Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 3 in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum, Mount of Olives Tour, Shabbat Dinner

I woke up around 9:30 am this morning, I looked at the clock on my phone and got up.  I knew I wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum and the Mount of Olives today, I needed to get moving early to squeeze it all in.  I left my hostel around 10:30 am, bought some pastries for breakfast at the bakery next door and got on the tram headed for Israel's Holocaust Museum.

I arrived at the museum a little after 11 am, I gave myself 2 hours to go through the exhibits at the museum, not enough time to read everything, but enough time to see the museum.  I would have spent more time at Israel's Holocaust Museum, but the Mount of Olives tour began at 2 pm, at the other end of the light rail line, in Jerusalem's Old City.

The museum is located on a beautiful hill in Jerusalem, there were tour buses at the museum, but it was not as crowded as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  After passing through the information center, I was alone walking into the building, no big crowds, just me walking past security to enter the museum.  The security guard told me no picture taking in the museum as I walked by, there was no line, no crowd, just me entering the museum.

Lynnae outside Israel's Holocaust Musem
There were more people when I entered the Holocaust Museum but nothing compared to the crowds in Washington, DC.  I did not have to wait in line to view an exhibit.  The museum does not admit children under 10 years old, I expected there would be graphic material, there was not, most of it focused on the history and events leading up to the holocaust.  One exhibit was about a woman who said she needed to rest so she sat on the Jewish only bench, she said she was humiliated, made me think about segregation in the US.  There were many stories about individuals experience during the holocaust throughout the museum.  One boy wrote he wanted to fly in a bird with an engine and see this beautiful world, at the end, it said he was murdered at Auschwitz.  The stories about the people, the victims of the holocaust, were the most moving part of the museum.

I had to pace myself at the Holocaust Museum, it was a museum where I could spend a lot of time, reading the stories, they were stories that drew me in, made me want to read them.  There was also historical information about the Nazis, the progression to the final solution.  Reading the history, I always wonder, how could people let this happen, I have had conversations about this with others.  How can people see horrific crimes being committed and remain passive or become active participants.  That is a question for another blog, there are sociological theories that have attempted to answer these questions, I will not get into them here.  

I left the Holocaust Museum a little after 1 pm to catch the light rail to Jaffa Square, go to the ATM, then head to the Jaffa Gate, the meeting point for the Mount of Olives tour.  The first ATM I tried did not work, today is Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and Jerusalem is observant, many things had closed by early afternoon.  I found another working ATM, I was in West Jerusalem, my impression was the old city shutdown for Shabbat, I was wrong, West Jerusalem shuts down too. 

I got to the meeting point about 5 minutes before the tour was scheduled to begin. I paid the 95 shekels, saw someone from my hostel, chatted with her for a minute, then our group went to wait for the shuttle bus that would transport us to the Mount of Olives. Our tour of the Mount of Olives began at the Chapel of the Ascension, the point where it is believed Jesus ascended to heaven.
The Chapel of the Ascension

Slab believed to contain Jesus' Foot print inside the Chapel of the Ascension
Our next stop was the Church of the Pater Noster, the sight where it is believed Jesus taught the Lord's prayer.  The Lord's prayer  is translated into all languages and displayed throughout the courtyards and inside the chapel of the church.

Me at sight where it is believed Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer

Lynnae with the Lord's Prayer in Japanese
We continued our walk past the best view of Jerusalem's Old City I had seen, we walked past a Jewish Graveyard, where one of Israel's Prime Ministers, Menachem Begin is buried, most of Israel's Prime Ministers and other dignitaries are buried at Mount Herzl National Cemetery

Me looking at Jerusalem's Old City from the Mount of Olives

Jewish Cemetery Mount of Olives
Our next stop was the Dominus Flevit where it is believed Jesus foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem and wept

Dominus Flevit
Next we went to Hotrvs Gethsemane, the garden where according to the Gospels, Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before Jesus' crucifixion.
Garden of Gethsemane 
We went to the Church of All Nations after visiting the Garden of Gethsemane.  This church contains the rock where it is believed Jesus prayed before his arrest, we were able to go up to the rock and touch it because mass was not in session.  People surrounded the rock praying, and taking pictures.

Me touching the rock where it is believed Jesus prayed before his arrest
The last stop on the Mount of Olives tour was the Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary,  believed to contained the Virgin Mary's tomb, her tomb is said to be at other places too.

Me entering door to Mary's Tomb
The Mount of Olives tour lasted 3 hours, I am happy I went on a tour and not alone.  Our tour guide told us Mount of Olives is a dangerous neighborhood, not safe for women to explore alone or even in pairs, I did not get this sense, but I was with a large group.  The neighborhood seemed safe, but again, there is safety in numbers, sometimes at least. After the tour some people walked the 25 minute  back to Jerusalem's old city through the Lion's Gate, I chose to go with the group that paid 10 shekels for a ride to the  Jaffa Gate. I would have normally walked but I was hungry and had a walk back to my hostel.  

A couple of women staying at my hostel mentioned they were going to the Shabbat dinner, after talking to them I decided to go.  There were not many choices for food in Jerusalem tonight, it is Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and Jerusalem has a large observant Jewish population, the city shuts down.  The light rail was not running after our tour ended around 5 pm, I think we saw the last train pass us on our walk back to the hostel.  Then the light rail signs said not in service.  Almost all the shops along the street to our hostel were closed too.  I found one open and bought a snickers bar and some cashews to hold me over until dinner time at 8 pm.  Jerusalem became a Ghost town on Friday afternoon in observance of the Shabbat. 

I bought my 35 shekel ticket to the Shabbat dinner when I returned to the hostel.  The hostel has a communal Shabbat dinner, the attendees, help prepare the food, and clean up after the meal. My job was cutting the garlic, something that has never been a favorite task, but it was not bad, I was surrounded by people preparing food for our Shabbat dinner. We heard the Shabbat siren sound on the streets of Jerusalem a little before 7 pm indicating Shabbat had officially began, the siren sounded for about a minute it seemed. 

Me chopping Garlic for the Shabbat Dinner
We were all hungry, waiting for the food to be ready.  The staff kept bringing new dishes to the buffet table, we watched, took pictures and talked, it looked and smelled delicious.  I met a few new people at the Shabbat dinner, a Russian who has lived in Israel for many years,  couple from Hong Kong on a two week vacation, they went to Jordan before coming to Israel, and a woman from Montreal, she is on a 3.5 month tour of Israel, she wanted to see the real Israel, beyond what is reported on the news.

Part of the Shabbat Dinner Spread 
Around 8:20 pm the last dish was placed on the buffet table, the Russian turned to me and said "soon we can eat." Before dinner a member of the hostel staff gave us a brief background on the Shabbat.  He explained Challah, he said the 12 humps in the roll signify the 12 tribes of Israel. Then a woman staying at the hostel lit a candle. Next,  a man staying at the hostel performed the Challah ceremony, ripping off a hunk of the bread, drinking some wine, and we all followed suit, happy to start eating.

Me and my Shabbat Dinner Plate
The Shabbat dinner was a delicious, fun, and educational experience.  I enjoyed it from the beginning to end and was glad I happened to be in Jerusalem to observe Shabbat, learn more about Jewish culture and meet new people.  I had a full day, it is time for me to go to sleep. Tomorrow I have a full day outside Jerusalem, I go to the West Bank, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Ramallah. 

Jerusalem Day 3 Photo Album

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