Jerusalem 2010

After spending two nights in the Galilee we drove to Jerusalem.  We arrived at the Harmony Hotel about 5:30pm.   Read my review of the Harmony Hotel here.  We rested up and then went to a fabulous dinner at Chakra – just about a five minute walk from the hotel.  We ordered beef stroganof, seafood risotto, gnocchi, ravioli and eggplant – everything was delicious!!

 Day 4

Our first day in Jerusalem was packed with a lot of sites – and our first big introduction to all the many large bus tours – sorry, but I would refuse to wear that yellow scarf or blue hat!!  This is a list of what we accomplished this day:

Mt. Scopus

Mt. of Olives – while we were here, Menachem took us to the cemetery that is right near the entrance to the Dominus Flevit Church.  The tour groups seemed to be skipping this – but we found it quite interesting and moving.  This area also has great views of the city and the Dome of the Rock.

Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.

Jerusalem Archaeological Park– This was more interesting than I was expecting and we learned quite a bit about the temple from Menachem.  The park displays many of the archaeological discoveries made in the Old City.  The fascinating thing is that you get to see these discoveries right where they were found.

Lunch at Al Buraq – located just to the left as you leave the Western Wall area right past security.  Good lunch (not great) we were short on time as we had to make our Tunnel Tour.  So, we just ordered shwarmas and falafels.

Western Tunnel Tour – amazing!  This is a must see!  You have to get reservations in advance and can only enter with one of their tour guides.

Praying at the Western Wall – this was an incredible experience to actually be able to pray at the Western Wall.  However, I was surprised when the cell phone of the lady standing next to me starting playing “I wake up in the morning feeling like P. Ditty”  – but the thing I was shocked by was she did not even try to turn it off –she just let it play – and then when she did not answer they called again!!  It was delightful to watch the many young men being Bar Mitzvahed at the Wall.

Explored a bit of the Quarters in the Old City.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Golgotha and the tomb.  We were able to avoid the long line at Golgotha because we did not feel the need to kneel under the altar and pray like the large group of Eastern Europeans did who were ahead of us.  So we just walked along and were able to stand and look at it.  There was however, an unavoidable line at the tomb with a very stern person directing the line of traffic.  This is definitely a place I would like to return when it is less crowded – as I think back I do not think I was really able to take it all in.

Lastly, we saw the “supposed” room of the Last Supper (apparently they really are not sure if this is the actual room) and King David’s Tomb.  At the tomb you could go in and pray but men and women were separated here, similar to the Western Wall.

On our way back to the car we passed the cemetery where Oskar Schindler is buried.

Before dinner we went to the Sound and Light Show and the Tower of David Museum.  I was a bit wary of this – had not requested it, but the travel agency in Israel added it to our itinerary.  I was concerned it would be tacky/cheesy, but really it was very well done and quite interesting.  Difficult to explain – something you just need to see.  Only negative was that it started about 15 minutes late.

We had another great dinner, this time at Joy Restaurant in the German Colony.  Wished we had had more time to explore the German Colony as it looked beautiful and interesting.  Our server was extremely friendly and helpful. We had wonderful meals which included beef carpaccio, Moroccan pastiche, Cornish game hen – and some of the best duck breast I have had anywhere – just beware the duck was enough for two people

Day 5

Today we were headed to Bethlehem.  Menachem drove us to the border where we were picked up by a Palestinian driver who would take us across the border.  After crossing we picked up our guide for Bethlehem.  Both our driver and our guide were Palestinian Christians.  First stop was Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, of course built on top of the cave Jesus was born in.


The main entrance to the Church of the Nativity is through the Door of Humility.  To enter one must bend over as if you were entering a real cave.  This entrance was made during the Ottoman empire to prevent mounted horsemen from entering the church.

I must say that the cave was really quite interesting and one of the more moving things for me.

It was also fascinating to learn about how this church is run – similar to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with several Christian churches having control over certain areas and certain times.

We then drove over to Shepherd’s Field which is “supposed” to be where the Shepherd’s saw and heard the angels proclaim Jesus’ birth, however, again this is a place they are not sure about.  I did appreciate that they would tell you when they were not “sure” if a place was what it was supposed to be.  The cave there was quite interesting.

From here we went to do some quick shopping in Bethlehem – getting a nativity there was a must for me.

It took us about a 30 minute wait at the border crossing as they were really searching cars.

Menachem took us to Abu Ghosh, an Arab-Israeli village, and we ate another wonderful meal at Naura.  The mezze and mixed grill just kept getting better – majority of us thought this place had the best humuus.

After lunch Menachem took us to a kibbutz cemetery where we looked at headstones and talked about the people.  Many had died during the war of independence – very intriguing.

