May 26, 2012 by Beverley Simpson
Preparing: We’re off to Israel on Monday. We’ll land in Tel Aviv Tuesday morning and have 3 days to explore the city and connect with a few people. Hoping to get to Jaffa and the northern coast as well before boarding a train to Jerusalem.
Monday, May 28 – we are now on our way. The first indication that we are flying to Israel – with its vulnerability to violence and terrorist attacks – is the double security check at the airport, first entering the departure gates and second entering the specific gate for the flight to Tel Aviv.
Tuesday – arrival at Ben Gurion airport and taxi to Park Plaza Orchid after an uneventful overnight flight with no sleep. All the customs agents are young women! Easy process.
Wednesday – fascinating hike to Old City of Jaffa, many good pictures on the way and managing to overcome the jet lag. We want to be fresh when we get to Jerusalem and the conference. View from our hotel is spectacular.
Thursday – City tour of Tel Aviv-Jofa and lots more pictures. Doing well with jet lag. Clocks are set 7 hours ahead of Toronto time – like much of Europe.
Friday – arrival in Jerusalem by car via highway 443 that winds directly through Palestininan land and hillside villages. State of the art highway has been built and is maintained by Israel via an agreement between the 2 countries – and lots of barbed wire and high stone walls! Apparently it’s “very safe”. We weren’t at all concerned. Arrival in Jerusalem was a treat. It is a very beautiful city. Out hiking to see the sights and into the Old City via the Jaffa Gate. It’s very hot in the day and cool at night. Very blue skies most of the day and the search for shade is constant even for sun lovers like me! Today is the holy day in the Muslim tradition but we don’t see much change in the city. We are told there are 1000 synagogues, 500 mosques and 200 Christian churches in this city of 700,000. Population of Israel is said to be 7million although I’m sure it’s very hard to make an accurate count.
Saturday – Its the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition and the city is quiet and we take time to see the important sights in the Old City. This time we enter by the Dung Gate and run into a young Muslim man who wants to guide us for a very large sum. We decline because we’re not sure what we would get ourselves into. There are many people who want to sell you something – maybe it’s a hard scrabble life for many – but what you agree to seems to grow significantly and the stories that emerge change with the telling.
We see King David’s tomb and I am told by a very old woman drinking coke that I can’t go in to the women’s entrance because I’m not a Jewess. Perhaps because it’s the Sabbath. There’s not much to see anyway. We see the room where purportedly the Last Supper was held and it’s a beautiful room but not much evidence that anything happened there – It was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15thC by the Turks – no windows such as the one in Da Vincis Last Supper. We see an older painted replication of The Last Supper. It’s fascinating to be in these thousand++ year old places but hard to tell myth from legend from truth. I am pleased to find delightful colleagues from Montfort Hospital in Ottawa at the Inbal Conference site.
Sunday – The Holy Day in the Christian tradition, and a normal work school day in Jerusalem. We find a city tour bus and take a 3 hour tour some of it very interesting and much of the dialogue either hard to understand or spoken very quickly. Glad we did it though as it was ovall very interesting , informative and included parts of the Muslim section which we wouldn’t otherwise see as its quite a distance from our hotel.
Monday – as well as registering at the conference we spent seveal hours visiting the Israel Museum, which is fantastic and houses the Story of the Book – the Dead Sea Scrolls – beautifully positioned and curated in a climate-controlled building designed to resemble the jars inside which many were found. The gardens are magnificent, full of olive trees, rosemary bushes, lavender and amazingly a beautiful rose garden that is thriving despite the tremendous heat and hot sun all day. We have been resting and swimming at the King David Hotel in the heat of the afternoons. It’s a sister hotel to ours in the Dan chain. Ours is quite basic but comfortable.
Tuesday – Today we toured the Tower of David which was both interesting – with a well curated history of this land going back 4000 years – and a beautiful archeogical site built into the Old City wall between the Jaffa and the Dung gates. Lots of school children visiting as well with energy that if bottled could power the country. I loaded and tested my slides at the conference site and met with a few people.
Wednesday – Back to the Israel Museum to see the things we missed and the presentation at the conference which went well. Interest from Hebrew Unversity in Jerusalem and from the University of Arkansas in pursuing a similar track and I will follow up when I gt back to the office.
Thursday – We’re a little at odds today wanting to tackle something big but also not so energetic. We have 2 more days here n Jerusalem.