Kip took the day off work on Thursday (and on Monday) so that we could take his mom to Jerusalem. The drive is roughly 2 hours and we arrived there a little after noon. We stayed at a hotel right by the old city and yet amazingly affordable compared to other hotels in the area. It was built in the 1800’s as a French Catholic pilgrim’s center. The center of the building is a cathedral and both sides flanking it are full of simple rentable rooms. It was not very crowded at all, which meant that William got a lot of attention from the adoring staff and the group of brown-robed priests that seemed to live there. It was really very pleasant and even had an inexpensive café with very good food. We ate there at least once every day.
The day we got there we rushed to the Dome of the Rock. Friday is the Muslim holy day, so we had to see it Thursday if we wanted Kip’s mom to get the chance. A nice Jerusalem resident approached us as we entered the Old City and asked if we were headed to the Dome. We said yes and he proceeded to guide us there – for a fee, of course. He told us that we wouldn’t have to pay him and then, when he got us there and we offered him $10 he laughed and said that was way too little. He wanted $40. We settled on $15.
After looking around the Dome of the Rock for a while and turning down countless pesky postcard-selling children and tour-guides, we headed to the BYU Jerusalem center. The atmosphere there was completely opposite that of the Dome. It was quite and peacefull and (my personal favorite) air-conditioned! It was lovely. We watched a little video about students there and the facilities and then Brother Squires (the resident organist) played us a short concert. It was very nice. But we had to rush back to the old city and the Wester (wailing) wall to do a tunnel tour. I had a migraine from the heat and sun and trying to navigate the crazy streets (which is absolutely impossible) and wasn’t very eager to do the tour. Luckly, though, this is a tour underground. The Jews have dug under the buildings along the western wall of the Temple Mount and found the Herodian roots of the wall and things like a moat and bridges that used to lead into the Temple Mount during the time of Christ before the Muslims took over the city and built up the area so their homes could be closer to their holy site. Our guide was a Jewish student who had some obvious contention with the Muslims. The tunnel itself was very interesting and quite spacious in some areas. And it was cool and dark. The only problem was that there was usually no place to sit when the guide stopped to tell long-winded stories about what might have taken place along certain spots in the excavation during the ancient times. There was an area where they had found the paving stones of a roadway the went along the Western Wall during the time of Christ. It was neat to see and imagine the Savior walking there (and throwing out the money-changers and animal-sellers). And it was so nice and cool and dark that my headache actually went away during the tour. The Muslims aren’t very happy about the tunnel being there and especially not about the end of the tunnel opening into their Quarter of Jerusalem, so the Jews usally post an armed guard at the exit to escourt their patrons from the site back to the Jewish Quarter, but there wasn’t one there for us when we got out, so our guide decided to take us. I don’t know that it really is necessary. The only Muslims we saw on our walk were the shop-keepers and they were certainly not interested in driving us away. If you even looked at something in their direction they tried to get you in their shops.
On Friday we hired a tour guide (in advance) to take us through the Old City. He announced when he arrived at our hotel to get us that he had decided to drive us to some sites outside the Old City without charging us extra (we learned later that it’s usually 2X more expensive to do a driving tour). We all loaded into his minivan and drove up to the Mt of Olives to get some panaramic views of the city and some colorfully bizarre explanations of what was really going through Christ’s mind when he was there and about to be crucified. But what can you expect from a non-Christian. He took us to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations and then back to the hotel to park and walk into the Old City. I was physically tired mentally sick of siteseeing, so I offered to skip the rest of the tour and play with William in the hotel. We watched some videos on Kip’s computer and then took a 3-hour nap in the cool dark hotel room. That was nice. Meanwhile, Kip and his mom had a lovely tour of all the important Christian sites in the Old City. They followed the Via Dolorosa, the path Christ may have taken from his trial to his crucifixion and saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Catholic site built over where they believe Golgotha and the tomb were located. They shopped a little (only at Jewish stores because the guide claimed they were better). And they went to the Garden Tomb site outside the old city (the Presbyterian site not covered by a dark cold cathedral).
On Saturday Kip drove his mom to the airport and William and I took a taxi to the BYU center for church. Kip met us there only a few minutes after church started. It was a nice meeting.
On Sunday we took things pretty easy. I stayed in again (having overfilled my sightseeing limits and feeling pregnant and tired) and Kip and William did the Ramparts Walk, climbing up and walking along the walls of the Old City. William especially loved the part overlooking some construction vehicles that were his favorite color (yellow). I loved the part where they were directly across the street from the hotel and called to have me look out the window and wave at them from our 3rd floor room. That afternoon we did some shopping (I can handle spending money and buying souvenirs, I’m just tired of looking at ruins) and ate a yummy dinner at an “oriental restaurant.” (That’s where you get things like hummus and skewers of chicken and plates of french fries.)
Monday we drove home.
So, that’s our trip to Jerusalem. It was a lot of fun but Kip and I are both now burned out of touristy activities and ready to get back to living the boring life. This weekend we just went out souvenir shopping again and next weekend (our last here in Israel) Kip’s going mountain biking and we may not see any tourist sites at all!