Israel - Classic Sights - Middle East 2

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 17th August 1999

Over the Allenby Bridge through the West Bank and into Israel. The wait at immigration isn’t too bad – though the bus is comprehensively vetted. The Arabs taking through their trucks and buses are having a much harder time. Our entry visas are stamped on pieces of paper, to be collected when we return to Jordan. The Jordanians won’t object. They don’t recognise the State of Israel at this time. So we aren’t deemed to have strayed over the border.

Nazareth and Galilee, Israel

North to Nazareth, huge and bustling. I'm thinking it's very different to the scenes in the Bible where it is described as the home of Mary and Joseph. Next, Lake Galilee (very little fishing going on today) the scene of miracles, such as the Wedding at Cana and the Feeding of the Five Thousand with the loaves and the fishes and the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Capernaum, another home of Jesus, has neat Roman ruins and some fascinating mosaics (the loaves and fishes feature here again).

Jerusalem

Back, to Jerusalem, via the Mount of Olives. The city is hugely important to Moslems, Jews and Christians, but it’s a big disappointment, as it’s exceptionally quiet. Most of the stall holders are on strike, so the souks are empty, the shops all shuttered. The Dome of the Rock stands proudly above the city, a symbol to both Muslims and Jews and the site of Mohammed's ascension to heaven. The Temple Mount, alongside  is more vibrant than the rest of the city. The Wailing Wall is believed by Jews to be the last remnant of the second Temple and, so is the most revered of all Jewsih site. It  is lined with people leaving prayers in the crevices and reciting their scriptures.

Close by are the renowned Christian sites designated as the Garden of Gethsemane and the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, traditionally believed to be the route taken by Christ on the day of his execution. This leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed place of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sadly, the close and convenient juxtaposition of these important sites in one building is hard to swallow, as is the tourist paraphernalia surrounding it and for me it’s a far from spiritual experience. I can only sympathise when some of my fellow tourists are ejected from the queue for the Holy Sepulchre by irate priests because they are giggling.

Next,  Bethlehem....

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