Our second to last day in Israel would be one of the lightest on our itinerary. We left our hotel, the St. Gabriel, in Bethlehem after a filling buffet breakfast. It took a little under half an hour to drive from the hotel to the top of the Mount of Olives. While we had been here just two days before to take in the magnificent views of the ancient city of Jerusalem and to visit the Garden of Gethsemane, today, this would be our starting point as we would be exploring the Upper Kidron Valley which separates the Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount and the ancient city.
The modern Kidron Valley stretches approximately 20 miles from just north of the ancient city through the Judean Desert and ends at the Dead Sea. In biblical times, the Kidron Valley referred to the stretch in the vicinity of the ancient city of Jerusalem and is dominated on its western slope by the seemingly endless Jewish cemetery that dates back to the First and Second Temple periods (1000 BC to 70 AD).
We walked down the valley beginning just north of the ancient city with the cemetery on our left and the Eastern Wall of Jerusalem on our right. With the exception of the contemporary rooftops that could be seen on the hills to the south, one could easily imagine making this same walk 2000 years ago. One of the most prominent ancient monuments lies directly between the Mount of Olives and the Eastern Wall - The Tomb of Zechariah. It is carved from a single stone and was built in the 1st century AD at the end of the Second Temple Period.
We ended our walk down the Kidron Valley at Mount Zion, just south of the ancient city. On the slopes of Mount Zion is the Church of Saint Peter, initially built in 457 AD to commemorate Peter’s denial of Christ and repentance. The church was destroyed in 1010 AD by Arabs and then rebuilt by the Crusaders in 1102. The current church was rebuilt in 1932 but houses beautiful Byzantine mosaics that were excavated during the rebuild and are thought to be part of the original shrine from the 5th century.
Beneath the church are a succession of caves dating back to the Second Temple period and since many believe that this site was the home of the High Priest Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus to death, the caves are also believed to be where Jesus was imprisoned before his execution. Beside Saint Peter’s Church, are the remnants of an ancient set of stone steps that descend from Mount Zion to the Garden of Gethsemane. They are reputed to be the steps that Jesus and his disciples descended on their way to the Last Supper.
We finished our tour of the Kidron Valley at another major religious site on Mount Zion - King David’s Tomb. Many believe that King David's Tomb is the burial place of David, King of Israel. Formerly a mosque, it was converted into a synagogue following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. While we were leaving the synagogue, a small group of dancers performed in a room just outside the alcove where the tomb is located.
We walked from the synagogue and entered the ancient city through the Zion Gate which leads into the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Armenian Quarter comprises the southwestern part of the old city and is home to some of the oldest surviving churches in the Jerusalem including St. Marks Chapel and Saint James Cathedral. Because of the waning number of Armenians in Jerusalem, this quarter of the old city is quietest and most peaceful.
We exited the Armenian Quarter at the Jaffa Gate which leads directly into Mamilla Mall, also called Alrov Mamilla Avenue, an upscale shopping street which consists of a pedestrian promenade lined by 140 stores, restaurants, and cafes. While it has a variety of international shops such as Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Pandora, Swarovski, The North Face, GAP, and more, we elected to walk past these stores and found a restaurant called Caffit 1987 on an adjacent street where we enjoyed a late afternoon lunch of pasta and pizza.
Following our lunch we walked back to the promenade outside the Jaffa Gate where we reconvened with the rest of our group to return to our hotel in Bethlehem. Once we arrived at the hotel Kim and I decided to take a walk around the area since it was such a pleasant and sunny afternoon. The narrow streets were quite busy with both cars and pedestrians. Makeshift sidewalk food stands were set up all along the streets displaying fruits, vegetables, meats and other goods. We walked for about half an hour covering a couple of blocks around our hotel before returning and getting ready for dinner. Tonight would be a relatively quiet night as we needed to pack and prepare for our last day in Israel.
Are you considering a trip to Israel? Reach out for expert advice and assistance with your holiday planning.
