat should be impossible in the time of Herod.


In the plaza we bumped into a large group of soldiers who were increasing security for tonight’s event. There were lots of guns in the plaza on Thursday!

The next stop was the City of David for a tour around the ancient city that King David lived in, expanded and called his capital. The tour guide was very excitable and told us about building the wall in Nehemiah's day, the discovery of what may have been David's palace and of the ruins discovered under a parking lot.


This is the capital found in the ruins of David's palace. The image has been placed on the 5 shekel coin in memory of him.

After a yummy lunch of schwarma we headed back to the city of David for the Hezekiahs tunnel tour. It was a 2.5 hour tour that explained that the tunnel was dug in the old city of Jerusalem by the jebusites. The tunnel was then adapted by Hezekiah to bring water into Jerusalem during the siege. Most of us took the wet tunnel tour, but luckily the water didn't go past our knees for the most part and our clothes stayed relatively dry!
These gorgeous ladies are really looking forward to the 3D movie about Hezekiahs tunnel and thinking of starting a new fashion trend!


After a quick towel off it was a brisk walk to the wall to watch 500 New army recruits getting sworn in to service. It was a very auspicious occasion with much military protection and ceremony. Each recruit received a gun and a copy of the Torah and swore their service to their country.
The Plaza was packed for the occasion, but luckily Uncle Nath saved us seats. :-)

We were understandably exausted at the end of the day but that didn't stop us heading out for site seeing at the king David hotel and gelato after dinner!






Posted by HCPTrip 04:16 Comments (0)

Day 6 - baptism site, Dead Sea & first sight of Jerusalem

We packed our bags and locked our rooms before heading down to breakfast. We aimed to leave the Golan hotel at around 7:30 and at 7:37. We said goodbye to the Golan Hotel. Tiberius and Galilee were left behind as we started the long haul south, down the Jordan valley towards the baptism site, the Dead Sea then finally Jerusalem herself.

Our first destination was Kasser Al-yahad, the baptism site. Traveling there we passed many sites we were unable to stop and look at. These included Harod, Gilgal, and some Israeli/Jordanian border crossings.
When we arrived at the baptism site all of us were blown away with the Jordan river. It wasn't what any of us expected.









The water level had dropped and the brownish colour was a complete contrast to the fast flowing, clear drinkable waters of Dan. After witnessing a mass baptism and taking a quick selfie, it was time to hit the road for our much anticipated stop at the Dead Sea.
The water level in the dead sea had dropped dramatically, so we had to undertake a small climb to get to the sea shore.


We stayed there for two action packed hours. We went to a spot that's heated by hot springs.


There were many hot wading pools that we enjoyed, resulting in many partially red-lobster people with interesting patterns and sock tans.


We brought along Jenna, who quickly received a permanent long lasting mud facial.



To finish off our salty spa day, we took a group picture... The plane photo bomb-ed!



Our next stop was Jerusalem. The road we travelled on took us to this sign...


And as much as we would've loved to see Jericho, we decided not to pass that certain point in the road. Jerusalem was waiting! (Dear parents whose heart raced at the sight of that warning... Breathe easy, we are alive!).

We arrived in Jerusalem and headed straight up to the Mt of Olives for our first view of the old city. The typical postcard picture.


As we looked into the Kidron valley we could see the dead centre of Jerusalem. There were graveyards lining either side of the valley, facing to and away from the closed Golden Gates.
As it was windy and we were all still wet, we quickly said goodbye to the Mount to head through horn blowing traffic into the old city.
Our hotel is called the Gloria and is located just inside the old city walls near the Jaffa gate.


Once we all unpacked we headed a few seconds down the road to Jacobs for a late-late-lunch-early-dinner-snack of pizza.


Once our hunger had abated we headed down through the Cardo for our first glimpse of the Western Wall.


Seeing it was incredible! There were a lot of families at the wall praying. We people watched for a while, some people were rocking, others walked backwards and most were wearing funny hats.


(In the sheltered section of the men’s part of the western wall, the boys found an old man asleep. They affectionately nicknamed him Moses).


We headed back to the hotel for a large Mediterranean dinner followed by a quick debrief. Some of us stopped past the roof for the view before descending into bed!


Posted by HCPTrip 06:22 Comments (2)

Day 5 - Dan and east coast of Galilee

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Israel 2018 on HCPTrip's travel map.

After breakfast and a lot of stuffing croissants in our bags, we all got in the cars and headed off to Dan, where we did some exploring.




We started off at the bottom, then worked our way up... Our first stop was the Atlantic Pistachio Lookout, from where we couldn't actually see that much... but the tree wasn't bad :)




After a little viewing, we had a short walk to the Israelite gate, where U.Nathan read out Joshua 19:47-48. Then we walked through the ruins and went up to the high place where 2 Kings 12 is related, about how Jeroboam was running the place and didn't want the people to turn back to God, so he built an altar to turn them away, which he succeeded in.


After some walking, we found a flowing stream of water which comes straight from Mt Hermon's melted snow (all the water in Dan does), and filled our drink bottles up.

Once we had done that, we did a lot of walking (U.Nathan took some wrong turns...) we went to the Wading Pool, which sadly for us was dried up, as they diverted the water for drought reasons :(. So instead we sat on the rocks and sang some songs.


After a few songs, we headed back to the cars and drove down to Gamla.
At Gamla there was an awesome view showing the ruins of Gamla and part of the sea of Galilee, and either side of Gamla was the valley of Daliot and the valley of Gamla. Most of us went for a walk through the ruins to see the even better views and and an old cross-bow!

After Gamla we drove around the Eastern side of Galilee then down and around up to Nazareth. Here we had a tour of the old Nazareth, which turned out to be quite interesting and funny...








Once the tour ended we got our free oil lamps and headed back to the hotel for some food and sleep. :)

Posted by HCPTrip 10:23 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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