The Adventurerers’ day began early, at the Western Wall tunnels. These tunnels take you under the Arab quarter and along an excavated Roman street next to the Western Wall (also called the Kotel). It was then off to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. However, I wasn’t with them today. Having experienced the tunnel tour several times already, I decided to take in some of the Old City I had yet to explore.
And, while Yad Vashem is an incredible museum and a place I don’t believe anyone visiting Jerusalem should miss, it is also extremely emotionally intense and I cannot bring myself to go back. (I have, seared into my brain, old footage of a mayor of one of the Jewish ghettos urging parents to comply with a Nazi demand that they send out all their children, because once they did that, the Nazis would surely leave them alone. I stood and sobbed as I watched that, unable to do anything but think of my own children – and experience repeated exhibit after exhibit.)
I am sure our photographers took some great photos, and as soon as I get my hands on them, I’ll show them to you.
I chose to walk the ramparts of the walls of the Old City, starting from the Jaffa Gate and ended up at the Dung Gate (the gate closest to the Western Wall). It provides a unique view of the Armenian quarter, and not what I expected.
For example, I saw a big empty field, which is certainly not something I thought you could find in the crowded Old City.
I also saw old, unkept graveyards. I’d love to know how to get closer to those.
After reaching the Dung Gate, I then toured the Davidson Center. Here’s a just one of the remarkable things you can see, which you can also see in the tunnel tour:
This is one of the original stones from the Temple walls, built by Herod. I wish I’d put something in this photo for perspective, because this stone is really long, and it is one piece. As far as I know, no one can figure out how they cut and moved stones this huge. When you look higher up at the newer stones (rebuilding after the destruction, for different purposes), you see that not only are they smaller, but mortar is used to hold the stones together. But the Herodian stones are cut so perfectly that they fit together without a crack between them.
I headed back out the Jaffa Gate just as people were starting to head in towards the Kotel to bring in shabbat.
It is a really interesting experience to be in the Old City as shabbat approaches, seeing so many people rushing to get there on time. Shabbat, for those who don’t know, begins at sundown on Friday. Shops and businesses throughout Jerusalem begin to close several hours before sundown to give people time to prepare. Many people bring in shabbat in the Old City, then head back to their homes or hotels for a special dinner. Saturday itself is quiet, with no stores open or public buses running.
Our group, the Eh Team and many other dragon boat racers are in Jerusalem today to experience shabbat. After a trip to the Kotel, we are having dinner together at the hotel. Tomorrow will be a day of walking tours and rest.
Shabbat shalom, everyone!