Tuesday, January 15, 2013

German Forest Harvest

It's that time of year in Germany.  Logging season.  There are vast forests across much of the country and a significant portion of those are huge pine forests with very tall, straight trees.  Actually, there's logging that goes on all year, but during the winter months, when the undergrowth has gone dormant and the deciduous leaves have fallen, it's much easier to see the work that is ongoing. 

German's use pine extensively in their buildings.  They love pine tables, chairs, benches, floors, walls and ceilings, so they use lots of it and there's always a huge demand for pine products across the country.  Although they harvest a tremendous amount of pine each year German's also tenderly care for their forests and replenish them with millions of new pine saplings each year.

This is a typical pile of logs, not far from our house, that's waiting to be picked up and taken to a wood processor.

Another pile nearby that shows how these trees are meticulously cut to a uniform length.

A path through the pine forest left by the large harvesting machines.

Just outside Ramstein village is one of the largest wood processors in Germany, Rettenmeier.  It's a huge, around-the-clock operation.  Most of the pine harvest in our area ends up here.

The gigantic yard where pine logs await to be cut into boards, planks or beams.

A closer look at the thousands of logs that still need to be processed.

In the summer, when temperatures are much warmer and there's less rain, these logs are kept damp with the use of large sprinklers. This time of year though, because of the amount of rain, the sprinklers aren't needed.

Eventually those logs end up a finished product in these areas.  Covered in plastic and ready to be shipped to some builder in Germany or across Europe.

It's hard to describe just how big this operation is but it's certainly needed to satisfy the German appetite for wood and pine products.

Not surprisingly, at least for Germany, in one corner of the Rettenmeier operation is this Gertr√§nkmarkt and Imbiss.  The Gertr√§nkmarkt, (drink market) a place to buy beer but also wines and juices and the Imbiss, for a quick bratwurst and pommes frites (fries).  Gotta keep the workers happy and when you're working with wood, at any level, a beer will certainly make it more enjoyable.

Germans love their forests.  Germans love their trees.  The more wood in a German's home, the happier that German will be.  So poetic.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

German New Year's 2012/2013

A big part of celebrating the New Year in Germany is fireworks.  We showed you a couple years ago what this spectacle looks like.  The sky above villages and towns becomes filled with fireworks of every type.  It looks like a happy war and this amazing display goes on for well over a half an hour.  Well, this year we were armed with our own arsenal.

This is just our contribution to the evening's party.  For a size reference there's a can of coke sitting on top of the large box.  That large box is Fire-Combat; three connected batteries that contain 144 various shooting fireworks and will be the climax of our event.  To the left a huge bag of BABR, Big Ass Bottle Rockets.  The two yellow things are those whirling, flying thing-a-ma-jigs.  That long box at the top is one single, long string of firecrackers, folded over on itself, so it's twice as long as that box and each firecracker is the size of your thumb.  At the bottom, you can see two, red BAF, Big Ass Firecrackers.  We're armed to the teeth!!

In addition to being a New Year's party, it's also Jeff's and my going away party.  So here are Jeff and I with the other ladies of the night.

OK, we're out in our launch position about to begin.  The fireworks start in earnest about 15 minutes before midnight and last at least until half past.  Here's Jeff and Linda.  You can see Jeff has on his new GoPro Hero video camera to catch the action and a set of safety goggles to protect him from some stupid mishap which is likely to happen given the fireworks and the amount of inebriation involved.
  

OK, here we go!!  That's no ordinary bottle. That's a Moet-Chandon bottle.

After 40 minutes of firing off our arsenal and those of a couple of friends, we're ready for the grand finale.  The three battery Fire-Combat.  We apologize in advance for the F-bomb, but as I mentioned earlier, the inevitable stupid mishap did happen.  This is mostly black but it still shows plenty of what the night was like. There's some amusing commentary at the very end.


Beth, me and Linda.  Still bright eyed and bushy tailed at 2 AM.

The next morning.  The scene of the happy war. Multiple this times a hundred other sights around the local area and thousands across Germany.  

Lots of fun the night before.  Slow day the day after.  Sure wish we could do the same thing in our backyard in Texas.  