From there we drove to the Yav Kennedy Forest where we each planted a tree.  Again, not something I had requested to be on the itinerary, but I must say it was very meaningful and we were all glad we were able to put down roots in the Promised Land.

Next up was the Israel Museum where we visited the giant model of the 2nd Temple.  Very informative and a great opportunity to see everything in perspective together.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were also there, but most of it was a facsimile, although there were some original pages from Exodus.

We returned to the hotel about 5 pm.  We headed out to Ben Yehuda St.  We loved that all the stores here stay open so late and that tons of people were out and about.   We had dinner at Dolphin Yam, a seafood restaurant nearby.  We thought it was good, but not as good as our previous dinners at Chakra and Joy.

Day 6

This was our free day in Jerusalem.  We are shoppers and were anxious to hone our bargaining skills we had learned two years earlier in Fez and Marakkech.  In Morocco we mostly let Stephen d0 the deed, but this time Lauren really got into it, and did quite well buying jewelry.

We enjoyed shopping and exploring in all four of the quarters.

We had lunch in one of the restaurants in Mamilla Mall, and then did some shopping through there.  Returned to the Harmony and then did more shopping on the street the hotel is on.  My birthday was this week and I found a beautiful painting (my birthday present) in the Art & Soul Gallery on this street.

My parents were meeting some old friends for dinner tonight who were living in Jerusalem, so the four of us went to Cavalier.  Another excellent meal, but a bit more expensive.

Day 7

Today we started out with a rampart walk of the Old City.  It is an interesting viewpoint of both the city inside and outside the walls.

We left the ramparts at the Jewish Quarter and had a more in depth tour of that area.  Visited the Four Sephardic Synagogues – they had pictures on the wall of the poor condition it was in from 1967 after so many years of neglect under control of the Arabs.  The Israeli army captured this area in 1967.

We were able to enjoy watching the young boys play in the school yard, as well as some older boys preparing chickens to be delivered to the poor for Passover.

We had seen several Bar Mitzvahs when we were at the Western Wall a few days before but they had generally been very small, quiet affairs.  Today as we were leaving the Old City a very large Bar Mitzvah party was walking through singing and dancing – very fun to watch, particularly when some Israeli soldiers picked up the Bar Mitzvah boy on their soldiers and danced with him.  A great memory for us as we left the Old City.

We walked down to the City of David, but all agreed that we were not up for the full tour – the next trip!

Instead we headed to Ein Kerem.  I really liked this village.  It has very beautiful homes and a lot of gorgeous vegetation and flowers.  We had another incredible meal at Karma in Ein Kerem.  They made this amazing flatbread with different toppings – we decided to order it when we saw another order come out of the wood burning oven.  From there we drove to Yad Vashem and spent a few hours there.  The architecture of the building was interesting and very symbolic.

We were leaving Jerusalem the next day and had to pack, so we ate at Zuni for dinner located right across the street from the hotel.  Again, it was a good meal but not anything particularly exciting.

Day 8

Daylight Savings started today in Israel so we got to lose another hour (having lost another one about two weeks before in the US).  We left Jerusalem at 9:00am and headed to the Dead Sea.  Our first stop was at the Sea Level sign.  There was also a man there with camels that you could get on for some pictures.   We had already ridden on camels in Morocco but my parents were not with us on that trip, so my Dad rode on the camel and so did Michael.

We stopped first at the Ahava factory store and bought gifts for friends.  Then we arrived at the sea.  Unfortunately, I do not remember what the name of the place was where we entered at the Dead Sea, but they had lockers and decent bathrooms to change in.  When we arrived there was almost no one there, just one other couple and a little while later another family arrived.  We enjoyed the water as well as getting covered in the mud bath.

It was starting to sprinkle so we headed to the covered hot springs area (my favorite part).  By now it was more crowded and there were a number of people in the hot springs.

We left the Dead Sea and drove to Masada.  We were all starting to get hungry so we ate in the cafeteria there where we had respectable pita schnitzels.

We rode the cable car up and had a little over an hour to spend up there before the last cable car was set to come down.  It was truly amazing to think that 1000 people had lived up there, and I was impressed at the condition of the place and the renovation work.

We drove the roughly 2.5 hours left to Eilat and arrived about 6:30pm.  Here Menachem dropped us at the hotel and then he headed back to Jerusalem.  We would meet up with him again in a few days in Tel Aviv.  We had not made dinner reservations and it was nearly impossible to get in anywhere for dinner.  The concierge finally got us a reservation at El Gaucho  (an Argentinian restaurant) at 9:30.  The four of us were in Argentina last March so we know how great Argentinian food can be, again the food was fine, but not great.

Read about Eilat by clicking Petra and Eilat here.

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