Apr 13, 2015

April 13: Day 5 in Jerusalem

This morning while lingering over the breakfast table, I bade farewell to three people‎ I had made significant connections with while staying at the hostel. I doubt any of them will ever see this, but - Sasha, Marija, Tobias - I have been enriched by meeting you! (The photo is of the lineup outside the Jaffa Gate Saturday morning.)

Today, my kid sister turned 40. I wished her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY through Facebook. Hard to believe I've known the kidlet for 37 years. (Our family adopted her when she was 3.)

I didn't stray too far from the hostel today, not even to attend Liturgy. At noon, I went out to find a post office, and when they didn't have one, a cardboard mailing tube for my pilgrim credential from the "Custodia Franciscalis Terræ Sanctæ." The art supply shop 500 metres from the hostel had very large ones for 16.90 shekels. When I got back to the hostel, I cut it down to size. Unlike the document I received from the Vatican four months ago, I won't bother mailing this one home.‎ The tube will protect it in my (now very light) backpack for the rest of my travels.

Ah yes, the rest of my travels! Today I also paid to extend my stay at the hostel until Friday. I think that after another good night's sleep, I'll be up for some exploration of the Holy City, beyond the path between the hostel and the Holy Sepulchre.  I signed up for the free walking tour of the Old City tomorrow. It leaves at 10:20 am and will be finished by around 1:00 pm. That means I get to sleep in and have breakfast before having a leisurely stroll around the perimeter of the "Old" City. (Since the Romans razed the city in 70 AD, the current configuration is {comparatively speaking} not all that old, given the 3000+ years of recorded history associated with the site. [Damascus and Aleppo, on the other hand, have been continuously inhabited for at least 8000 years. I had the opportunity to visit both cities in 2006, before the current hellstorm was unleashed on the suffering Syrian population. Lord, have mercy!] Right, sorry. Where was I?)

Between now and Thursday evening, I plan to see as much of Jerusalem as I can. Tomorrow's tour of the Old City will leave me in the vicinity of the Western Wall (where I will leave a note from Jasmina, whom I met in Macedonia) and the Temple Mount. If I'm able to catch the evening light over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, I should have some nice photos to upload 24 hours from now. On Wednesday, I'll probably visit the Israel Museum and the Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum {And not to diminish from the horror inflicted upon European Jews by the Nazis, but my admiration for Pope Francis continues to deepen after his frank remarks about the first genocide of the 20th century.}).

Thursday remains open to possibilities, but I think that after checking out of the hostel on Friday, I'll walk to Bethlehem. It's about 15 kms away, and the forecast is for sunny skies with a high of 18° C. When I asked the travel consultants at the hostel today, I was assured that crossing the checkpoint into the West Bank on foot would be no more hassle than if I were in a tour bus.

I'll probably stay in Bethlehem overnight, and then on Saturday walk to the northern part of the Dead Sea. I'm not sure how close to the Qumran caves tourists are allowed to get, but I'll see what I can see. I may camp along the shore of the Dead Sea, and then walk into Jericho on Sunday. The amount of time I can spend there will depend on the bus schedules. I'm hoping I can catch a bus north to Capernaum along Highway 90 which runs through the Jordan Valley below sea level. From there, I hope to walk to the peak of Mount Tabor and seek refuge Monday (or Tuesday) night at one of the two monasteries there. The next day, I'll follow the "Jesus Trail" to Nazareth, and then catch a bus to Tel Aviv via Haifa so I can get to Amman, Jordan in time for my flight home the morning of April 24. I'm hoping to celebrate the feast of St George in Tel Aviv, but if that doesn't work, I have a few Serbian friends back home who will be celebrating their Slava on May 6. I'm sure both Milan and Peter would welcome me at their feasts.

As always, if I've used terminology which is unfamiliar, I encourage you to use a search engine to resolve your confusion (DuckDuckGo.com is excellent!). Also, these plans of mine which I post are no more than possibilities, suggested by proximity and my personal interest. The only certain thing is that I've paid for a nonrefundable seat on a flight leaving Amman at 11:10 local time on April 24. Please pray that I attain that goal, if nothing else!

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