Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Israel Day 5: City of David, Kotel, and Camels

Today was our last day in Jerusalem. After breakfast, we met our tour guide, Amikam, who will be with us until Thursday eve when he drops us off in Tel Aviv. He is amazing! So much knowledge in one brain!

Our day started with loading up our suitcases and checking out of a hotel I never need visit again. We headed to the Kotel "complex" (best I can describe it!) and soaked in the breathtaking views.  Like, take your breath away views- Mt. Olives, Dome of the Rock, the expansive views of the old city... If we didn't have a time schedule to follow, I have a feeling that we could have enjoyed the views longer. 

Our first stop took us through the Jewish quarter into the plaza surrounding the Kotel. We headed, once again, to the holiest place in the Jewish world. This time we headed directly to the tunnel tours. The guide, while knowledgeable, was definitely not a teacher. We stood a little too long in the "set up" room where she gave us the basics. It felt like being stuck in a textbook, knowing the real learning lay just beyond the threshold only ten feet away. 

Once we got started, though, it was wordlessly incredible. We were underneath the Kotel. At one point, we were 90 feet from the Holy of Holies on Temple Mount, one of the most sacred places on the planet. The stones of the wall, more than a dozen feet below the earth's surface, were unreal. Each rock was meticulously placed into the wall, a chiseled frame, thousands of years ago....  We were literally walking through history, step by step.

We came out of the tunnel tour and headed to the Kotel, which meant so much more to me now than it did just three days prior. After spending some time connecting directly with the Wall, we tres the rest of the grounds. The ruins, remains of the temples, evidence of worlds past, lay scattered throughout, traces of worlds that until now, made no sense, or had any impact, on my life. 

I know some won't agree with my perspective, but that's ok. As our guide pointed out markings in the stones, he drew our attention to a platform near the wall with a few umbrellas scattered about. This section, he explained, opened just one week prior. Up until then, the Kotel was strictly divided into two sections- a large section for men and a smaller section for women. Families had to separate to pray. Now, though smaller than the women's side, a new section of the Wall was opened for any gender. Families, couples, anyone can pray there. Sure, it's a small section not ideally located, but it's a monumental event. The egalitarian section is not yet complete, but at least it is open and available, a fear decades and decades in the making. 

After we marveled at the Kotel, we headed to the City of David and toured the surrounding ruins. They were spectacular. Seriously spectacular!  I mean, we were walking under what only five years prior was buried under a parking lot!  The ruins showed so much detail of homes and buildings, we even saw remnants of mosaic floors in excellent shape. 

I was a bit apprehensive as we headed into the newly uncovered tunnels near the city, as they were incredibly narrow and slick in spots. The green moss on the walls were kinda gross too. Yet, even with my OCD, I was still mesmerized. The city itself was fascinating, but what was revealed via the tunnels was even more mind boggling. I mean, this place, Israel, while not an officially recognized country until 1948, holds so much history that more is being uncovered every year!

We exited the tours through the Jewish quarter and grabbed a quick bite to eat and one more glance at the Cardo before heading back to our van and started the journey to Eretz Bereshit, a few hours away. This was something I was both excited about and dreading. 

I was excited about enjoying a hospitality meal hosted by Avraham and I was excited to see a camel. However, I was far less than excited to put on the attire of the era and sit on the floor for dinner. You know what? Even the things I was kinda sorta dreading turned out to me manageable. Making big progress on this surviving things that feel insurmountable on this trip, let's hope it continues when I get home. 

Setting the alarm for 4:21am tonight as we are tackling Madada at sunrise tomorrow. Love the hotel we are staying in for the night- clean and beautiful and clean!

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