It was hard to appreciate my new plush living quarters in Jerusalem to their fullest due to the fact that a sinus infection was beginning to have its way with me. Passover was also preventing me from properly feeding myself. However, a nice rainwater shower in a roomy, private suite with a large, comfy bed really began to turn things around.
The next day I really wasn’t up for the four hour tour of the Holy City because of my inability to sleep for prolonged periods of time. I’m not religious, but I started to empathize with the suffering of Christ as I followed the footsteps of his final hours alive.
I say this not to diminish his suffering, but merely to emphasize the fact that what is usually an uplifting experience for the faithful, was to me tantamount to the Bataan death march. Sorry for the hyperbole, but I really felt like shit for the duration. Oy! Thankfully my subsequent visits would prove more pleasant and rewarding.
HOLY CITY TOUR
APPROACHING THE ENTRANCE TO THE HOLY CITY
THE JAFFA GATE
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER – THE SECOND HOLIEST SITE IN CHRISTENDOM
DETAIL OF FRONT DOOR
The faithful prostrate themselves on the stone where Jesus’c corpse was prepared for burial.
ONE OF CHRISTENDOM’S HOLIEST SITES – The lower portion of the rock upon which Christ was crucified.
Faithful await their turn to visit the Resurrection Zone.
AN INNOCUOUS STOOL – This was the considered to be the center of the known universe. No kidding. Of course this was at a time when they still thought that the sun revolved around the Earth, and yet we lend such credibility to a book that can’t even correctly identify the basic movements of the planets.
SEVENTH STATION OF THE CROSS
En Route to the Western Wall
FIFTH STATION OF THE CROSS
THE WESTERN WALL
THE WESTERN WALL
The religious can usually be counted on for displays of a variety of unusual headgear. How about the Pope’s hat? Of course I don’t recall any Mormon hats, but they do have their own special brand of magic underwear.
Such a variety of costumes.
Lot’s of rocking back and forth going on here. I supposed it’s meant to maximize the efficacy of the prayers.
It’s a cool place to visit, but I still don’t understand how going to a wall or a giant black cube is supposed answer prayers or effect change in your life. It all seems like one big spiritual placebo to me.
COSSOVER BRIDGE AND CHECKPOINT TO THE TEMPLE MOUNT
And yet the faithful facing the Wall praying to an invisible being, fail to notice a UFO hovering nearby. Okay I blew it up, and it’s a bird. But at a distance it bears a resemblance to a flying saucer with the sun shining on one side of it.
Picnic in the foreground of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
AL-AQSA MOSQUE – THE THIRD HOLIEST SITE IN ISLAM
THE DOME OF THE ROCK
The Dome of the Rock is in its core one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture. It is also considered to be the spot where the prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven on a winged horse.
Ironically, it is also the holiest spot for the Jewish people, who are only allowed to wander a distant perimeter. In Jewish tradition the rock bears significance as the Foundation Stone from which the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered dust to create the first human, Adam. It is considered to be the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more than any other place. Damn, this city is just tailor made for never-ending conflict and unresolved issues.
The gold for that beautiful dome was donated by the King of Jordan.
A TRULY BEAUTIFUL AND CONTROVERSIAL PLACE
ENTRANCE TO THE CITY
Thankfully the entrances were walled off. This is good news because those archways are the thoroughfare through which Jesus is due to return with his coming apocalypse. When are we going to get rid of these dangerous belief systems, and get down to the business of saving humanity from it’s own credulity and greed?
Here’s a harmless myth that gets the kiddies ready for the ones to be foisted upon them in the future.
HISTORICALLY SOME OF THE BEST ODDS FOR PRAYERS THAT GET ANSWERED
Soldiers, Machine Guns and Children, oh my!
It’s quite possible that the sinus infection that’s taken hold of me has clouded my opinion of Jerusalem. Passover has made finding a good meal difficult, sleep has been fleeting due to a sore shoulder, but I was relieved to have found a medical clinic in the Old City where a doctor saw me regarding my budding sinus infection and torn rotator cuff pain. He sorted me out for a mere $45. Just that in and of itself made me start to feel better. I think I was severely allergic to the floor cleaner they used in the Tel Aviv hostel. I was in the room a number of times when they swabbed the deck so I think that’s what finished me off. That and the generally dusty nature of Tel Aviv.
I wonder if the French donated this to Jerusalem. I’m having serious Gallic flashbacks, but I can’t find a decent omelet for the life of me.
MISSION BABA MEZUZAH
In all likelihood BABA (Jenny – Mom of Yelena – Grandmother of Dina – Great Grandmother of my granddaughters, Mia & Aria) at the age of 92 will not be making the trip to Israel in this lifetime. This is regrettable since in addition to being a devout Jew, she is also a fine human being. Given this injustice, I felt it only appropriate that if we couldn’t take her to Israel, we could at least bring a little bit of Israel back to her.
