Holiday: Israel – Day 5 (2020)

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8.15am: The View from Room 706!


It’s our last full day here and if the weather forecast is to be believed, it won’t be a day for anything outside!

Yuk!

A quick look through our guide-book offered some indoor-alternatives, so we dressed accordingly and headed out into a very grey day. We were umbrella-less due to ours self-destructing during yesterday’s adventures with the elements.

But hey! we like living on the edge and with hoods and beanies on standby, our plan was to re-visit the Jewish Quarter (mainly because it included places where we could seek refuge inside!) including the souqs and various museums. This 116,000 square metre area lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and is home to around 19000 residents. On the map, it looked like it was easy to get around (or so we thought – see later!) 🤔

Once outside, the old city looked (and felt) very different in the damp and the cold – and the rain got worse as the morning progressed. We headed in the now-familiar direction of the Western Wall and then further than we’d been before in the direction of unfortunately named ‘Dung Gate’.

No s*** Shylock, it’s Dung Gate!

With Dung err, done, our first stop was the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. There are lots of Roman remains and a unique Herodian shopping street from the late 1st century BC. According to iTravelJerusalem, it’s “one of the Jerusalem’s top tourist attractions due to its historical and archaeological significance and, of course, its beauty”. But first we had to actually gain access to it! The crappy weather didn’t help, but the poor signage added to the challenge, together with various padlocked gates! There was no obvious reason for it to be closed, but it certainly looked like it was! 😤
We asked a nearby security guard, who helpfully pointed us in a particular direction. It helped (sort of), but it only gave access to a small part of the whole site.

Photo #1

In the end, we simply gave up! – but at least we got TWO photographs, just as the rain eased temporarily!

Photo #2

Onwards and upwards, as they say! We headed deeper in to the Jewish Quarter and as we did so, the weather returned to the drizzle variety!

Into the Jewish Quarter

As we passed another Security Guard, a nearby signpost confirmed that we were on the right road…

The reconstructed Hurva Synagogue. More information HERE

We carried on walking, as the rain got wetter!

We eventually stumbled across The Cardo. A site originally laid-out by the Romans but these days it’s a well-known historic Jewish shopping arcade in the old city. Completely under cover, it instantly felt attractive, and we spent a bit of time looking in the brightly coloured shops proudly displaying their wares.

Another surprise was that in amongst the shops was a deep excavation revealing part of the history of this location.

Ahh, refreshments!

Our first pit-stop of the day offered “the best coffee in the old city of Jerusalem”. It didn’t feel very Jewish inside, and we realised we had somehow wandered into the Arabic Quarter. Still, the coffee lived up to the advertising, and we stayed a while, as I took time to fully appreciate the actual volume of a ‘large Americano’ served here (err, VERY large!) 😏

West Cardo – Part of the old Jewish shopping street

A short walk later, we appeared to have returned to the Jewish Quarter, where we spied some more old ruins.

Next on our ‘voyage of damp discovery’ was a real Jewish Bakers. In the photo on the left, you should be able to just make out a Baker working with his industrial-sized oven.

Five minutes later, we discovered The Four Sephardi Synagogues in Hakehuna Street. It was now pouring down, so a perfect excuse to wander inside. Fully restored in 1967, this complex consists of the Yochanan Ben Zakai Synagogue, the Istanbuli Synagogue, the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, and the Emtsai Synagogue. In spite of its uniqueness and the biblical rainfall outside, we only stayed a short while because there was a celebration going on inside, and the music volume was set to ’11’!

The Wohl Museum was next for us (located in the Herodian Quarter) within the Jewish Quarter. During city re-development work in 1967, the remains of several large Herodian houses were discovered. These were found 22 feet below the current street level!

Although it was just another excuse to get out of the rain, it proved to be fascinating visit! The un-assuming entrance revealed a deep excavation, uncovering some seriously old buildings and their contents, some dating back 2000 years! The houses contained ritual baths and cisterns to catch rain (would have been great today!) from the Roman era.

I managed to grab these photos BEFORE I saw the CCTV watching me ignoring the ‘no photography’ signs! 😯

As we left the Museum, a short walk later, we realised that we’d come full-circle, and we were back at The Western Wall (albeit ‘up a level’).

Al Buraq – A unique dining experience

In spite of our diving in-and-out of buildings all morning, we were both quite wet, so we looked for somewhere close to eat. It was approaching 1pm, so for us, it was perfect timing. Conveniently located near the Western Wall Tunnels, Al Buraq looked like it might be a good choice.

Err, it wasn’t! 🥺

The food so far, during our short time here has, on the whole, been good, but today WASN’T one of those days. Almost zero customer service combined with a Salad that looked like it was more at home in the archaeological finds from the Museum earlier, we ate at speed mainly because we were hungry! The Salads lived died to fight another day, and remained on the plate (no doubt ready for the next poor souls!). They didn’t take plastic and the bill was a hurried creation scribbled on a nearby piece of paper! Oh, dear! 😯😯

We left as quickly as we arrived, and for the last time walked back through the Souq, Jaffa Gate and finally Jaffa Street on the way back to the Hotel.