Happy 2013!!

Important German Issue

Beer bottles.

Half-liter beer bottles in Germany are pretty standard.  If it's not a porcelain pop-top then your beer of choice here will probably be in one of the bottles below.  Both are a half-liter.  The shorter bottle on the left, considered an old style bottle, is called a Bauarbeiterhalbe (construction worker's half liter). It got that name from the carpenters, construction workers and other labors that would arrive at work each day with a case of beer.  You don't see that anymore but 25 years ago it wasn't uncommon to pass by a building site where a new home was going up and see a case of beer sitting up in the rafters.  In those times, most of the cases were made up of the Bauarbeiterhalbe.  Since it doesn't often get hot in Germany and even slightly warm beer is not much of a concern here, there was no need to keep workman's beer on ice.  Of course, it's very possible that a case lasted two, three or four days.


A few breweries still use the Bauarbeiterhalbe, even Augustiener in Munich.  However, 15-20 years ago the taller, slender bottle became more and more common until today it is definitely the most common beer bottle in Germany.  A few years ago Bitburger introduced a bottle design unique only to them but other than that there aren't many novelty bottles in Germany.

By the way, the beer on the left is a light, rauch (smoke) beer from Bamberg, just north of Nuremberg, in the northern part of Bavaria.  The slender bottle on the right is from the oldest monastery brewery in the world, Kloster Weltenburg located on the Danau (Danube) River just an hour north of Munich. 

There you have it, beer bottles.  It's an important subject here in Germany.  PROST!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Israel--Jerusalem

After returning to Tel Aviv from the tour the evening prior, we hopped in our rental car and drove to Jerusalem. It's only a 55 mile drive and so you'd think that would take around an hour but the perennial traffic jams around both cities resulted in our drive taking an hour and forty-five minutes. With Jeff's excellent map skills we drove straight to the center of Jerusalem, not an easy feat, and right to our hotel.  We were dragging after the all day tour and the drive to Jerusalem.  Since we were getting right into another tour the next morning we grabbed a bite to eat and hit the sack.

27 December 2012

Jerusalem

This is our hotel in Jerusalem, Notre Dame.  The full name is Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.  We found this hotel on booking.com, liked the reviews and the location, and really knew nothing more about it.  Notre Dame was originally built for French pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. Construction began in 1885 and although the first pilgrims were greeted in 1888 the hotel wasn't fully completed until 1904.  It really is a very nice, clean hotel.  The rooms are nicely appointed but certainly no frills and one interesting point, no televisions.  The hotel is now owned by the Catholic church and run by a priest.

This is the view out our hotel window at the Notre Dame.  This is the New Gate in Jerusalem's Old City wall and here we're looking into the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

A bit closer look at that car parked next to the New Gate.  He's got two coffins on top of his car.  I don't think I've ever seen that in the States.  Wonder if they're occupied.

We're with our tour and our first stop is the Mount of Olives to the east of the Old City.  Immediately behind me is one of the huge Jerusalem Jewish cemeteries   Beyond that you can see the Old City Wall and the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount.

A closer photo of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount.  In front of the wall is another Jewish cemetery. The Dome of the Rock was completed in 691 AD on the previous site of the Second Jewish Temple which stood here between 516 BCE and 70 AD.  The First Jewish Temple was here too before it was destroyed in 586 BCE and according to Jewish belief a Third Temple will be built on this site at some time in the future. Of course, that view is a problematic to the Muslim world.

A bit above and to the west of the Dome of the Rock is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This church was built on the site the Hill of Cavalry where Jesus was crucified and also over the tomb where Jesus was buried and from which he was resurrected.  Construction of the Holy Sepulchre was ordered by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD and his own mother was involved in directing the construction.

Another significant site in the Muslim world is the dark gray dome here which is the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  It is one of the holiest sites in Islam.  Muslims believe that Mohammed was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and then from here he rose to Heaven, all this on what is known in Islam as the Night Journey.  The mosque was originally a small prayer house but was greatly expanded and completed in 705 AD.

