The old city of Jerusalem is TINY. It is one square kilometer and built atop its own ruins. In some excavated areas I could look down ten feet and see the top of the city walls from 800 BC. The current streets and walls date from 1537 AD.
Every street is packed with history, and even sites holy to only one religion are contentious. The church of the Holy Sepulcher (Golgotha and the empty tomb) is shared by six Christian denominations and they sometimes fight each other to the death. As we waited in line to enter the tomb, we noticed a cat across from the Greek Orthodox priest. We pet the cat until the priest walked to the edge of his chapel and started hissing at us. Was it his cat? Was it a Syrian Orthodox cat? Was he hissing at the cat? We didn’t understand, but we couldn’t see how petting the cat would upset him. After the fourth time of hissing at the crowd he growled “No photos” and we realized the cat had nothing to do with him hissing.
To better understand the the 3,000 years of Jerusalem history, we took a walking tour.
Temple Mount held Solomon’s temple then Herod’s temple, but for the last 1400 years it has held the Dome of the Rock. Jewish people pray at the Western Wall supporting the Mount because it is the closest location to where their temple once stood.
Just outside the city is the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. A lovely church sits at the bottom along with a representation of what the garden tomb would have looked like.
Adjacent to Jerusalem is the City of David and the water spring funnelled by Hezekiah’s aqueduct built in 800 BC. It was a rainy, wintry day and too cold for us to wade through the water tunnel so we climbed through a dry Caananite tunnel instead.
With five days in Jerusalem we had time to take a trip to the Dead Sea. It is a two-hour bus ride to the lowest elevation on Earth (1,400 feet below sea level). The water is a bit cold, but it is so much fun to effortlessly float. Any silly pose short of standing and we would still float to the top. I kept my face out of the water, but Aaron says it tastes like fire.
From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, we then crossed the border into Jordan. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are only a few miles away and we can see them across the water. We will not be visiting them on this trip.
While we had enough of Israel, we will be enjoying Mediterranean food for a while longer.