It’s been a great break, just slightly marred by the weather today. We’ve spent five days here, but we reckon it could be done in four. Prices seem cheap compared to the UK, but eateries are a tad tricky to find (unless you like soup!). Language was never a problem – everyone speaks English – and the Souqs are quite lay-back with no assertive sales techniques to encourage you to buy that teapot you always wanted! 😁

All that’s left to do now is pack and get ready for our flight back tomorrow

Shalom Jerusalem! 🤩

All the photos from this holiday
(and none of my chat!)
HERE

Holiday: Israel – Day 4 (2020)

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The Hall of Names, Yad Vashem, Israel


The weather forecast for today, Wednesday, is not so good! In a word: ‘showers’! In another word: ‘cold’! Time then, to discover more of Israel, but from the inside of somewhere! 🥶🥶

To maintain our sense of adventure (but mostly to dodge the showers!) we’re diving again into the world of Jerusalem’s public transport system. We’ve already experienced Trains, Planes and Automobiles

So today, we tried the Tram (or Jerusalem Light Railway – JLR – to give it its official name here). Opened in 2011 after much delay and over-spending (sound familiar??), it features just a single line each way (east-west, totalling 23 stops). and and it’s popular too, serving 130,000 rides per day.

We boarded at nearby Jaffa Street heading for Mount Herzl (currently the final stop until the planned extension goes ahead). It cost us 5.90 Shekels (£1.29) for a single ticket. Super-cheap! 👍

On launch, JLR was free to use, but there’s now a paid ticketing system that’s operated through machines at each station. Alternatively, you can purchase a CityPass card (a sort of Jewish ‘Oyster Card’).

A few caveats: the machines are fussy about bank-notes – nothing bigger than a 20; there’s a maximum number of coins that can be used for one ticket purchase (15?); it didn’t seem to like our visa card, and absolutely no trying to pay the driver; There’s probably an App too, but we didn’t see anyone using one.

Once on-board, just to keep us on our toes, there’s also a ‘ticket validation system’ where you must get your ticket ‘punched’ using the machines near the doors. Ticket Inspectors were everywhere, so it’s not worth hiding in the toilets!! (mainly because the Trams don’t have them!) 🤔

Yad Vashem

What’s our destination today? Unlike yesterday and the day before, no scaling any heights for us, we plan to keep our feet firmly on the ground and so we headed for Yad Vashem, the Museum and Monument that perpetuates the memory of the 6 million+ Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Built in 1953, it’s incredibly popular and well-supported.

It only took us around 20 minutes to get there plus a fifteen-minute walk downhill once we exited the Tram (it’s well signposted!)

On arrival, it became clear that there was plenty to see here, and consequently, it’s perfectly possible to ‘make a day of it’. Having said that, we were there for just over three-and-a-half hours and we found it quite moving and emotionally draining.

Click above for a larger version
Click above for a larger version
The Museum

Our first stop was ‘5’ – The Holocaust History Museum – a triangular shaped construction where the exhibits were assembled in a zig-zag fashion. It’s not the prettiest of buildings inside, but maybe that’s the point!?

My photographs here don’t really do it justice, as they only capture a small proportion of what’s on show! Why? Well, there didn’t seem to be many other people taking pics, and then I found out why not! A firm tap on the shoulder from an official, about an hour in, reminded me that I shouldn’t be taking ANY photographs at all!! Ooops!!!!!😮

Even if you only have a casual interest in the Holocaust, you are bound to be impressed by the exhibits here….

A mix of static displays, film archive, AV displays and (very) detailed information boards have probably one of the most (if not, THE most) comprehensive collection of materials we’ve ever seen in a Museum (and we’ve seen quite a few!).

The displays were endless and what for us, made it feel even more real, was the filmed interviews with survivors, and also the clothing on display – shoes and tunics of the dead! 😮 Most definitely NOT for the faint-hearted with nothing censored. 😥😥

For many of us, the 1993 film: Schindler’s List has, in recent years, been a dramatic reminder of the Holocaust. What brought it all home here was the actual list itself on display!!

THE Schindler’s List: Click above for a close-up

Of course, there were many others who helped the Jews during the WWII, and also on display was a comprehensive catalogue of others who saved the lives of many Jews and their families…

But perhaps the display that was guaranteed to cause the most jaws to drop was the final exhibit: The Hall of Names…

This is an area of permanent record cataloguing the names of all the Holocaust victims…

…the work is ongoing and consequently, some shelving remains empty until more information is uncovered…

It felt like the most appropriate way to end our journey through the Museum.

On leaving, the weather forecast had come true. It was cold… VERY cold and it was raining quite hard. We quickened our pace and took a look inside the nearby Hall of Remembrance

The Hall of Remembrance

The names engraved in the floor are the sites of the 22 Nazi murder sites – extermination/concentration camps. The flame burns continuously next to a crypt containing ashes of victims brought back from the extermination camps.

The Pillar of Heroism

The weather got worse! Next stop: The Pillar of Heroism commemorates Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.

The Coffee of Reflection!

Phew! What an experience!! We spent some time over a coffee reflecting…
For us to spend as much time as we did here, surprised even US! There is so much to absorb, even if you spend most of your time (as we did) in just the Museum. If you’re in the area, this place should be on your list!

So far, on our mini-break in Jerusalem, this has been the place with the most WOW FACTOR! 🤩

A quick walk back to the Tram stop where we only waited a matter of minutes for our ride back to the Hotel. It turned into a really wintery day here and so much of a contrast to the previous few days. A good day to be inside then!!!

More photos of the holiday so far
(and none of my chat!)
HERE

Looks like tomorrow is another cold and wet one, so I think we’ll do something indoors again – see you on the other side! 🙂