Wednesday, May 9, 2018


My pilgrimage to Israel offered an extension to visit the country of Jordan.  It was a few more days and a little more money to go to Jordan.  I jumped at the chance because it fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine, to see Jordan.

An unusual lifelong dream you might say.  I would agree.  Here is the back story--When I was in 6th grade one of the traditions was that the 6th graders put on an international fair at the end of their 6th grade year.  We learned dances from other countries, sang songs, ate food, costumes, the works.  And the one of the major elements of the fair was a display of a different country made by each one of us.  I had toured those displays throughout my elementary career.

And for reasons that confuse me now, I ended up with the country Jordan for my year long study.  We were encouraged to pick countries we knew nothing about so I randomly picked Jordan because I knew a lot about other countries.  I had never heard of Jordan as a 6th grader.  There is a reason for that.  In the early 1960s before the Internet, encyclopedias were a main source of information for such things as reports.  My encyclopedia at home had only a very small group of paragraphs about Jordan.  I struggled to find any information at all for my display.

And what I remember from my study of Jordan was that it was a desert, with Arabs, and nomads.  Over the years I read about Jordan whenever it came up in the news and I knew more things about Jordan than most people because I was interested.  I thought I would never have an opportunity to see the real country.  And then this Jordan extension thing was offered.  A chance to see this country that I had studied throughout my life.

But, first we had to leave Israel.  I took one more shot of the corner across from the hotel.  That was the mosque tower was below my room.  I stayed at the Olive Tree Hotel which seems like a place that a lot of pilgrims stay.  Little raindrops kissed the bus, even though the sky was blue.
Light poles, traffic, street lights these were things so evident in Israel.
Even though they travel on the right side of the road, I am glad that I didn't have to drive in Israel.
My eyes wanted to eat up the last looks at the Holy land.
Jerusalem in the morning was a familiar sight.
The hills were turning green from the rainy season.
The food was grown in many different ways in Israel to protect the plants from the sun and to maximize production.
These crops were covered in plastic to hold in the moisture.  This kind of food production makes it possible for Israel to produce most of the food necessary to feed the people.
And the ever present date palms.  They raise a lot of dates in Israel.  We were approaching the border.  I put my camera away.  I had heard horror stories of people arrested for taking pictures of the wrong things or all of the photos destroyed. I decided not to have my camera out at all.  At the border crossing our Israeli guide left us and we had to change buses.  One of our ladies on the pilgrimage lost her ticket to enter Jordan, she apparently dropped it and it was stolen by someone.  She had to pay another $60 for a permit to enter Jordan.  We sat around until our bus came and then we loaded up.  Our luggage was loaded for us.
In Jordan things were less neat and tidy.  I tried to get a picture of the stop sign.
Things were not close to the road.  They had had some rare rain in Jordan that day.  The desert fields were muddy.
Those may have been Jordanian date palms in the distance.
It was a dry brown desert in Jordan.
Sheep in the field.
And still desert.
And desert.
At the far left side you can perhaps see a camel.  Poor photography for sure.  But hard to take pictures from a moving bus.
We were aiming for lunch because even though we reached no where in particular, half the day was gone.
So we stopped in this little town and went to this little restaurant buffet.  The cook was Indian, from India...a sister on our pilgrimage was from India and she was delighted by the food.
We went to a town that was far up the mountains or hills.  We were headed to a church. Madaba, Jordan has the oldest map of the Holy land in a mosaic on the church floor.
We parked and walked up hill to the church.
The sign explaining that this is the Church of St George.
This is a reproduction of the mosaic map.
Look at the potty symbol.  I had never seen one doing a potty dance before.
And the mosaic.
Ancient mosaic in a Byzantine church.
Some of the parts of the mosaics were missing.
It is beyond imaging who would make a map out of little stones and place it in a church way up in Jordan.
Our Christian guide told us that the Christian community wanted to build a church, but the Islamic authorities would not permit a church where there had never been one before.  Finding the mosaic proved that there was a church there, and allowed this church to be built.
The church was decorated like this above the mosaic.
I wonder if this is the Baptismal font.
Walking back to the bus, we went through part of the town.  I would have liked time to shop.  But, I had no Jordanian currency.  See the dolls?
At the top of the three story building see the pillars?  Our guide told us that houses were taxed by stories, and since land was expensive, families built floors on top to accommodate new family members.  But until the money was saved or the story was needed, the pillars were left on top of the buildings.
I like dolls.  As a 64 year old, it is silly, I know.  But, I like dolls.  I would have tried to buy one of thee if i had the money.
Instead I took pictures.  Probably better than buying one because what would I do with it?
They were jazzing up the parking area for the buses.
They had a mosaic reproduction on the walls surrounding the bus.
Fascinating to look at signs completely beyond any understanding by me.
Baby strollers!  And words in English.
And Coke is everywhere.