So you can see just how close these major religious areas are to each other here's the Dome of the Rock on the right and the dark gray dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the left, both on Temple Mount.  Further back is the light gray dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Temple Mount is at the center of three religions, Judaism  Islam and Christianity.  Jews believe that Temple Mount is where God chose to rest and created Adam.  Jews, Christian and Muslims believe that it is the site where Abraham was directed by God to sacrifice his son Isaac but was stopped by an angel .  Jews also believe that the Ark of the Covenant, which held the original Ten Commandments given to Moses, were stored here in the First Temple. Muslims believe, as already mentioned, that it is the place where Mohammed ascended to Heaven.

Now we're on our way into the Old City of Jerusalem.  Jeff loved this top sign.  He tells this joke from time to time.  What's brown and sounds like a bell?  DUNG!!

Our first stop in the Old City is King David's Tomb.  Most people will remember that David was the shepherd boy that defeated Goliath, the Philistine giant, and would grow up to be the king of the Israelites.   He was also the father of Solomon who would also become king and build the First Temple on Temple Mount.

The tomb of King David.  Kind of a strange worshiper here at the tomb.  He stood completely still except to shrug his shoulders about every twenty seconds. 

The Room of the Last Supper.  The site of Jesus' last meal which he shared with his Apostles.


Inside the room of the Last Supper.

Another angle in the room of the Last Supper.

A golden olive tree which symbolizes where Jesus sat during the Last Supper.

From the Old City you can see that tall steeple which is next to the Chapel of the Ascension which is the point where Jesus ascended to Heaven.

An interesting gate to the Old City.  This is Zion Gate which was built by the Turkish Sultan in the 1530's.  When this gate was finished the Sultan decided he didn't want to pay the architect and the chief builder so he had them killed but he buried them both in their own memorial graves within the city to honor their work.  Nice guy.

The Old City of Jerusalem is made up of four quarters; Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim.  This is one of the streets in the Armenian Quarter and as you can see, within the Old City, it's hilly and at times quite steep.


We're now in the Jewish Quarter overlooking the Wailing Wall or Kotel in Hebrew.  It is also known as the Western Wall since it is the west remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the courtyard on Temple Mount.  The Wailing Wall is second only to the Temple Mount courtyard itself as the most sacred location in the Jewish faith.

Another picture to show you the Wailing Walls location with reference to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Non-Muslims are only allowed up to the courtyard of Temple Mount for a few hours each day.  Access to the courtyard is only permitted to non-Muslims via that wooden bridge.  Non-Muslims are not permitted in the Dome of the Rock at any time.  Non-Muslims seen praying on Temple Mount will be immediately removed.  Many Jews will not set foot on Temple Mount because of its extreme sanctity and the possibility of infringing on the Divine Presence that they believe still exists there today.

The area in front of the Wailing Wall is divided into a men's section to the left and a women's section to the right which is about a quarter the size of the men's.  The two sections are separated by a wall called a Mechitza.  On the day we were at the Wailing Wall there were quite a few Bar Mitzvahs taking place.  Here you can see the mothers, grandmothers and sisters looking over the Mechitza to see the boys undertaking their Bar Mitzvah. 

The men's side of the Wailing Wall is quite large and certainly not to be breeched by any women.

In the middle of this picture you can see a boy participating in his Bar Mitzvah.  He was one of many doing the same thing that day.

Anyone can pray at the wailing wall, Jew or non-Jew.  Jews believe that God visits the wall twice a year and so they will place a small note to God in the wall with the hope that it will draw his attention. You can see the piles of notes squeezed between these big blocks on the Wailing Wall.

Another boy having his Bar Mitzvah this day.  You can see he and the men of his family are wearing their prayer shawls called a tallit.  Also, you can make out the black block on the forehead of some.  Those blocks are called tefillin.  The tefillin contains small scrolls which are inscribed with verses from the Torah.  One tefillin is placed on the head and the other on the left upper arm which also includes a leather strap which is wrapped around the forearm.  

This video shows the area around the Wailing Wall.  The second part of the video shows a bit closer view of some of the activity around the Bar Mitzvahs.

From the Wailing Wall we continue into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

This is a market street that leads to the Cotton Gate and onto Temple Mount.  Only Muslims are allowed to enter Temple Mount through this gate.
Apparently the coffee is good in the Old City.  We saw another coffee shop called Stars & Bucks.  Even their logo looked very similar to the big corporate coffee chain.

