Homer's Travels: 2022 Fall Travels, Part One - Israel - Bethlehem, Masada, And The Dead Sea

Monday, November 07, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part One - Israel - Bethlehem, Masada, And The Dead Sea

The next day we spent part of the morning visiting Yod Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.  Our guide had never entered the exhibits ... and he did not enter this time either.  I think it would have made him think and that might have proved difficult for him.  The museum was well put together but I think the one in Washington D.C. evokes more emotion.

The "Manger" where Jesus was born.
After the museum we went to Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is in the Palestinian zone so we picked up a Palestinian guide when we entered the city.  First stop was the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born.  Here you learn that the manger, often likened to a barn, was actually the deepest part of an inhabited cave where the animals were kept.

After the church we joined our Palestinian guide at his home for a homemade lunch.  The tour company we use always includes a meal with a local family and our guide's meal was one of the best such meals we've ever had.  We wanted to talk to our Palestinian guide about their relationship with the Israelis but the presence of the Israeli guide prevented us from talking candidly.

Our last last stop in Bethlehem was for shopping.  We were expecting a nice market with lots of shops and a good selection of stuff to buy.  Our guide practically told us this is what we would see.  Instead we got one store that sold only olive wood sculptures (which happen to be on our list of things to buy) that were all overpriced.  We were so disappointed.  After we returned to Jerusalem for the day we all walked back to Old Jerusalem, went to the Arab quarter, and bought just about everything we wanted from a couple very nice vendors and got reasonable prices.

While we were in old Jerusalem we visited a tattoo place the Wife had heard about and had wanted to go to for a long time (She had asked our guide to take us but he refused saying it was out of the way and would not be easy to visit - more likely it was because it was owned by an Arab).  It turned out it was near the entrance to the city, a thirty second walk from where we had been on the tour.  The Razzouk Tattoo parlor has been tattooing pilgrims since 1300.  The Wife didn't want a tattoo but she did get one stamped on her arm in ink.  We talked with the owner and had a few laughs.

It was shabbat so lots of places were closed but, since many of the service workers were Palestinian, you could still find places to eat and shop.  Our hotel had half of their elevators in shabbat mode - they stopped at every floor and you didn't need to push a button to call it so you could use them without violating shabbat.

Food in Israel was a bit odd since there were so many rules.  Dairy was only available for breakfast (which explains cheesecake being a breakfast item) but not during other meals.  Our guide told us a story about a tourist that liked butter on their meat who had snuck some from breakfast to use during dinner.  A devout Jew saw her put the butter on the meat and, not only were the entire tour group kicked out of the restaurant, but they were kicked out of the hotel.  The restaurant had to close to be cleansed properly and silverware had to be thrown out.  Fortunately, on shabbat, we found a good restaurant to eat at.

Masada - the fortress on the top of this plateau.
Our last day in Israel took us to Masada.  Masada is a fortress built by King Herod on a plateau looking over desert and the Dead Sea.  You take a cable car up to the fortress where you take in the magnificent view and learn the history.  A group of Jews stayed here until they were besieged by the Romans.  The Jews chose to commit suicide instead of becoming slaves.

The view from Masada - a dry desert and a salty Dead Sea in the distance.
After Masada we visited a resort on the Dead Sea and went floating on its salty water (you are so buoyant you can't really swim in the normal sense).  The Wife and I had done this before during our Jordan trip so we enjoyed it through our tour mates.

Floating in the Dead Sea.
After our swim we had lunch at the resort.  It was a well stocked buffet.  As I was going to the dessert bar I discovered that my shoe tread and the slightly salty marble of the floor were not very compatible.  I turned a corner and my feet went out from under me.  Ended up with a painful lump just below my left knee and a slightly over extended left wrist.

Wadi Qelt and the Monastery of St. George.
On the drive back we visited a viewpoint to see a fifth-century Monastery of St. George.  The monastery is on the left side of the panorama and you can see a close up here.

Back in Jerusalem we had our goodbye dinner.  It was next door to where we'd eaten the night before.  Like the welcome dinner, our guide did not join us.  By now we'd all decided this wasn't such a bad thing.

Israel turned out to be very interesting and very exhausting.  I am not a religious person but even I was in awe of the history we experienced.  In my opinion another day needs to be added to spread things out a little more.  By the end of our days we were all hot, tired, and half dead on our feet.  Our guide, while very knowledgeable, had his faults and irritants.  He also got us to places before the crowds showed up and made sure we had a good experience wherever we went.

Israel was behind us as we flew to our next destination: Türkiye (Turkey)

Photos can be found in my 2022-09 Israel Google Photos album.

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