On our 6thday in Israel we would begin the first of 3 intensive days of exploring one of the oldest and most storied cities in the world - Jerusalem. This was in stark contrast to the previous several days where we spent much of our time covering several areas across the less populated north and eastern regions of the country. Our Jerusalem city tour started with a 20-minute bus ride from our hotel, winding our way to the top of the Mount of Olives where we were rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the ancient city of Jerusalem to the west. The view from the top of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Kidron Valley is highlighted by the brilliantly golden Dome of the Rock perched atop the Temple Mount.
We spent quite some time at the viewpoint near the top of the Mount of Olives enjoying the incredible vistas of the old city, the seemingly endless ancient Jewish cemetery that lies on the western slopes of the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley that lies between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount. After taking countless photos and video from this vantage point we gathered together and followed the long winding path known as the Palm Sunday walk which leads from the top of the Mount of Olives past Dominus Flevit, a Fransciscan Church, then on to the Garden of Gethsemane, where, according to the New Testament, Jesus would frequently meet with his disciples and where he would eventually be betrayed by Judas. We walked around enjoying the peace and tranquility of Gethsemane until we were summoned by our tour guide to head back to the bus. Since we would be exploring more of the Kidron Valley and the ancient city of Jerusalem over the next two days, we would spend the rest of this day at 2 of Israel’s most renowned museums.
The first we visited was the Israel Museum, one of the world’s leading art and archeological museums. This modern museum highlights the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, as well as rare early medieval biblical manuscripts. Adjacent to the Shrine is the Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, which reconstructs the topography and architectural character of the city as it was prior to its destruction by the Romans in 66 CE, and provides historical context to the Shrine’s presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Following our visit to the Israel Museum we stopped for a quick lunch before proceeding to our next stop - the Holocaust Remembrance Centre, Yad Vashem. The Center has a large collection of original Holocaust-era documentation provided in English including letters and diaries written by Jews during the Holocaust, numerous photographs and original documents. The Holocaust Resource Center serves as a repository for the collection of the testimonies of Holocaust survivors that have been collected at Yad Vashem over the years, as well as excerpts from memoirs written by survivors after the war. We spent nearly two hours wandering through the museum trying to comprehend the unimaginable horrors that were represented in the artifacts of the museum and that took place just a few decades ago. The visit to Yad Vashem was a sobering experience, one that should not be missed on a trip to Jerusalem as it marks an historic and significant milestone in the history of humanity.
As it was late afternoon when we finished our museum tour, we bussed back to the hotel in downtown Jerusalem. Kim and I changed from our walking clothes and into casual evening wear. We had decided to visit the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, often referred to as "The Shuk” since we could get to it via the tram that was only a couple of hundred metres from our hotel. The Shuk is a massive open-air and partially covered market that houses over 250 vendors. It is vibrant, colourful and lively - all the things a market should be. Fresh fruits and vegetables; baked goods; fish, meat and cheeses; nuts, seeds, and spices; wines and liquors; clothing and shoes; and housewares, textiles, and Judaica are available throughout the market. Vendors are calling out, vying for your attention as you walk by their booths. We stopped by a dried fruit stand and bought some exotic dried fruits which we were told made a wonderful and healing tea.
We had made a reservation at Machneyuda, a Middle Eastern restaurant just a few blocks from the market and we eventually ended up at the restaurant just a few minutes before our reservation. We were led to our table near the back of the narrow restaurant by a friendly hostess. As we waited for our server to arrive at our table, the kitchen staff emerged playing musical instruments and singing and dancing around the tables. This set the mood for the rest of the evening and we enjoyed a fabulous meal including lamb, pasta, kurdish pastry and Bavarian toffee cream.
We emerged from the restaurant feeling full, yet elated but we had one more stop to make before going back to our hotel. Prior to our trip to Israel, we had read about a unique and intriguing bar in the 1920’s speakeasy style called Gatsbys. We had looked up the address before coming to dinner and since it was within walking distance of the restaurant we decided to try and find it. This proved much more difficult than we had first thought. We walked for about 30 minutes to the area where the bar was located. When we were in the vicinity, we asked several passersby who were local residents if they could direct us to it. No one we asked had heard of it. At the address where the bar was supposed to be was an office building with a restaurant/cafe attached to it. We asked the manager of the restaurant if he could tell us where Gatsby’s was, but he had not heard of it either. One of the staff suggested that we walk down the corridor between restaurant and the office building as they had seen people going there earlier. We walked down the corridor which ended at a solid wooden door with a large “G” in the centre of the door. We opened the door and walked into a small vestibule that was lined with bookshelves. A woman sat behind a wooden desk at one side of the vestibule. We told her we were looking for Gatsby’s and she said “You found it!” and proceeded to roll back one of the bookshelves and then led us into a wonderful, lively little bar at the back. We ordered some pretty fancy drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere. What a way to end a great day!
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