Several people at church came and said, “Welcome home.” It’s not like I was gone that long, but it is nice to feel missed and appreciated. And, it is a big deal going to Israel for 10 days. Some of these people will never visit. I hope I can be their eyes (through my camera).
Right after Sacrament Meeting I was nabbed to play piano in Primary. It was fun. The kids were sure wound up, however.
It is cold today. It’s in the low teens. As a result, I came home from church and sought warmth.
My fingers, knees and toes are all cold. I don’t remember my knees getting cold like this before. It must have something to do with my baker’s cysts.
At dinner I gave the sisters a 10 Argot coin from Israel. I picked up several while I was there. Most of them are going to grandchildren.
100 Argots make 1 shekel. They don’t make 1 Argot coins. The smallest denomination is 10. They were worth about 3 cents at today’s exchange rate.
They are also about the same size as a 10 Shekel coin. However, a 10 Shekel coin is worth about $3. Unscrupulous shop owners may try to pass a 10 Argot off as a 10 Shekel coin.
Church here in Jerusalem is always a delight. It’s funny… I’m starting to see people I know when I go to church here! Let’s see… Jeremy (formerly of Antioch), John Howell (from Rochester), Brent Top, Gerald Lund, Jr., Dan Rona… they are who I saw today.
After church we ventured outside. The rain has stopped and the clouds are dramatic.
We are now going to Caiaphas’ house. This is a church built over Caiaphas’ house. Jesus was brought to Caiaphas, the chief priest, and there he was held in the basement, whipped and scourged. As a result, this is a sobering location.
Under this church are a series of stone rooms where they kept the sacrificial animals. Little did they know the man they tied was the Lamb of God. (Here’s a good video of what happened here: https://youtu.be/4A6usoBnqNs )
Outside Peter denied Christ three times. Jesus had warned Peter this would happen, however, Peter did not want to accept he could do such a thing. When the cock crowed, it was then he recognized what he had just done. As a result, “And he went out, and wept bitterly.”
What happened here wasn’t good, but it is still sacred. Prophecies were fulfilled.
While one does not need to visit Jerusalem to get closer to God. However, visiting Jerusalem and seeing these sites will change your life.
We learned that Shabbat ends after the first star can be seen in the sky. Because it was about to end, we made our way towards the old City to see if we could find a place to eat once the Sabbath ends.
The City of David was a district just south of Jerusalem. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the 1st Century, they left no stone unturned, and the City of David was buried in Rubble.
It is important to note that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was bad. The entire old city was razed, which fulfilled prophecy (Matt.24:1-8). What we see today is not what existed at meridian of time. In fact, some modern archaeologist question if the Dome of the Rock is actually on the Temple Mount! They say it was more towards the City of David. (Now, that is interesting because that would mean the temple could be built without disturbing any of the Islamic sites. However, it would also mean the Western Wall was not part of Solomon’s Temple.)
We visited the excavation of the City of David today. This modern excavation, in time, will answer many questions.
The railing you see in the picture above are walkways. To the center left, the slope down is the ancient City of David. To the right of center is the Dome of the Rock.
The visitors’ center at the City of David is quite nice. John and Linda took time to take pictures of the carving on the wall.
We were waiting for Matt and Becca in the gift shop. It was cold and rainy outside. The one young lady (the blond) was from San Antonio, Texas. She explained dreidels usually say, “Something Important Happened There.” The ones sold in the City of David say (in Hebrew), “Something Important Happened Here.”
Hezekiah built a tunnel under the City of David. Today you can walk that tunnel. Actually, there are two tunnels, one for the water, the other for access by people. We walked the dry one.
The water from the tunnel empties in to the Pool of Shiloam (or Siloam). This pool is where those going to the temple would stop and wash. Today, it is an archeological discovery (discovered in 2004). As a result of this discovery, we can now visit the very steps where Jesus healed the blind man.
It is a special place to be in this tunnel (above). Because of the destruction of Jerusalem, these steps would have been outdoors in Jesus’ time. However, today they in this reinforced tunnel where they are still working on uncovering what the Roman’s covered in 70 A.D.