The mission began with a well designed, carefully chosen mezuzah which was hand carved from the finest quality Jerusalem stone. The second phase of the mission involved procuring a scroll blessed by a local rabbi, and placing it into the recessed back of the mezuzah. The third and final phase of the mission involved an incursion into the Holy City for a second visit to the Western Wall for the purpose of introducing the mezuzah into one of the most Holy sites of the Jewish people. The adventure not only served as a tidy little mitzvah, but a thoroughly enjoyable revisiting of the area which completely transformed my overall experience of Jerusalem.
En route to the Western Wall.
A man and wife admire a large menorah on their way to the wall.
THE WESTERN WALL – The Main Attraction
JEWS OF ALL STRIPES PREPARE TO SUBMIT SERIOUS PRAYERS
THIS IS WHERE THE RELIGIOUS RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
BABA’S MEZUZAH IS GETTING SUPERCHARGED FROM PROLONGED DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE HALLOWED WESTERN WALL ITSELF SO THAT WHEN IT FINDS ITS FINAL RESTING PLACE ON HER DOORPOST, IT SHOULD RENDER PERPETUAL GOOD FORTUNE AND HAPPINESS. RATHER THAN OPTING FOR THE “SINGLE PRAYER” PIECES OF PAPER YOU SEE CRAMMED BETWEEN THE ROCKS, IT IS MY BELIEF THAT THIS MEZUZAH WILL PROVIDE ANSWERED PRAYERS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. IT LOOKS AS IF A SOMEONE IS ATTEMPTING TO UTILIZE THE SAME CONCEPT WITH THEIR HOLY BOOK WHICH IS PROPPED UP NEXT TO BABA’S MEZUZAH.
THE TRAVEL ZEALOT – KIPPA ON HEAD, MEZUZAH IN HAND, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
CABLE CAR TO THE MASADA FORTRESS
MOUNTAINTOP LOOMS LARGE
STUNNING TOPOGRAPHY ABOUNDS
Two large cable cars carrying people back and forth all day long. This attraction has turned into a real cash cow.
The Dead Sea used to reach the people walking on the path on the left.
People doing the climb instead. No thank you.
ON THE MOUNTAINTOP
Currently in the process of drying up, the Red Sea used to cover most of the land in the foreground.
THE COMMANDANTS HOUSE
The Commandants of the desert fortresses were apparently trusted associates of the King, prominent men who had held public office. This splendid residential building was located at the main entrance of the storeroom complex and the Northern Palace.
Some of the interior coloration survives the test of time.
THE STOREROOM COMPLEX
RUSSIAN TOUR GUIDE LEADING GROUP – A NOVEL USE OF A LIGHT SABER, IT IS
MODEL OF THE FULL COMPLEX
DEAD SEA PANORAMA
PATHS TO THE LOWER NORTHERN PALACE
BATH HOUSE COMPLEX
PORTIONS OF INTERIOR COLORATION REMAIN
These posts supported a heated floor.
DISCOVERY LOCATION OF THE “LOTS”
As it became clear that the Roman’s would breach the walls of the fortress, a decision was made by the Jews to commit suicide rather than be subjected a life of slavery. Men were in charge of killing their families, but then they killed each other by drawing lots drawn onto broken pieces of pottery.
“…then, having chosen lot ten of their number to dispatch the rest…these, having unswervingly slaughtered all, ordained the same rule of the lot for one another, that he on whom it fell should slay first the nine and then himself last of all.
Here several hundred inscribed pottery shards were found. Outstanding among them was a group consisting of names, and nicknames, including the name “Ben Ya’ir” Yigael Yadin, the most distinguished of Masada’s excavators, connected this group with Josephus Flavius’ story of the drawing of the lots on the last night of the revolt.
COLUMBARIUM TOWER (dovecot)
Why did the King raise doves on a mountain? There were three columbarium tower in Masada. The one pictured was used as a dovecot in its ground floor, and as a watchtower in its upper story. In the walls of the dovecot are several hundred niches in which the doves roosted. They supplied meat for Masada’s inhabitants and guests, and probably also fertilizer for agricultural crops.
Here the siege of Masada ended. The ramp that the Romans had built up to the summit of the mountain reached to below this point. At the top of the ramp rose the siege tower, and in it was the battering ram with which the Romans assaulted the casemate wall. However the Jewish rebels had built a wall of earth and wood, against which the battering ram was ineffective.
When night fell, and it was clear that the situation was hopeless and that the Romans would break in at dawn, Eleazar Ben Ya’ir gathered his followers and called for a mass suicide.
“The Romans expecting further opposition…were at a loss to conjecture what had happened…Here encountering the mass of the slain, instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and the contempt of death displayed by so many in carrying it out, unwavering, into execution.”
DEAD SEA FROM ABOVE
DEAD SEA FROM BELOW – Floating in the healing waters and smearing on the therapeutic mud.