Continue to Day 9 - click here
This blog is a guest post from Angela Devereaux from Purrfect Pet Sitting.
How do you handle the holidays and pet care? Do you take your cat/dog with you, have a sitter come to your house or board your pet?
Here are a few of my tips to help make the holidays easier on both you AND your pets while you are away.
1) When possible, arrange for your pet(s) to be cared for at home.
The perfect solution is enlisting a pet sitter or a friend who loves your animals to stay in your home while you travel or schedule a couple of drop in visits every day. The more often someone comes in to observe your pets, the more likely they will observe changes in habits that might indicate there is a medical problem. The sitter should also spend quality time engaging them in activities they enjoy.
*NB: Contrary to popular opinion, leaving cats at home to fend for themselves is never an option. They need someone to tend to them every day, ideally twice a day. Trust me, unexpected stuff can and does happen. Cats also need fresh water, food and their litter boxes scooped at least once a day. Some cats may also become stressed and develop separation anxiety if left alone.
2) Schedule that meet and greet!
Before my clients leave on their trip, I always go by for a complimentary meet and greet to get detailed information regarding each pet(s). Some important details I gather include not only quantity of food to be fed, but what brand as well. If my client happens to run out of food and I need to pick up more, these are details I will want to note. Some other very important items for discussion include any existing medical conditions or medications/supplements required to maintain the health of your pet, litter-box details, each pet’s treat and toy preferences, favorite activities along with any specific behavior concerns (ie not good on leash around other dogs).
Your sitter should know how to contact you in case of an emergency, but also have a back up contact person able to make decisions for your pet on your behalf should you not be able to be reached in a timely manner. You also need to relay your veterinarian information as well as details for the closest emergency facility in your area. It is a good idea to leave a spare key with a neighbour or relative that lives in the area in case something unforseen should happen.
3) Ease your mind with daily reports.
Before you leave, tell your pet sitter your preferred method of contact while you are away. Will you have your phone with you and prefer text communication, or maybe you will only have access to email? Ask your pet sitter to send brief messages either via email or text to help you rest assured that your precious furry family members are safe and well cared for. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Many people now view the pet sitting industry as an easy way to earn extra money, so pet owners need to be extra knowledgeable and ask the right questions when interviewing potential candidates to weed out the untrained "hobby" sitters. When searching for the services of a professional pet sitter in your area, here are some great questions you may want to ask to help guide you in the right direction.
PSI (Pet Sitters International) advises pet owners to ask these important questions when interviewing potential pet sitters:
You can entrust all your pet needs to Angela Deveraux from Purrfect Pet Sitting.
Angela has over 27 years experience as a Veterinary Technician and has been pet sitting in York Region and the surrounding areas since 2005. Having an experienced Veterinary Technician you can trust to care for your furry family members while you are away helps makes your vacation that much more relaxing and enjoyable.
You can call or text Angela at: (905) 954-5673
Follow her on social media at https://www.facebook.com/angelapurrfectpets/ or via instagram at https://www.instagram.com/purrfectpetsitting123/
On our 2nd day in Jerusalem, we would be spending most of our time exploring the ancient city itself. Our previous day had given us great views of the ancient city from the Mount of Olives and we had examined the huge model of Jerusalem that represented the 2nd Temple Period (586 BC to 70 AD) at the Israel Museum. Today we would be going inside the old city walls to examine first hand some of the most revered religious and historical sites in the world.
It took about 20 minutes for our tour bus to make the 1.8 kilometre trek from our hotel, the Olive Tree (situated in the American Colony neighbourhood) to the entrance near the Western Wall of the old city of Jerusalem. Apparently, it takes about the same amount of time to walk that distance. There was a rather lengthy line-up to go through security, though the process was fairly smooth. Our tour host had been carrying a small Canadian flag throughout our trip in Israel to indicate where we were to meet and distinguish us from other tour groups. He had to relinquish the flag before we entered the old city as no political banners or artifacts are allowed.