I neglected to mention my breakfast. Here’s an example of breakfast at the Abraham Hostel: milk, salad, yogurt, bread, jam, hard boiled eggs and an orange.
It’s okay for a few days, but if you’re staying long term it can get a bit boring.
On the way to the car, in a puddle of water, Linda found a glove she lost. She was so excited to find it… as you can see (below).
We stopped at Omar so I could purchase a carving of Jesus for Elder and Sister Riggs (you can see it on the 2nd shelf above Brent Top’s elbow.) And, I ran in to Brent Top. It’s funny because Omar and I were just talking about him the other day, and … here he is.
I asked him to point to his business card on Omar’s shelf.
For lunch we stopped at a convenience store. The weather got nasty and we picked up some stuff to eat at the hostel.
Dinner was at the hostel. They put on a Shabbat Dinner every Friday night. It’s a nice time and you always meet new people. We sat by a couple. He was German and she was Russian.
Our next stop is Omar’s Souvenirs. Omar’s place is in the area behind the bus station near the Garden Tomb. Omar is the world’s best woodcarver. On our way to his shop we cut through the bus station and market place.
We stopped for bagels. Bagels in Israel are long. They are almost a loaf of bread.
You see a few people wearing kefias (headdress like the one in the picture above). Red and white usually means Jordanian.
As we got close to Omar’s office, Omar came out of the barbershop and yelled, “Are you coming to see me?”
He came over and gave me a big hug and asked how I have been doing. We came in to his shop and one of the first things John found was this…
Everyone got something at Omar’s, and then Omar treated us to juice and lunch.
Off we went to our next destination – through the Damascus Gate.
We made another stop at the Garden Tomb. It was raining and nobody was there. That allowed me to snap a couple of photos with the place empty.
Pool of Bethesda
We stopped to see the place where Jesus was condemned to death. From there, it is only a short walk to the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man.
Soon we found ourselves in tight alleyways and before long, on the school grounds. A man showed us around pointing out various sights around the old city. He then walked us out of that quarter of the old city.
We ended the day in the Yahuda area. I went for 1/2 a shawarma and a Coke. I’m glad I didn’t order the WHOLE shawarma.
There’s a lot of good in Jerusalem, but the Jerusalem post office isn’t one of them. Think of going to the D.M.V. in California just to get a stamp to mail a postcard. Yes, it is that bad. And knowing this, I opted to wait outside and take some pictures on the street while others went to buy some stamps.
Linda and John finally emerged from the post office. Linda showed me her Israel stamps featuring the Statue of Liberty.
Backing up to earlier in the day, here’s a picture of John at the front desk of our hostel. I love the sign on the wall, “Come on, get a room.”
The guy behind John was one of my roommates – Andrew. Andrew is from the U.K. but currently living in Germany. He was one of 3 of my roommates last night.
We boarded the train and road three stops – Jaffa Center, Jaffa Gate and Central Bus Station. The bus station and Garden Tomb are back to back as you will see from my pictures.
This is an old section of town just outside the Damascus Gate. It is largely an Arab population in this part of town.
On to the Tomb
The Garden Tomb is one of two sites believed to be where Jesus was resurrected. Several Latter-day prophets have commented this is the place. Before getting to the tomb, our guide stopped and showed a winepress and explained this was a garden at Christ’s time.
On our tour I saw this girl wearing a Sac State shirt. I walked up and said, “Sac State! My alma mater.” She looked at me like, “REALLY!”
Something is funny about WordPress. If I add too many photos it crashes on me. So, here’s the Dead Sea II, as in Part II.
When I last left you we were at the Baptismal Site of Jesus. Well, here I am at the site.
John wanted to put his feet in the water. While I’m perfectly content to keep my feet dry, I have no problem photographing those who want to get wet.
Across the river is the Country of Jordan. Many visitors come to that side too. I found it interesting how two years ago, Google Maps would take you to either side. Now, it acts as though the Israli side doesn’t exist. Hmmm… I smell politics at Google.
