Dan Israel (2003)

After breakfast in the morning – most people were still half-asleep – the bus to Jerusalem showed up, thankfully not being driven by Eli. It was a decent sized bus (seats 17), and fit all of us comfortably. The drive to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was about 1 hour, with traffic, and we saw a tank being transported en route, as well as the old ruined armored vehicles along the side of the road that have been left over from the war of independence in 1948. We arrived at the Jaffo Gate of the old city, where our guide met us. We were quickly ushered through the Jewish Quarter to a Herodian house, discovered and dug up in the past few years beneath a building of the old city. Cool stuff, but no photos allowed. (Sorry!) We had to make it a quick tour because we had a 2pm reservation at the Western Wall Tunnel.

We got to the tunnel a little after 2pm, and our guide took us through the tour on his own (since the big group had already left), showing us the 580-ton mystery stone (how did they move it??) as well as the other various bits and pieces of trivia and info related to the Temple mount, etc. When we came out in the Muslim Quarter, the armed guards had already left with the group that was ahead of us… so we proceeded back to the Jewish Quarter unarmed, and unescorted. It wasn’t scary – there were very few people out there, and it was clear that tourism was really down in the area. After a falafel lunch (yum!), we went to the Western Wall, posed for pictures, and then went to the Archaeological Park at the southwestern corner of the Temple mount. When I was in Israel 2 years prior, they were still digging here – so this was all new. It’s really cool – you can check out their website here, and learn more about it. But we got to sit on the step leading up to the mount, where we could see the bulge caused by the (most likely illegal) digging at the Al-Asqua Mosque. I’m gonna reserve my political comments for now, but I’ll just say that if this wall collapses, it’s gonna be a huge disaster – and no doubt those slippery Palestinians will manage to blame the Israelis. Grr. We also saw the remains of Robinson’s Arch, and if you check out my photo, you can get a sense of it. Pretty cool stuff!

We then went back to the bus, which took us to Shai’s house where we were going to meet up with the whole family (including our newest relatives) for a big sushi dinner.