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Near & Middle East (5) A dive into ancient history in Israel and Palestine

Near & Middle East (5) A dive into ancient history in Israel and Palestine

This is the last part of my five week journey. Israel – finally I had come to the Promised Land.

Currency: 1 USD = 1.5 Shekels

 

Friday 22.8.1986, Amman – Jerusalem

Well, not exactly. I do not consider the West Bank as Israeli territory. Anyway I got here with a border stop that did not take long. It is remarkable the treatment the Arabs got at the Israeli passport control. We others went straight on with fairly little control, while they had to wait in line for a full body search.

The two French I met in Amman had been able to get on the bus as extra passengers. We took a bus together from the border crossing of Allenby Bridge to Jerusalem for one dinar. We were let off at the Damascus Gate at the entrance to the Old City.

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Damascus Gate

Jerusalem Old Town – Damascus Gate in the Arab Quarter

 

A young boy came up and led us to a hotel nearby. It was expensive so I took a round in the neighbourhood. When I returned I had a basis for bargaining the price down to six shekels, from about the double. The three of us were put in a four bed room with private toilet and shower.

  • HOTEL NEW HASHEMI. Suq Khan ez Zeit, 100 metres on the street to the left inside the Damascus Gate. Clean and nice. They are trying to uphold a hotel standard and not hostel. They have a not so good dorm for 5 shekels.

In the evening I went looking for others hostels. The Jaffa Gate Hostel at that Gate was the nicest (4.5 shekels).

It is lovely to get to Jerusalem after boring Amman. The bus trip had passed through the West Bank with refugee camps and new Israeli settlements. Barren landscape for the most part and large mine fields all along the river. Life in the Arab part of Jerusalem where my hotel is situated is dynamic. Souq streets everywhere and unbelievably many souvenir shops with equally many tourists.

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - View from the Damascus Gate

View from the Damascus Gate into the antennae jungle of the Arab quarter

 

The tourist information office was closed but at the Christian Information Center next to Jaffa Gate I got a map and information.

I visited the place where Golgotha used to be and Jesus was buried. A huge, richly decorated church now cover the entire area. I walked the Via Dolorosa. My hotel is by the way only 15 metres from that street.

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Christian part - Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Christian nun close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

 

I rounded off the evening with a few beers together with two Swedish “flickor”, Mari and Annika.

 

Saturday 23.8.1986, Jerusalem – Bethlehem

I saw a lot today and there is a lot to see. First I took bus 22 from Damascus Gate for half a shekel toBethlehem. I saw the place where Jesus Christ is supposed to have been born. The market was interesting too.

 

Palestine - Fields of Bethlehem

The fields outside Bethlehem

 

Palestine - Bethlehem market

Bethlehem market

 

Back in Jerusalem I walked on the city wall fra Damascus Gate to Jaffa Gate. I went down to the Muslim sacred places: The Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa Mosque. Especially the first was exciting.

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Arab quarter

Jerusalem Old Town – Arab quarter

 

I continued on past the Wailing Wall which I also saw yesterday, down the temple mount and walked up through the Garden of Gethsemane to the Mount of Olives. The Russian basilica in the garden is beautiful.

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Wailing Wall

Jerusalem Old Town – Wailing Wall

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Garden of Gethsemane towards Mount of Olives

Jerusalem Old Town – Garden of Gethsemane towards Mount of Olives

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - View from the Mount of Olives towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

Jerusalem Old Town – View from the Mount of Olives towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

 

I then went home and took a well deserved shower and did some necessary laundry.

Later I walked through the Armenian and Jewish quarters of the Walled City. The latter was recently renovated and looks clean and nice. A sharp contrast to the Arab part right next to it.

 

Sunday 24.8.1986, Jerusalem – West Bank – Nazareth – Sea of Galilee – Tel Aviv

This was a long day rich with experiences.

I first said goodbye to the French and took a bus up the Jordan valley to Nazareth. Further on toTiberias at the Sea of Galilee. After a lovely swim there I continued on to Tel Aviv and straight home to Jerusalem.

 

Israel - Sea of Galilee - South from Tiberias

Israel – Sea of Galilee – South from Tiberias

 

 

I got to see much of the scenery but not so much in the towns, least in Tel Aviv. Tiberias is a seaside resort and has a nice location. The sea is smaller than expected (10 x 20 km) and I was able to see all around it.

The refugee camps in the Jordan valley were interesting to get glimpses of.

 

Israel / Palestine - Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank

Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank

 

In Nazareth I met some Muslims in a mosque and joined the priest home for coffee and dinner. We had an interesting discussion on religion and a little politics as well. Apart from this I did not find Nazareth particularly interesting.

 

Monday 25.8.1986, Jerusalem

I had been thinking of going to the Dead Sea and the Masada fortress today, but changed my mind because of the long trip yesterday. Besides I wanted to see more of Jerusalem.

There are few countries I really mean I would like to return to. I have however firmly decided to return here. There is so incredibly much to see, exciting things and people to see, the scenery is so varied and fascinating. In addition all the girls are so strikingly beautiful. It is really amazing! Perhaps those in uniform in particular!?!

 

Israel / Palestine - Jerusalem Old Town - Jewish quarter

Jerusalem Old Town – Jewish quarter

 

Today I first checked the time of departure of my plane tomorrow. It is 0920 and with a two hour check-in time I will have to leave very early in the morning.

Then I visited the Rockefeller Museum at Herod’s Gate. It has a quite interesting archaeological collection. I then went to the Israel Museum, passing the Knesset on the way. This museum is really big, and it was in particular interesting to see the exhibition of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

Israel - Jerusalem - Israel - Roof of Museum of Israel. The Dead Sea scrolls are kept here

Roof of Museum of Israel. The Dead Sea scrolls are kept here

 

The bus trip(s) home turned into some kind of sightseeing round trip of Jerusalem. I totally lost my sense of direction. I ended up on the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus before I finally entered a bus going to Damascus Gate.

So a tip for a bus tour of the new part of Jerusalem is to take no. 9 bus. Local buses only cost 0.5 shekel and if you have a map it is a cheap way to get to know this old and famous city.

 

Tuesday 26.8.1986, Jerusalem – Home

Then it is over for this time. With a departure time at 0920 from the Ben Gurion Airport and with a check-in time 2 hours before departure I should have been there around 0730. I did however oversleep and did not get to the airport until eight.

Thorough security check but I was let through and was home via Copenhagen around 1630. The plane ticket cost me 2310 NOK.

Money spent:

110 USD

 

Total expenditures on this trip over five weeks and four countries:

Turkey: 210 USD and 14 per day
Syria: 70 USD and 8 per day
Jordan: 200 USD and 25 per day
Israel: 110 USD and 24 per day

Total: 590 USD and 16 per day

+ Airplane 546 USD.
In addition come carpets (150 USD) and loss during money exchange of SL, 40 USD.

 

Further reading

This is the last chapter in this series of blog posts from my 1986 trip to the Near and Middle East. Read from the start. Read the previous chapter, from Jordan.

 

All images from Israel and Palestine

 

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