We chatted with two IDF soldiers. They were friendly and nice. U.S. relations with Israel are at a peak right now.
Masada is our next destination. It is an amazing place to visit. It gives insight to Herod. Herod is the man who ordered all baby boys killed in an attempt to kill the Promised Messiah. Well, we know how that turned out, and we also know how things turned out at Masada.
I rode the tram to the top with Linda and Becca. In the pictures you can see a square below. That’s one of the Roman encampments.
In the above picture, there is a hairpin turn. Those two dark specs on the trail are John and Matt.
Now they are quite a bit closer.
How Low Can You Go
I love this spot. The lowest place on earth. It’s something to say you’ve been there, and you’d go back if you need to.
We watched the sun go down and it was a beautiful sunset.
When we got back to Jerusalem we found a shawarma shop. I decided to try falafel again. This time it wasn’t as bad as the first time. Becca convinced me when she said how much she loves the stuff.
Verdict – it was better this time, but not something I’m wild about.
The Dead Sea is our destination today. A good healthy breakfast is what’s required for a visit to Masada. (My heel is killing me. I’m hoping I’m not a slow-down for the group.)
The breakfast here is different for Americans. They eat salad for breakfast, however, salad to them is chopped cucumbers and tomatoes. They also have chocolate/hazelnut spread on bread, boiled eggs and apples or oranges.
Yes, that is a foosball table in the background.
The hostel in Jerusalem is pretty low budget. You rinse your dishes and put them in the dishwasher racks. Matt volunteered to do the dishes today. (Matt’s a great guy.)
The view from the hostel isn’t the most picturesque, but it tells a story. Below we load in to Jumpy for a trip down to the lowest place on earth – – the Dead Sea.
As you drive from Jerusalem you drop down to a valley. It is dry, desert land. Part way down the mountain is a sea level marker. It’s a good place to stop for a picture or two.
Each time I visit here I see Sushi the Camel and his owner. This is the guy’s full time business, and this is his location.
When we reached the bottom of the valley, guess what?
We saw an entire herd of camels!
I remember incorrectly. I thought the baptismal site was quite a ways from the main highway from Jerusalem going east. We drove to it first.
There are many improvements since I was here two years ago. The road is paved all the way. Before it was dirt. While there are signs warning about mines, there are fewer.
The water’s edge has been set up to accommodate tourist as well as people wanting to be baptized. I found it interesting so many people were baptizing themselves. They put on a white shift, entered the water, and dipped down.
I picked up Matt and Becca Baker at their home and the three of us drove to Toronto to catch our flight to Tel Aviv. Toronto to Tel Aviv is cheaper than JFK (New York City) to Tel Aviv. So, we’re doing it this way.
Whoa! When I got to the airport, long term parking is EXPENSIVE here. I’m beginning to wonder if it was such a good deal to fly from here. Oh, but we’re splitting the parking expense. It might workout okay.
Matt and Becca made it on the flight and we met up with John and Linda at the Toronto Airport. We’re all going to be on the same plane together.
The people at Air Canada are nice and friendly. The plane is a new Boeing 787, however, I am not impressed with the cabin. They took the cheap way out. I’m sure it is fun for the pilots and perhaps the crew, but here’s what isn’t good about Air Canada’s rendition of the 787…
The seats are too narrow.
The seats are too close together. (Delta probably has barely 12″. I think this had about 9″ between the front of the seat and the back of the seat in front of you. For a size 11 foot… that’s not enough.)
For a brand new model, the air quality still sucks. When will they figure out how to fix the smells and stuffiness on an airliner?
We touched down in Tel Aviv and were on our way to pass through the passport checks and getting our luggage.
We got our rental car in Tel Aviv and they discovered it had a leaky roof. So, we had to wait about an hour for them to find and clean a van for us.
The van is a Citroen Jumpy. It’s a fitting name for a van with a Jumpy clutch.
We arrived at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, got checked in, and took some time to get settled. I’m in a 4-bed dorm room, and so far, it looks like only one other person is in it.