An old military display. and we still had miles to go and things to see and Mass to celebrate before we slept.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Finishing Off Israel

After lunch on Wednesday we had some time to ourselves.  I still had things to see at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre so I joined the people going there. The alternative was going shopping in the old city and trying to bargain.  I had already purchased the things I wanted and I knew whatever I bought I would have to carry, so I didn't want to shop.
This is a repeat photo of the Church of the holy Sepulchre.  Since I had used a lot of flash that morning and forgotten to bring extra batteries that day, I tried to be  a little frugal with photos and I really wish I had taken more.  Also, I know that late in the day, I am less interested in the job of photography and more just trying to keep up.
This was an archway by the church.
Inside I most wanted to see the empty tomb.  I had told my friend who had passed away and another person that I would pray for them there.  And I wanted to pray there.  The holiest place, where Christ's body was not.  He is risen.  It was really dark.  I wasn't sure if the Orthodox priests that were controlling the site were into flash photography.  They were a little bossy, those priests. They did not allow photography and 6 people went into the tomb room at one time. 
Here is a little better picture of the empty tomb.  It was carved into a hillside originally and the rest of the hill has been dug out, so it is hard to imagine how it all looked in Christ's time.  And then all of the church fancies have been built around it.
This is a terrible photo, but I tried to get a picture of this candle offering just on the other side of the tomb.  There were these braided candles that some people got, maybe they were buying them?  Because they were braided the light was bright.
But obviously it was a photo fail.
As we left to meet the group, I got another picture of the church. Then we met the group.  I got a piece of baklava with the group while we waited.  Because we had another trek around the old city.
We went through the Cardo, the center market to get to the other side of the city.
We didn't have time to buy any of the spices or the breads or other goods offered.  We just feasted our eyes.
And finally we had another airport type security to go through because we reached the Western Wall.
And this is the Western Wall.  The tube looking thing toward the top right goes up to the Temple Mount where we did not go.  The Arabs wouldn't let our guide come and there were pieces of literature like the Bible that could not go up there and our guide said that tourists were discouraged from going there.  I think there were a couple of times a day when you could go, and we had missed that anyway.
The day we went to St Peter in Gallicantu when VP Pence was there instead was the day we were supposed to have gone to the Western wall, teaching steps and a museum by the wall.  Instead we packed it into this day. The men's and women's sides were separated and like most good churches, the women were packed and the men had lots of extra room.
As part of a peace treaty in one of the wars with Israel, the Israelis gave the whole of the top of the Temple Mount to the Arabs in order for there to be peace.  The Jews had long worshipped at the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah.  This was where Abraham had taken his son Isaac to sacrifice.  The Islamic religion shares Father Abraham.  Herod the Great, who was not so great, according to our guide, was a builder.  The Temple Mount was created by building a wall around the Mount Moriah and filling in dirt and then building the temple there.  There had been other temples there, built by Solomon for one, but Herod built a grand temple.  Herod the Great was not Jewish.  He had some connection by marriage to Judaism, the favorite wife he murdered, I believe.
The Jews leave prayers in the western wall and go there to pray because it is the closest they can get to the temple.  The January day we were there was relatively quiet.  We saw pictures of Holy Days when this square is packed.
On the woman's side you had to wait a push a little forward as someone left to get up to touch the wall and leave your prayers in the cracks of the wall. 
I prayed and left a prayer in the wall.
This is looking away from the wall, back at the city.
There were obviously guard towers secreted up there on top of the buildings. 
Then we went on the the Museum and teaching steps.  This part of the wall was here at the time of Christ.
And flowers bloom in January in the Holyland.
The gray dome is the Al Acba (spelling?) Mosque on the Temple Mount.  Straight ahead in the distant center is the Mount of Olives.
In the Museum this map showed where the ancient cities were.  Jerusalem on the right and Joppa and Caesarea on the left where the Sea was.
These display showed how Israel is the center of three continents.

Thought this showed what the Temple looked like, but as I study this, it doesn't look right.  Something from the Museum.
These are Widow's mites, the smallest coins.
And we looked at the wall.  This was part of the old wall, but not at the temple.  Our guide told us amazing things about how heavy each block of stone was and how it was an amazing feat to built this wall.
She told us these things from down below, but several of us refused to climb more steps than necessary.  I wish I had been younger in Israel.
And I think there may have been a moat down there, or maybe I am making that up in my mind.
But building the walls of the temple and the city in ancient times or even today was amazing.
And these builders knew how to add touches like the part that jutted out.
 But really ancient building.
If I remember correctly, one block weighed something like 20 tons.
Then we went on to the Teaching Steps.  This is the place where St Peter is thought to have preached to thousands and they were all Baptized then.  The reason why this has been identified as the teaching steps is the pools that were there to purify people before they went into the temple.  There were enough pools there that thousands could have been Baptized.  This is one of the pools.
And then we went and had a sit down on the Teaching Steps.  It was a large enough area to have been an outdoor church.
I imagined those Apostles with us as we climbed up the steps.
We could see the Mosque from there.
The steps were rough and uneven from the many years, but steps over 2000 years old!
Looking out at Jerusalem with the other camera.
And another look.
And we passed this mural perhaps showing what the steps were like back in the ancient day.
And this wall was not explained to us, but it was old and carried on from Jerusalem.
And we passed it on the way to the bus to head to our hotel for dinner, and some of our party packed up and took a bus to the airport and some of us packed to leave for Jordan the next morning.
Looking out the window of my room at Jerusalem that evening.  I believe where the green light is is the mosque that I heard several times a day and night. I wanted to say, wait, I am not done with the Holyland, or take me home tonight, but my path was set and like it or not, I was going to Jordan the next day.