Once through security, we walked through a large open plaza that leads to the Western Wall. There were hundreds of people milling about the plaza, many were large families celebrating bar/bat mitzvahs at the holy site. The Western Wall is the closest point that Jews can get to the “Holy of the Holies” (more about this later) which is on the eastern side of the wall because that area is occupied by Muslims. Men and women approach the wall separately - men to the north, women to the south. Out of respect, men are required to cover their heads at the wall. Non-Jewish men are provided with cloth kippas if they want to approach the wall.
We spent nearly an hour in and around the wall, mostly watching the myriad of people taking turns worshiping at the wall and then celebrating with their families in groups around the plaza. From here we walked a short distance to the Moroccan Gate in order to gain entry to the Temple Mount. While there are 11 gates in total that lead to the Temple Mount, the Moroccan Gate is the only entrance for tourists and non-Muslims. The entrance has tight security and is heavily guarded. In addition, the hours of entry for tourists and non-Muslims are quite limited. Morning entrance is from 8:30am to 11:30am and afternoon from 1:30pm to 2:30pm. We arrived here around 10:00am and passed through relatively quickly and without incident.
We walked through the entrance and emerged onto a vast plaza that is bordered by 4 walls, including the Western Wall. The plaza was built during the reign of Herod the Great in order to expand the temple. The plaza is dominated by three monumental structures that date back to the 7th century (though much reconstruction has been done since): the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, as well as four minarets. For Muslims, the al-Asa Mosque is considered the 3rd holiest site in Islam, behind Mecca and Medina. It is said that Muhammed journeyed here from Mecca and ascended into heaven in a single night in 621. The foundation stone that the Dome of the Rock is built over is said to be the location where God created the first man, Adam, and where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac to prove his faith. The Dome of the Chain, a small prayer house immediately adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, was originally built in 691.
Because the Temple Mount has immense significance for three major world religions - Muslim, Jews and Christians - it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. While the Temple Mount is within the Old City, which has been controlled by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967, the administration of the Temple Mount itself is under Jordanian custodianship and remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
While we were visiting the Temple Mount, a film crew, escorted by a large contingent of armed militia, were interviewing a distinguished looking older gentleman. It turned out that this man was one of the first Israeli soldiers who entered the holy site in 1967 during the Six Day War.
After our visit to the Temple Mount, we proceeded to the Old City near the Lion’s Gate. Here we visited the Pool of Bethesda and the Church of Saint Anne which marks the beginning of the Via Dolorossa. The Via Dolorossa, “the Way of the Sorrow”, is said to be the route that Jesus took, carrying his cross from the place where Pontius Pilate sentenced him to death, to Golgotha, where he was crucified. The route winds from the Antonia Fortress west to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a distance of about 600 metres and is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. There are many stops along the route, most marked by plaques signifying the Stations of the Cross. We eventually arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which contains, according to tradition, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, and his empty tomb, where it is said he was buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula.
Following the Via Dolorossa walk, we made our way to the Arab market located in the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City. The market is a labyrinth of alleyways lined with shops selling everything from handmade jewelry and exotic scarves to hookahs and ceramics. Kim and I found a quaint falafel shop with a few tables that allowed us to sit and eat while we watched the commotion of the market vendors bartering with the endless flow of shoppers.
Having explored the Old City for most of the morning and early afternoon, we ended our tour at the Garden Tomb which is adjacent to a rocky escarpment that has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha. While the traditional site where the death and resurrection of Christ are believed to have occurred has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this site is said to represent a more visual representation of the events described in the Gospels. The Garden Tomb is a peaceful respite from the business of the Old City. A small group of caves, believed to have been used as burial tombs dating back to the 8th century form the back wall of this serene garden. One of the caves is said to be very similar to the tomb that was owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and occupied by Jesus when he was crucified.
It was late afternoon when we finished our visit of the Old City. We boarded our bus and drove about 30 minutes to Bethlehem where we would be spending our last night in Israel.
Are you considering a trip to Israel? Reach out for expert advice and assistance with your holiday planning.
Continue to Day 8 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.