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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flight Home, Amsterdam to Portland

Leaving Amsterdam

First Land in North America

Ice, Hudson Bay

Over Canada


Had a daylight flight from Amsterdam to Portland which went over the center of Greenland. Except for Greenland which was covered with clouds the rest of the trip was mostly clear.
The flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam left at 3AM. After clearing customs in Portland flew on to LA. The next day flew from LA to Dallas for my mothers 94th birthday
Another travel tip if you want to visit Israel, avoid the time around Easter. It's not just Easter Sunday it is all the other days. On Saturday all the restaurants I had eaten at were closed so I planned to go into town Sunday morning. My first stop was to get bagels for breakfast. The bagel shop was open but no bagels as it was a no bread day having to do with Easter. Could get a salad but no croutons on it and forget about pizza. The next day I planned to go to my favorite restaurant for my last dinner in Jerusalem and even skipped the lunch stop in Jericho so I could have a good dinner in town that night. Walked up to town that evening, Monday, and everything was closed. Every place I had eaten at for the past two weeks was closed. Stopped at the Palestinian grocery on the way back to the room to get some snacks for dinner and the flight home. Needed to be at the airport, a hour or more drive, at midnight so called the recommended taxis companies and only got an Hebrew message on the answering machines. Called an hour later thinking maybe they had been closed for dinner during my first call. Still no answer so was able to call my tour guide at home to see if he had airport service telling him that there was no answer from the taxis companies. He did not but suggested I should call the taxis services in a couple days as they would be open then. Two days, I need to be at the airport in five hours. He gave me the number of an Palestinian taxis driver who was open was able the understand enough English to figure out how to find my place.
I had two guide books and none outlined all days businesses were closed during the time around Easter.      

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photos, Jerusalem

Globes outside Jaffa Gate

Warning Sign a couple miles from Jerusalem

Door, Church of Holy Sepulchre

Warning over low doorway

Ascent, what steep streets in Old Town are called

Monday, April 28, 2014

Abandoned Jordanian Military Base

Near the beach on the Dead Sea I noticed what looked like an abandoned military base and my Palestinian driver said it was a Jordanian base that was lost during the war in 1967. He said he would drop me there the next day while he took the group to the Dead Sea if I would walk back to the beach. He dropped me there the next morning warning me to watch for Israeli patrols. I was able to walk and photograph in the buildings and saw only one patrol which did not see me. Several of the buildings had some interesting graffiti.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


At one spot along the Dead Sea we spotted a couple of these Ibexes.The mother and young one climbed the rocks much like our Big Horn sheep do in the canyons on our Lake Havasu.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Views of Jericho

View to SW

View to Mt of Temptation

View to Dead Sea

There were great views of Jericho from the roof of the giant restaurant  and souvenir shop in Jericho.
This seemed to be a major stop for groups of tourist and pilgrims that flock to the religious sites in the West Bank.
A couple tips for tourists. When you go to Israel bring lots of US Dollars, except for restaurants and grocery stores every place I asked the price of anything I was given the price in dollars. You can get dollars from the ATMs but the charges and exchange rates are horrible. For restaurants and grocery stores you will need NIS, new Israeli shekels, but for tours, taxis, and most shops you will be quoted in dollars. Apparently there is no VAT tax, 18%, on transactions in foreign currency. The other important tip is never buy from a shop your tour guide takes you to. This is true most places in the world but very apparent here. The tour guide will get 35% or more from the shop where he brings tourists and you pay it. At one stop we were taken to a shop by a guide who said it was the best and olive wood carvings there were three times the price I found down the street when I went into a shop without a guide. Some shop keepers will ask if you are with a guide and I always made sure they know I wasn't.