Israeli flags flying in the Muslim Quarter.  20% of the population in Israel are Arabs, most of them Muslim.  They have all the rights of Jewish Israelis.

We have joined the Via Dolorosa, Latin for The Way of Grief.  It is the path that Jesus took through Jerusalem from the point he was condemned by Pontius Pilate to his crucifixion on the Hill of Calvary.  The Via Dolorosa is marked by the Stations of the Cross, nine on the streets of the Old City and five within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Each Station is a point of significance during Jesus' agonized journey through the city.

Our tour group joined the Via Dolorosa at Station 5. This is the point where Simon picked up the cross and carried it for Jesus.

A small Franciscan chapel is at Station 5, dedicated to Simon. 

As you can see here, the terrain on the Via Dolorosa is significant and although these steps were probably not present on that day it was a steep climb for Jesus to Calvary.

Station 6 is to the west further up the hill from Station 5.  This is where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with her scarf.  There's a Greek Catholic chapel at this site.

Jesus is now carrying his cross again and Station 7 is where he falls for the second time.  Behind this door is another small Franciscan chapel which is closed to the public.

Our tour did not take us to Station 8 but we planned to visit that later on our own. Here at Station 9 we are very close to the top of what was the Hill of Calvary and now the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  This is where Jesus fell for the third time.

Station 9 on the Via Dolorosa.


The rest of the Stations of the Cross are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and that is where we are entering now.

The place where Jesus was stripped of his clothes and nailed to the cross.

The crucifixion site is below this altar here in the Holy Sepulchre.

Beneath this altar and through a hole here you can reach down to touch the actual rock of the Hill of Calvary.

Nearby is this stone where Jesus was laid after he was taken down from the cross.  This is where Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus' body with oil before it was moved to the tomb.

The Aedicule is the structure that was built over the sepulchre or tomb of Jesus within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


The front of the Aedicule and the entrance to the tomb.

Inside the Aedicule the tomb of Jesus is just beyond these burning candles.

A very moving moment within Jesus' tomb.

We're leaving the Old City of Jerusalem.  This is one of the major gates of the Old City, the Jaffa Gate.  We're on our way across town to visit the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum.

The wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

On the way to the Holocaust Museum we passed the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Holocaust Museum

Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum, first opened in 1957.  Since then modern new buildings and displays have been added and the dedication of the the new museum was in 2005.  This is the triangular shaped building that houses the main museum.  A triangular hallway runs the length of the building with rooms on either sides that show how the Holocaust began and spread across Europe. It uses the stories of 90 Holocaust survivors with personal testimony and stories of  the turmoil they faced.

As we approached the entrance to the museum complex we saw these Israeli conscripts.  All Israelis, men and women, are required to serve in the Israeli military.  If you look closely you can see that most of these troops have red patches on their shoulders.  That red patch signifies that these guys have been bad boys in one way or another.  As part of their punishment, or maybe ongoing indoctrination, they're brought to the museum to expose them to some of the reasons of why they're asked to serve.

In this area of the museum curators planted trees dedicated to the memory of non-Jews who, at their own risk and danger, saved Jews during the Holocaust.  Each tree is for a single person or group with their name at the foot of the tree.  One tree is dedicated to Denmark, the only European country that openly defied the Nazi efforts to round up the Jews of their country.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish architect and diplomat who was working as a special envoy in Budapest during WWII.   He provided Swedish passports to as many as 100,000 Hungarian Jews and placed them in buildings and homes designated as Swedish territory thereby saving tens of thousands of lives.  In April 1945 Wallenberg was detained by the Red Army during the siege of Budapest and taken into custody under the suspicion of espionage and disappeared.  Subsequently, Raoul Wallenberg received numerous humanitarian honors and became an honorary citizen of the United States, Canada, Hungary and Israel.

