On Sunday we probably drove over 400 km. This is the day we did Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, and the Mount of Beatitudes. Driving back to Jerusalem at night on Highway 1 was a death-defying experience, at least the way I drove. All over Israel they only have two-lane highways (one in each direction), and they have trucks and even normal cars that will only go 25 mph or less, especially on Israel's many steep, hilly roads. The end result is: If you want to get back to Jerusalem for dinner, or if you want to get to your next tour destination in any reasonable time, you have to pass a lot of cars. The night we drove back from Tiberias, we were in the middle of the desert, no highway lights, no reflectors in the road, and plenty of slow trucks.
In Israel they have a lot of hitchhikers. In fact, it seems to be the main means of transportation for a lot of people, especially the soldiers when they're off duty. At some point before we got to Tiberias, we picked up an Israeli soldier and gave him a lift to Tiberias. Rafael liked the Mount of Beatitudes as much as I did in 1995. (See the Fun Pictures Page for pictures and more description of the Mount of Beatitudes.)
Later we went back to Tiberias and looked for Jet Skis to rent. (For about the last year I've had this idea of jet skiing on the Sea of Galilee.) Unfortunately, we couldn't find a place that rented them. In the alternative, we rented a small boat, 100 Sheqels ($30) for one hour. (We decided that he should drive the boat since I had been driving the Punto--he couldn't drive the Punto because it has a stick-shift.) Rafael later confided that this was one of his favorite experiences in Israel.
The next day, Monday, was another big driving day. This was our "Southern Israel in a Day" day. But before we did that, I woke up at 5:00 AM so that I could make it over to the Wailing Wall by 6:00 AM. I had arranged with some friends and family before I left that I would be at the Wailing Wall at 9:00 PM Pacific time on Sunday night, which is 6:00 AM Monday morning in Jerusalem. The reason being, on the Internet they have a camera at the Wailing Wall which takes real-time pictures of who is there. (See the Sandalphon Links Page for the link.) (Note: During Daylight Savings Time the time difference changes to 10 hours.)
So here I am walking around with the box around me. I was wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans, white tennis shoes, and of course my yarmulke. (Thanks to Sean for copying this picture for me, and thanks to the others who saw me!) Be sure to click on the picture to see the larger version.
Back at the hotel, I changed into my hot weather uniform of sweat pants and a T-shirt and put on my sunblock just like every other morning. (Rafael and I wondered if this is what it would be like everyday if there was no ozone layer? Anyway, with thoughts like that you know we hated this ritual.) We drove to Bethlehem and looked for the Church of the Nativity, or even a sign for it. On the map in the tour book it looks so easy to find, but not when you're there! Bethlehem is a Palestinian town, and we found that the Palestinian towns have far fewer signs in English than the rest of Israel. One thing I must say, whenever we asked the Palestinians for directions or help, they were always very helpful and didn't ask for money for helping us. Even when they didn't speak English, they knew what we were looking for, and they pointed or made other remarks like "Left" or "Right," etc.
Well, we finally found it after 20 minutes of not even being close. The Church of the Nativity is nice and interesting. There's a place where you go down some steps and they have this silver star that is suppose to be the spot where Jesus was born. I don't know if I'm overly cynical about that claim, or if I'm burned out by the over-production of the tourism there, but the star room just doesn't do it for me. Now, in the next room they have something that interested me much more.
This is the room where Saint Jerome lived and translated the Bible from Greek into Latin and created the Vulgate Bible around 400 AD. I'm sitting on what they call "Jerome's Bench." One could feel that this was a very special room, and I hesitate to add that the room had a particular "energy." We spent about 5 minutes in the star room, and about 15 minutes in this room.
The next place we went to was Jacob's wife Rachel's Tomb, which is also in Bethlehem. I am not kidding, there is no sign whatsoever for this place. We had the map from the tour book and still couldn't find it. We asked people on the street and they pointed right at it, and we still couldn't find it.
I think this is an example of expecting something to look a certain way, such as having a sign at least, and then finding that something looking a completely different way.
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