After ten wonderful days in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, our tour group has embarked on it's last day (and is actually back in the United States as I type this).
The last stop before we headed out to Ben Gurion Airport was Hadassah Hospital, where we were marveled by the Chagall stained glass windows inside.
It was a wonderful trip, with so many memorable stops and sights. On top of this once in a lifetime experience to visit our holy land, it was a great experience for the group to bond and learn together. Special thanks to Neighborhood Senior Center Director Ilene Yair for orchestrating and directing this trip, and taking the time out of her busy days to take pictures and send along notes to be posted.
To see our tour's photo album on Facebook, click here.
After a delightful Friday evening, our tour group used Shabbot, a day of rest, to get back out to the Old City, as it rained miserably on Friday and hampered our day.
After entering through the Jaffe gate, several members of the group went on a walking tour of the Christian Quarter of the Old City. We went down the street of the Greek Patriarchs, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christian pilgrims from all over the world were there, including groups from Ethiopia and Nigeria. We went on to the Market in the Muslim Quarter, and even though it was still quite foggy from the bad weather, it was a very unique experience.
The skies fully cleared up on Sunday, allowing us to enjoy a beautiful day in Jerusalem. We split up in the nation's capital, as half of the group was dropped off at Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the others went on to the charming neighborhood of Ein Kerem.
The group met back up for lunch, and ended the day at the Israel Museum, where we saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other unique antiquities and Judaica from the last 700 years!
We're so sad that tomorrow's our last day, but it's been a great trip and it's been an absolute joy sharing out pictures and experiences!
We've been very fortunate to have great weather for the vast majority of our trip, but on day number nine, it rained, and rained, and rained, and....you get the point. As disappointing as the weather was, we still had plans to visit Jerusalem, specifically the Old City, and we saw some lovely sights.
While in Jerusalem, we visted the Burnt House, where the group was shown a short film about the Roman destruction of the second temple. We also went took the tunnels to the Western Wall, which was one of the most amazing things we saw during our trip.
The group stopped for lunch at a mall in the Talpiot neighborhood, but didn't leave Old City without visiting the Hurva Synagogue, pictured below.
We will be spending our second shabbat with an Israeli family, and will have updates for you after the weekend!
Day number eight began with a quick stop at the Ein Gedi waterfall, where some hiked to the top of the fall, but most decided to stay near the bottom to observe the fall.
From there, we went over to the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. During this stop, the group witnessed an archaeological dig, and we got to see workers unearth an ancient coin!
Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Abraham's Tent, which is a re-creation of biblical times. This was really cool, as we were offered the opportunity to ride camels through the desert to get to the tent.
We ended our day by heading towards Jerusalem, where we'll be visiting/blogging about tomorrow!
We're seven days into our trip, and I must say it's been a great time! Day seven began with a trip to Masada, where the group visited Herodium, also known as Herod the Great's Fortress, which was the home of the last stand of Jewish Zealots.
The group took a cable car to the top of the fortress, with one - energetic! - member opting to climb to the top via the snake path.
Today was also the day that the group got to visit, and even relax in the Dead Sea!
It was a very active, and very tiring day. With that said, it was another opportunity to visit monuments and locations that we've heard about all of our lives, and it was a very special day. We don't want our trip to end soon!
And on the sixth day...the Samuel Field Y Israel Tour Group visited the ancient city of Bet She'an, which was first settled 6,000-7,000 years ago! We explored the excavations from the Greco-Roman and Byzantium periods, and took LOTS of pictures of the historic sight.
From there, our group went to Masada, where we'll visit the dead sea tomorrow. Along the way, we stopped at the Jordan River at Qasar El-Yahud, which is historically known as the water in which Jesus was baptized. The group was moved by the amount of baptisms we witnessed while stopping at the Jordan River, and it was incredible watching how meaningful the act was to those who were baptized.
Our day also included a stop at Bayt Alpha, where we saw some incredible Mosaics. Stay tuned for more updates!
Shabbat, and the two days following it, have come and gone, and we're at the halfway point in our trip to Israel!
Our group spent Saturday morning at the home of Chaim and Esti, at Moshav Givat Hen, and were told all about living on a Moshav, specifically the main differences between a Moshav (an agricultural community) and a kibbutz. The moshav was beautiful, and we enjoyed sitting on Chaim and Esti's deck and just taking in the view.
We went back south to Tel Aviv later in the day, and a portion of our group branched out to visit Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood in the south western part of the city, where they did a little shopping and stopped for delicious gelato.
On Sunday we left Tel Aviv to head to Tiberias, and stopped along the way at the beautiful Bahai Gardens in Haifa.
For lunch, we visited the town of Zikhron Yaakov, which was one of the first Jewish settlements in what was then known as Palestine. Not only did we enjoy a nice lunch, but we also shopped for more unique jewelry!
Monday began with a visit to the Hula Lake bird sanctuary, where the group took a ride in a large camouflaged vehicle pulled by a tractor. We spotted migrated cranes, herons, mallards, and various birds of prey, in addition to a wild boar and a jackal.
We also crossed over the Jordan River, from the Golan Heights to the Galilee. This was one of the most scenic moments of our trip, as we were able to see Quneitra in Syria. We were also educated on the history of the city of Safat, just before heading over to the magnificent synagogues of Rabbis Joseph Caro and Ha Ari.
And what would our day have been without some fruit? OK, maybe the grapes we consumed were fermented, but we also found time to enjoy ourselves at the Harei Galil Winery in Yiron Israel, on the Lebanese border.
It's been a great few days, and we'll keep you posted throughout the week.