Irene Sendler was a Polish Catholic social worker who worked with the Polish underground during the WWII.  She, along with others, was able to smuggle 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, giving them false identifications, placed them with families outside the ghetto and documented all their names and families for after the war.  She was captured and tortured and sentenced to death but was able to escape. Although in hiding the remainder of the war her work with the ghetto children continued.  She was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2007 but, on that year, Al Gore won for narrating a movie.  Irene Sendler died in 2008 with numerous humanitarian awards and honors from Israel, Poland and around the world

The tree planted for Oscar Schindler.

Oscar Schindler is known to the world mainly because of the movie Schindler's List.  Schindler, who was a member of the Nazi party, was an ethnic German industrialist who saved at least 1100 Jews by employing them in his armaments factory.  He insisted that these Jews and their special skills, although in many cases they had none, were necessary for his factory to meet its production needs.  Schindler treated his workers humanely and allowed them to practice their religion.  Oscar Schindler died in 1974.  He had asked to be buried in Jerusalem and is buried in a Catholic cemetery on Mt. Zion, the only Nazi party member to be so honored.

The memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children who lost their lives in the Holocaust.  A very moving presentation.

The Children's Museum was built with money donated by Abraham and Edita Spiegel who survived Auschwitz and were rescued by Soviet forces in 1945.  Their son, Uziel, was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.  The Spiegels emigrated to the US in 1947 and, in spite of knowing very little English, built a successful construction company and became the president of two savings and loans.

Uziel Spiegel.

The Janusz Korczak memorial.  Janusz Korczak was a Polish Jew, a doctor, educator and a child's author.  When the war broke out he was operating an orphanage for boys in Warsaw.  When the German's arrived and created the Warsaw ghetto they also force Korczak to move his orphanage into the ghetto.  Even though he had opportunities to escape he moved into the ghetto with his boys.  When the Nazis came to ship his 192 boys to the Treblinka death camp, again, he had a chance to escape with the help of the Polish underground but he choose to stay with his boys.  Even while waiting for the train to take them to Treblinka, a German officer recognized Korczak as the author of one of his favorite childhood books and offered to help Korczak escape.  Instead, Janusz Korczak got on the train with his boys and was never seen again.

The Remembrance Hall has a single, eternal flame with the names on the floor of all the death camps the Nazis constructed across Europe.


The Warsaw Ghetto memorial at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Touring is done for the day. We ate and had a couple beers in this bar just a few blocks from our hotel.  Interestingly, it's kosher and here's their certificate proudly displayed near the entrance.  However, if you see the date on the certificate you'll see it expired 13 December 2012, just two weeks prior.  So are we eating koscher or not?

Before we left the bar we saw this sign on one of their toilets.  I guess this says it's for handicapped and one-legged women with no head.  That's pretty specific.

28 December 2012

Bethlehem

So we have a tour scheduled for Bethlehem the next morning and will be picked up at our hotel.  A cab driver shows up and says "I am to take you to the checkpoint."  We think he means he's going to take us to a central location where we meet up with the rest of the folks on the tour.  But no, he takes us to the southern edge of Jerusalem, to the Israeli security wall, drops us off at the checkpoint, tells us to go through security there and our Palestinian driver, Ronny, will be waiting on the other side, in Bethlehem.

Once on the Bethlehem side of the security fence, meeting our driver and picking up our tour guide our first stop was the Milk Grotto, officially the Grotto of the Lady Mary.  When Herod heard that the King of the Jews had been born he sent his soldiers out to kill all new born boys.  Mary and Joseph fled to this cave to hide.  It is said that while nursing her new son, a drop of milk fell to the ground turning the stone white.

Mary nursing her son.

Jeff and I at the door of the Milk Grotto.

The chapel area of the Milk Grotto built within the cave.  On the right you can see a camera crew setting up to broadcast the service around the world.

The area of the cave where the Holy Family sought refuge.

From the Milk Grotto we drove into the valley to the area where shepherds tended their sheep during the birth of Jesus.  It's called The Shepherd's Field now.

A pretty walk in The Shepherd's Field.

A Franciscan chapel in The Shepherd's Field.

A fresco in the chapel showing the shepherds in the fields the night of Jesus' birth.

Another fresco that shows the angels telling the shepherds of the birth of Jesus.

Below is a cave that was used my shepherds at that time and is now a chapel.

