Chota

Chota

Friday, 10 June 2016

{postcards from Israel-arrival}

{fantastic views from where we stayed}
If you have been following my blog over the last couple of weeks you'll know that I was in Jerusalem for a week. I went primarily for a conference, but decided to spend a bit more time and visit the sites and enjoy the amazing country of Israel--my friend Melissa accompanied me for part of the trip.
If you follow my blog regularly you might know that my grandparents were missionaries in Afghanistan, what is now Pakistan, and India. My Granny was born in the hill station of Simla, the summer capital of the Raj, and bore my father in Peshawer. My grandfather (Dennis Clark) was born in Bristol, but fell in love with my Granny when she was visiting England and he moved to India to start a life of mission work. He wrote a book on the life of  Jesus Christ, and I picked it up before I travelled to the Holy Land, to refresh my mind of Biblical knowledge and history of the places I was going to see and visit. I read it on the plane. Turning to Part I, 'The Birth and Early Years of Jesus Christ' whetted my appetite for the things I was about to see:
The story begins at Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, in the land of Palestine, concealed in the hollow of the hills at the head of the busy Plain of Esdraelon. A climb up the hill that hides and shelters the town gives a rewarding view on all sides. To the north, beyond a richly fertile plain, on a clear day, snow-tipped Hermon can be seen. Westwards towards the Mediterranean, the purple of Mount Carmel is an inviting reminder that just beyond are the busy ports and ships. In the days of which we are writing, winding caravans carrying commodities of the famous city of Damascus could be seen. One of the three trade routes from Accho on the seacoast to Damascus passed six miles south of Nazareth. 
It was in this small insignificant town of Nazareth that Mary lived...

{around Nazareth}
{Pistachio the camel near Jericho}
...and so my story begins too, of my great adventures in Israel. We did take a trip to Galilee and to Nazareth, but our first day was spent visiting the Holy City. Indeed, I will never forget the first evening arriving in Jerusalem. It is one of those moments that will last a life time and one that will stay with me forever.

{Damascus Gate with light projections}
We were dropped off by the sherout near Damascus Gate. There was a light festival on, and lights projected paisley patterns that danced across the fa├žade. Entering the gate, the smell of spices filled our noses and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the Arab quarter and its market. Fruit and vegetables were still for sale, some shops were closed, while others were closing, and others still displayed their jelabis and baklava prominently on large silver trays, tempting the passer by.
{our entry into the old City}
We walked under arches and down alleyways, until we came to the Via Dolorosa, the road where Christ carried his cross towards his crucifixion, and we found our pilgrims guest house, Ecce Homo, at the second station of the cross.
{the famous arch on the Via Dolorosa outside the convent}

{the door to the convent}
{the door knocker}

From there, we were greeted by one of the sisters, who showed us to our room. On the third floor of this magnificent and historic building (the place where Christ was imprisoned), the terrace opened up on to the rooftops of Jerusalem. Glistening in the evening light, was the Dome of the Rock, right in front of our eyes. I think it's probably the best views in Jerusalem of the dome:



Within hours of arriving we had already made some lovely friends. We were rather late for dinner but there was a little spot open around the corner and we settled down to amazing lemon & mint drinks and I had a lamb kebab...
{best lemon & mint drinks!}

The man serving us told us his daughter was getting married the next day and he invited us. Kids were playing in the streets (even at 10pm at night) and he told us that it was his nephews who had come for the wedding--they were delighted to be in the city as they lived on the West Bank and didn't get into the city very often. 
We went to bed after our dinner and were awoken at 340am to muezzin calls from a nearby minaret--the big mosque closest to the Dome of the Rock:

We went back to bed and after breakfast headed out to do a quick wander of the streets. We were greeted very soon by our friend from the restaurant, the night before, who cried out 'Hello England!' (even though both of us are from Canada but now live in the UK everyone seemed to take us for Brits). During our stay in the Arab Quarter we met some of the friendliest people I've encountered in my world travels--eager to hear our stories, where we were from, why we were in Jerusalem, and how we liked their city. Unanimously, they all encouraged us to invite our friends and family to Israel, to ignore the negative reports in the press, and to see the amazing country for ourselves. I couldn't agree more!
In the next series of posts I'll be reporting on various aspects of my trip to the Holy Land, from a tour of the Holy sites of Jerusalem to a trip to Galilee, to the markets of Jerusalem.
{the streets of Jerusalem!}
Stay tuned!
xo,
L


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