Friday, April 25, 2014


The city of Jericho claims to be the oldest city in the world. Two years ago in Syria we visited Damascus and Aleppo both which also claim to be the oldest city in the world. During Roman times Mark Antony gave the town to Cleopatra who leased it to Herod the Great who built a winter palace there as being at a lower altitude than Jerusalem was warmer in the winter.
Jericho is under control of the Palestinian Authority and you need a foreign passport to reenter Israeli controlled territory. The Palestinian population of around 25,000 is mostly Muslim but there are many Christian churches and monasteries such as the Greek Orthodox monastery halfway up the Mt of Temptation. There is even a cable car going up the mountain and a very large multistory restaurant and souvenir shop at the base of the mountain where all the tour buses stop.
Another stop for the tour groups is the Sycamore tree in the center of town which is said to be more than 2000 years old.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

First Christian Church?

Church of the Dormition, Top of Mt Zion

First Christian Church?

Looking Down Through Screen

Looking up from Inside

The access to the Dome of the Rock was closed so I walked up a long path thinking it lead to the Jaffa Gate. At  the top of the hill I realized I was on top of Mt Zion and walked behind the church of the Dormition looking for a way to the gate.

There is a grassy area lined with trees behind the church and I stopped to ask a lady sitting there for directions. She was a Christian teacher from America who has lived there for several years and she pointed out the structure pictured above. She stated that it was the ruins of the first Christian church in Jerusalem and contained a passage way that went underground and came out some distance away outside the walls of the old city. While now outside the city walls it is shown inside the walls on the Madaba mosaic map in Jordan which is reported to be the oldest map in the world made during the reign of Emperor Justinian. The city walls had been rebuilt in 1542 by Suleyman the Magnicent and his architects reportedly left it out by mistake.

Looking through the iron bars and heavy screening you could see steps going down. There was no indication on the structure as to what is was and the door was locked by a heavy padlock. On the backside however someone had pulled the screen away and cut one of the bars and bent it aside. It was a small space to squeeze through and when you are partway through you realize your hanging over a drop off. When I got to the bottom of the stairs there was a dark passage way but with no light I was unable to explore further and never had time to get back there.

None of the five maps I had showed this structure but someone had gone through a lot of work to preserve it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


View from cable car on way up to Masada

Cistern, Masada

It is possible to walk up to The top of Masada on the Snake Path but in the heat, even in April, I took the cable car both ways. Best $25 dollars spent here.

Ethiopian Monastery on Roof of Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dead Sea

Looking across Dead Sea to Mt Nebo

Dead Sea Looking South

Twice I have camped on top of mount Nebo and looked across at the lights of cities in Israel and last year we drove the entire length of the Dead Sea on the Jordan side several time to check the view from all the side canyons. It's a little more complicated in Israel because of the A, B, and C zones in the West Bank but to my Palestine driver it is no problem. The zone letter indicates who controls the area and the security there. For example, the A zone is under full civil and security control of the Palestinian and Israelis are not allowed entry.

Damascus Gate

Heading out Damascus Gate

The Gate

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bell Tower, Church of the Redeemer


The Lutheran Church of the redeemer was built in the eighteen hundreds on land the emperor Charlemagne received as a gift at the beginning of the 9th century. Its bell tower has a great view being in the center of the old city. Getting to the top requires climbing the 178 steps on a very narrow circular staircase. Not only is it narrow but there is very little headroom and if you meet anyone else someone has to back up as there is no way to pass unless you are really small. The view from the top is great, well worth the climb.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Haram esh-Sharif, The Temple Mount

Dome of the Rock

Security at the Mosque

13th Century tiles inside Dome of Chain

Shields at Security Point


The Temple Mount is a vast rectangle in the south-eastern part of the old city. Traditionally it is the site of Solomon's Temple and became the site of a Islamic shrine in AD 691. It is now the third most important Islamic santuary and non-Muslims are not allowed inside.

The Dome of Chain is a small dome in the center of the Temple Mount which in one theory is the center of the world.

Carts in the Market

The old city is a maze of souks (markets).  Not only are they very narrow but none are level they are all up and down. To stock these markets these narrow carts carry everything from produce to refrigerators. They all have a scooter tire fastened on the back with a heavy chain which seems out of place until you see a heavy load going down hill. The operator puts the tire flat on the ground and stands on it for a brake.