From The Shepherd's Field and across the Israeli security fence one of the new Jewish settlements can be seen. These are the settlements that are causing so much difficulty with forwarding peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Our last stop in Bethlehem.  The Church of the Nativity.

A sign welcoming us to Bethlehem with a little political statement included.

The Church of the Nativity.

Across the street from the church is Manger Square which is where Christmas midnight services take place.  Across the square is the Mosque of Omar, the only mosque in Bethlehem.  Bethlehem has a population of around 25,000 people, about a third of them being refuges.  40% of the cities population is Christian, the oldest Christian community in the world, the rest are Muslim. 

The Church of the Nativity was originally ordered to be built by Emperor Constantine in 327 AD over the site of the birthplace of Jesus.  In this picture you can see three different entrance frames.  The large, rectangular entrance is the original but in order to prevent men on horses from entering the smaller round top entrance was built.  Finally, the smaller door was constructed to ensure that people would humbly bow as they entered the church.

Inside the Church of the Nativity.  Throughout the centuries the church has had many rough times and even vandalized.  Although a magnificent structure, it is mostly plain and any ancient decorations quite faded.  

Beneath the floor of the basilica floor are these protected and beautiful stone, mosaic floors. In the picture above you can see where this section of the floor is open for viewing.

The front altar in the Church of the Nativity.  Beneath this altar is the cave and birthplace of Jesus.

The actual site of Jesus's birth marked by a fourteen point silver star.  You are allowed to kneel down beneath this altar to touch the birthplace.

Jeff and I in front of the the birthplace of Jesus.

Nearby is the place where the manger was located.

Here we are in front of the manger site.  As you can see by my expression all this was quite emotional

We're now in the Church of St. Catherine, the Catholic church built next to the Church of the Nativity.  The administrative responsibility of the Church of the Nativity is held by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic authorities.  This situation has actually caused problems among each monastic members who have quarreled and even brawled over the respect of other's prayers, hymns and even the responsibility of who cleans what part of the floor.  Bethlehem police have had to be called to break up some of these fights.

A manger scene in St. Catherine.

Stained glass at the front of the Church of St. Catherine.

At the rear of St. Catherine is this stained glass window.


Within the Church of St. Catherine is this bronze family tree which depicts the fourteen generations from Abraham, through David, to Joseph and finally Jesus Christ.


You may have seen this cross in number of the photos we've shown. This is the Jerusalem Cross. It's seen at most Christian sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  The five crosses represent the five wounds of Christ on the cross; two hands, two feet and the wound in his side.  The four smaller crosses are also said to represent the four gospels; Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

A Jerusalem Cross with Bethlehem in the background.

Our time in Bethlehem is over and we're back at the Israeli security fence.  You can see just how high the fence is.  We're taking the Entrance to Israel.

On our way through the Israeli security fence. We had to get in line with all the Palestinians and go through a metal detector and paperwork/passport control.  You can see a round blue and white sticker on my upper right arm; Jeff has one too.  That's so our taxi driver on the Israeli side will know who we are and drive us back to our hotel.

Bethlehem was a wonderful experience!!


More Jerusalem

Time for a bit of rest and some nourishment. Since we had a bottle of Israeli wine we got the key from our hotel front desk to go up on their roof and take in the sights from there.

Really great to just take some time and absorb Jerusalem.  The high ground is the Mount of Olives, the tall tower is next to the Chapel of Ascension and the Dome of the Rock stands in front of a huge Jewish cemetery.

So we're on our own now and there's a few things we still need to see so we're on foot, walking along the wall of the Old City.  Across the street is this cop.  He looks serious.

This is the Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.  There a numerous markets on Friday in the Muslim Quarter and they apparently close around noon so these folks are all leaving the Old City.

The immense wall around the Old City of Jerusalem.

This is Herod's Gate, another entrance to the Muslim Quarter.

The Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives; our destination. 

The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdealene behind.

Lots of signs and arrows pointing to all kinds of points of historical and biblical significance.

Almost there.

Just at the bottom of the hill now.

The entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Notice the Jerusalem Crosses.

The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion and where Christ was betrayed and taken into custody

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Inside the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony.

