Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Shalom Israel!

Sadly today is our last day in Israel.  It was another free day (so glad Father planned the free days towards the end of the trip) so Mark and I headed to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.  The light rail stop for Yad Vashem is the last one on the line (Mt. Herzl) so we got to see more of Jerusalem along the way.  Once you get off the light rail, its about a 10 minute walk to the museum.  Admission is free for individuals but there is a fee for I would limit going with at most four people.  They do have audio guides for hire at the visitor center but we just opted to wing it.

They don't allow photos once inside the museum itself so this is the only photo I was able to take in the visitors center.  This hand-knitted shirt was left by Marcel Levi's mother in 1943 with a neighbor for safekeeping when the family was deported from Greece to Auschwitz.  Marcel is the only survivor from his family as all were killed in Auschwitz.  When he was liberated by the US Army from Dachau, he returned to Greece where he received the shirt and a few other possessions.  In 1948, Marcel immigrated to the Land of Israel where he fought in the War of Independence.

While Yad Vashem was moving, I prefer the  Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC.  I didn't feel as though I could get a connection with the people and stories while walking through Yad Vashem. The exhibits in DC resonated more with me and left me feeling sad and angry.  When I left Yad Vashem, I only felt as though I had been to a museum about a time in history.

View from Yad Vashem...

After Yad Vashem, we made our way back to the light rail with the plan to go back to Notre Dame and have lunch then check out an exhibit we heard was pretty cool.  The light rail attendant told us to get off at the Jaffa stop and while making our way to Notre Dame, we stumbled across BurgersBar and had to stop.  The place was packed with police and military so we figured it had to be good.  While we waited on line, I asked one of the police officers if it was good and gave it a big thumbs up.  The other thing going for the spot was they had outdoor seating so we could do some people watching (until the most wretched smell came over the area as we had just finished eating).  I must say it was one dang good burger...especially the  garlic aioli that came with it.

I love it when I am traveling with someone that isn't attached to plans and can just go with the flow.  After we finished eating, we decided to forego Notre Dame and just wander around and find our way back to the hotel.  We ended up taking one last walk through the Old City and while walking through streets, a vendor started talking to us and asked where we were from.  When we said we were from the States, he asked if we could spell a word for him as he wanted to make sure he spelled it correctly.  So we went into his store and Mark wrote out expanding for him.  Turns out he is opening store number 3...has one in the Christian Quarter, one in the Jewish Quarter and one in the Muslim Quarter.  He asked if we were enjoying our time in Israel and we said we were but we were sad as we were leaving tonight.

He told me to sit down and he would make me some earrings as a thank you for helping him.  So, I sat down and watched him make these earrings.  While doing so, I learned he is the  4th generation to own these stores and when he has a son it will go to him.  He was a handsome Armenian...25, young and strong as he told me.  This is definitely an experience I will not forget and a great end to a wonderful trip.

A full moon bid us adieu as we arrived at our farewell dinner en route to Ben Gurion Airport.  This has been an amazing adventure and I am so blessed to have been able to make this pilgrimage with this group.  There were many serendipitous moments along the journey and I'm so thankful for the friendships that have come from this experience.  Before leaving for Israel, people told me this would be life changing for me.  I must admit I don't leave Israel feeling as though I had one of those "earth-shattering, my life is forever changed" experiences.  I think perhaps for me it is more subtle and something that as I return and continue to grow in my faith, reflect on some of the conversations had and live life, I will say "the seed for this was planted in Israel."

Shalom and Toda Raba Israel!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Museum, A Wall and A Lot of Churches

Today is our last day with Tamar and man did we cover a lot of ground...not sure I'll get the order right.

Our first stop of the day was the Israeli Museum so we could see the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Photography wasn't permitted but must admit I did sneak one quick photo.  There was also a very cool model of what Jerusalem looked like during the Second Temple period.

Knesset (Israel's legislative branch)
Probably the one place I wish I would have
been able to visit but time just did not permit

We headed back to the Old City and visited Dormition Abbey.  This is where Mary "fell asleep" and then in Catholicism, we believe her assumption into heaven occurred. On the lower level of the church, there is a beautiful carving of Mary asleep.

Near the Dormition Abbey is the place believed to be the burial spot of King David.  This is considered a holy place for Jews to pray.  Just like the Western Wall, men pray on one side of a partition and women on the other.

The Western Wall is probably the most important Jewish shrine. The name The Wailing Wall is not a Hebrew term but rather one used by Gentiles and is considered to be undignified.  While there are three other walls around the Temple Mount, the western wall is the place where Jews will pray because it is the closest to where the Second Temple once stood.  You can leave your written prayers/petitions in the cracks in the wall but make sure you fold it into a very small piece as the space is tight.  The pieces of paper are removed several times a year and burned in a Jewish cemetery.

There are separate prayer spaces for men and women.  Men are required to wear a head covering...they have disposable kippahs (yamakas) if you do not have a head covering.  Women should dress modestly (no shorts or bare arms) and wear a head covering (bring your own as they do not provide for women).  If you visit during Shabbat, make sure you have written your prayers as it is forbidden to do any type of work on Shabbat.  Photography is allowed except on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (cock's crow) is believed to be the location of the dungeon where Jesus was kept after being taken in the Garden of Gethsemane.


The mosaic from outside the church shows
the ropes placed on Jesus in preparation
for being lowered through this hole
Dungeon in which Jesus was kept

Steps to Gethsemane
Jesus and His disciples took these steps after the Last Supper

The rest of the day is really dedicated towards St. John the Baptist and the visitation of his mother, Elizabeth, by Mary.  The Church of St. John Ba Harim is believed to be the place where John was born.  In the grotto of the church, an alter is located and under it is a marker for the spot where John was born. We celebrated our final mass in Israel here.

St John the Baptist birthplace

St Clare of Assisi
Patron saint for our parish

The Benedictus
Song of thanksgiving offered by
Zachariah after the birth of John

Our final stop of the day was Mary's Spring and the Church of the Visitation.  Mary stopped at the spring before going to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  The Church of the Visitation is said to be built over the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah where Mary went upon learning her cousin was pregnant with John.  "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth filled with the Holy Ghost: And spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1: 41-42)

There's an ancient tradition that says a spring joyfully
burst out of the rock here when Mary greeted Elizabeth

Rock behind which John the Baptist was hidden
to avoid the killing ordered after Jesus was born

Note: while not a long walk, it is a very steep walk up to the Church of the Visitation.  

As we were making our way back to the hotel, I asked Father if Mark and I could hop off if we were close to the Damascus Gate.  We wanted to go back to Church of the Holy Sepulchre since we didn't get to go into Jesus' tomb on Saturday.  It was the perfect time to go as it was almost closing time so the church was not crowded.  We were able to spend time at the Washing Stone, go inside Jesus' Tomb and then go down below Calvary.

Chapel below church en route to below Calvary

Under Calvary

It makes me very happy when I travel and am able to get so familiar with a place I am able to find my way around with little assistance from a map.  For me I know I have become part of the place and the place has become part of me which is something that can never be taken from me.  Between the two us, Mark and I made our way around the Old City and back to the hotel.  This put me in my happy place as we returned to the hotel and joined our group for dinner.

This has been another action packed day and after a night cap, it was time to pack as leave tomorrow.

Layla Tov!