The dorm room was too small to photograph and not impressive, but above you can see the hallway. But, for the price… it isn’t bad. 5 nights for about $220 and that includes breakfast and earplugs. (Yes, they have free earplugs so you can blockout your roommates’ snoring.)
Our next stop is the Mount of Olives and the Orson Hyde Gardens. There we viewed the old city and then visited the Catholic’s version of Gethsemane. I say the Catholic’s version because we don’t know exactly where Christ suffered and bled, just that it was somewhere on the Mt. of Olives just outside the city walls.
Traffic was held up and Matt spotted this funeral procession. He stopped so I could jump out and get this picture (above).
Dinner on the first night at any new location is always difficult. Matt and I knew of places, but finding a place was another story since is getting late.
We discovered a market I didn’t know existed. (It’s rather cool!) We went looking around and found a shawarma shop that was closing, and so we kept looking. Finally we found a shawarma/burger place open.
It’s back to the hostel (the building with Abraham at the top) to get rested for a big day tomorrow.
It’s New Years Eve 2017 and I’m going to bed early. I’m doing this because tomorrow I leave for Israel first thing in the morning. I want to be well rested.
Being the 5th Sunday, the Priesthood and Relief Society meetings were about the new curriculum for adults. I see this as a step closer to a Zion Society. It’s an inspired and good move.
Matt, Becca, John and Linda are all excited about the trip. While I’d like to say nobody is excited as I am, it wouldn’t be true. We are all excited.
Elizabethe has been bugging me to make her curried chicken recipe. So, I made it… with my own twist. She told me this is what she’ll be living off while I’m in Israel. I told her I will be eating shawarma.
I get travel anxieties. I anguish over things like… what if they make me check my camera bag (I don’t like being without it when I travel). Or, what if the tell me I can’t take my beef jerky on the plane, etc. They are all based off previous experience. The problem is TSA is not consistent. (Personally, I think some of them confiscate stuff to keep it for themselves.)
That said, I have found travel from this area to be less stressful. Most of my bad experiences were at Oakland. Rochester is great… oh, but I’m not leaving from Rochester. I’m leaving from Toronto and I’ve never flown out of Toronto.
A troll on a conservative Christian Facebook page vented is anger calling our God “mythical” and then saying, “There is no evidence that God exist.”
I will preface this by stating I was raised to be a scientist and mathemetician. My first chemistry set was at age 7. At age 9 or 10, my dad pointed to a table of textbooks in Spokane, Washington, and said, “You can pick any 5 and I will buy them so long as you read them.”
I took my scientist dad up on the offer. (My dad was a biologist specializing in entomology. He ended up spending his career teaching biology and chemistry.) One of the books was a high school mathematics book. Not only did I read it, but I also learned how to solve the problems.
Later, around age 11, he taught me how to figure out a genetic determinant. My entire childhood was surrounded by scientific discovery and mathematics. In college, I surpassed my dad in my knowledge of chemistry and mathematics and was soon tutoring him on things he would in turn teach his students.
Science was a way of life at home.
My response to the atheist who says there is no God is this…
If you say there is no evidence that God exists, then you aren’t looking, or you are unwilling to look at what is before you.
God has told us the following…
Ask and ye shall receive (Mark 11:24)
Ask and it shall be given (Matthew 7:7)
Knock and it shall be open unto you (Matthew 7:7)
Seek and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7)
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask… and it shall be given him (James 1:5)
Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (I John 2:3)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Wait… what did that last one say? For they shall see God?
Just referencing those scriptures, the unbelieving needs to ask… Have I asked? Have I knocked (put forth effort)? Am I seeking? Do I keep God’s commandments? Am I pure in heart?
I can hear the response, “Why would I do that when I know that God isn’t real?”
My Next Response
I know that God is real, and he does listen when we ask, and he does answer. All of this requires effort. Christ has said, “If any man will do his will (i.e. keep the commandments), he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
You cannot “know” that God isn’t real, when God himself reveals himself to those who seek him. You can only choose not to believe he is real.
I can testify that God is real, but until you find out for yourself, you will never know.