Mosaic of the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Inside the Church of All Nations is the rock where Jesus prayed while his disciples fell asleep and failed to stand guard.

We're entering the Old City once again at the Lions Gate, another gate entering the Muslim Quarter.



Our last goal was to see the first Stations of the Cross that we missed the day prior with our tour group.  So we're at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa.  Stations 1 and 2 are across this narrow street from each other.

Across the street from these two sanctuaries is Stations 1.  Station 1 is site where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to be crucified and then absolved himself of any wrong by washing his hands before the crowd who had called for Jesus' death.

Station 2 actually is the two sanctuaries mentioned on the brass plate above, the Flagellation Church, pictured below, where Jesus was ridiculed, flogged, beaten and a crown of thorns placed upon his head.

The second sanctuary of Station 2 is the Church of Condemnation, its altar seen here, where Jesus took up his cross and began his agonized journey to the Hill of Calvary.

Along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Station 3, after a sharp turn to the left along the Via Doloras, is where Jesus fell for the first time. Today there is a Polish chapel located on this site.

Station 4 is adjacent to 3 and is where Jesus met his mother Mary.  The Armenian Church of Our Lady stands here today.

Much of the Via Dolorosa was not paved with stone on that day   but here, at Stations 3 and 4, the path was part of an ancient Roman street.  These large road stones may have been the very stones that Jesus walked upon.

We're back at Station 5 where our tour the day prior joined the Via Dolorosa.  It's another place where Jesus' path took a sharp turn, this time to the right.  Here there is an imprint in the stone that is said to be the hand print of Christ where, after Simon took up Jesus's cross, Jesus placed his hand against the wall for support.

The final point of the Stations of the Cross that we did not see the day prior was Station 8 which is where Jesus spoke to the women of Jerusalem; "weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children." 

Because it's Friday and will soon be the beginning of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, we are walking back to the Wailing Wall since we've been told it's a very different crowd there at that time. On our way we past the Cotton Gate, the Muslim only entrance to the Dome on the Rock.  So we figured we'd see how they prevent you from walking out onto the Temple Mount.  Well, this is as far as we got.  Two Israeli guards with automatic weapons turned us away.  So that's how they stop you, pretty effective.

We're back at the Wailing Wall.  I am not in the men's prayer area but just slightly above that where the general public can stand and watch.  Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and continues until three stars appear in the Saturday evening sky.  As you can see by the shadows here, sunset it approaching.

According to Jeff, I'm the nosiest person in the world.  You can see me here standing on a lawn chair so I can look into the men's prayer area of the Wailing Wall.

As sunset approached, more and more people poured into the Wailing Wall area. Notice the guy in the blue flannel shirt carrying a large automatic weapon.  He certainly wasn't the only one.

We hadn't seen these hats the day prior during our visit to the Wailing Wall. This brown, fur hat is called a kolpik and is worn by Hasidic rabbis on Shabbat and other special religious occasions.

More and more of these Hasidic rabbis began showing up for the beginning of Shabbath.

Eventually, most of the area close to the Wailing Wall was occupied by these Hasidic rabbis, four or five deep.

As you can see, sunset has occurred and Shabbat is in full swing.  The prayer area in front of the Wailing Wall was packed with all sorts of folks that practice various traditions and extremes of the Jewish faith.  The more orthodox appeared to be mostly deep in prayer and chants while others where involved a circular group dance that approached a party fervor.


29 December 2012

It's Saturday, we're back at the Ben Gurion airport after our very easy drive from Jerusalem.  Many Jews do not drive during Shabbath, which takes up most of Saturday, so there was very little traffic to contend with.  We're waiting for our Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul where we change to our flight to Frankfurt.  Here's an interesting picture Jeff took in one of the airport toilets.  Guess the very low urinal wasn't obvious enough. 

We're back at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul with a few hours to kill before we get on our flight to Frankfurt; what better way to pass the time than with the local favorite, Efes.  Wow, deja vu all over again.

What a wonderful, emotional visit and experience in Israel. We are so happy we had the opportunity to make this trip before we return to the States. This will be one of our very special memories of our time overseas.  Once again, Shalom!!