This was the most awaited part of the trip as we were going to Jerusalem. We got ready early as Yacob, our tour guide was waiting for us at 8 am. While we were driving out of Tel Aviv, I saw every one running on the road. Yacob told us that fitness is a priority and running is a trend here.
He told us that ‘Tel Aviv’ means different layers of spring and Jerusalem is situated on 7 hills with a population of 800,000 in which 500,000 are Jews and 300,000 comprises of Muslim & Christians. It is the largest city of Israel.
When we were driving to Jerusalem, we passed through the ‘Forest of Martyr’ where 6 Million trees were planted. 4.5 Million Pine and 1.5 Million Cyprus trees represent Adults and Children respectively who died in the Holocaust. Also we came upon ‘Road of Heroism’ where almost 600 people sacrificed their lives to ensure convoy reached Jerusalem in War of Liberation, 1948. When we crossed the Road of Heroism, he showed us the memorial where 2500 pieces from Ground Zero (9/11) were kept as a symbol of Israel’s support to curb terrorism. When we entered Jerusalem, Yacob told us that after British left Israel in 1948, half of the Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan. In 1967 Six day war, Israel captured entire Jerusalem.
We reached the top of Mount of Olives that has entire view of Jerusalem. We could see The Tomb of Rock and the city walls. It was a perfect view. At The Tomb of Rock, God,to test human, asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac & Mohammad flew from Mecca to Jerusalem to go to heaven. Hence The Tomb of Rock is great symbol of reverence to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Yacob told us about the story of old church which was destroyed, the only remain of that church is 2000 year old ‘Western Wall’/ Wailing Wall. It is the most holy place for Jews.
We walked from top of Mt of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. On the way, we stopped at the Church of Mary Magdalene, a Russian Orthodox church located on the Mount of Olives. It looked like Kremlin with a golden plate. We also went to Church ‘Dominus Flevit’ that was designed and constructed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. ‘Dominus Flevit’, which translates from Latin as “The Lord Wept”, was fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Christ.
We reached Gethsemane which is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, reknown as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. As per carbon dating, Olive trees present in the garden are 1000 years old. Next to Gethsemane, there is Church of All Nations that enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.
We went to the old city where we first visited The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is the holiest church of Christians since the site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha), where Jesus was crucified, and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church is shared between several Christian churches and secular entities in complicated arrangements, essentially unchanged for centuries. For instance, one ladder hasn’t been moved from past 400 years old. Yacob told us if anything moves in the church, there will be war between different segments of Churches. We went inside the church, it had beautiful mosaic painting of Jesus. After church, we went through the old market towards western wall.
Yacob told us to write our message or wish on a piece of paper and put inside the wall. It is the cheapest way to make your wish come true. Western Wall was a true wonder, 2000 year old structure standing in its marvel. After spending time at the wall, we went to the old market where everyone did shopping for an hour.
At 1pm, we left from Jerusalem for Dead Sea. We passed through the famous Judaean Desert which is a desert in Israel and the West Bank that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. After half an hour, we reached Dead Sea. Its surface and shores are 429 metres below sea level, lowest elevation on land. It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. We had lunch at the resort next to the Dead Sea.
After lunch, Raymond and I changed our clothes & went for the sea. Before entering, instructions were given that we should not drink nor let it touch our eyes, just sit on our butt & you will float. “How the hell it’s possible to float by yourself”.
We entered it, the bottom was muddy and slippery, and carefully I walked few steps. Thank god, there were rocks to hold. As instructed, I sat & my body automatically started floating. Yes, I am not kidding, it was magical – your body floating & you don’t have control on your body. Its true.
It was a wonderful feeling that I can’t describe, it needs to be experienced. I told myself ‘wow, I won’t sink’. I just floated around, kept looking at the clouds and beautiful scenery without worrying about drowning. In front, I could admire Jordan Mountains while on right, I could see ever light blue dead sea. Just floating under the sun in dead sea is a divine experience!
An hour felt like a minute & soon we had to leave. I took a shower & suddenly I realized that my skin was soft and glowing (now I understood why my sister asked to get Dead Sea minerals beauty products). It was truly lifelong cherishing moment.
We reach hotel around 5pm and we were so tired that we just crashed on the bed.