I remember when my friends asked me where I was going on holiday and I replied ‘Palestine’ and they all laughed and said ‘no seriously, where are you going?’, to which I again replied ‘Palestine!’
I guess Palestine probably wasn’t what they were expecting to hear. Spain, France, Italy, yes, Palestine, no. But hey, I’ve done those places, let’s try something different.
If you haven’t seen my previous post about my travels in Israel, then I suggest you click on that post first, so this post makes sense.
So after leaving the markets of Old Jerusalem we boarded back onto the coach to cross the border to the West Bank. As you can imagine, much like the Berlin Wall separating west and east Germany in a lot of the 20th century, the wall splitting Israel and Palestine is pretty much the same. A massive wall with barbed wire and security everywhere.
As we approached the wall we had guards come on the coach and check everybody’s passports. Satisfied, we were free to cross. Unfortunately our tour guide for Jerusalem wasn’t allowed to be our tour guide for Bethlehem as he was permitted to work in Palestine, but a local guide continued the tour.
Bethlehem is just beautiful, but so so different from Jerusalem. You can really see the divide in the two cities.
not my image
Our trip was short, and we spent most of our time at the Church of Nativity, a church that now stands over the supposed birth of Jesus Christ. It was so crazy going in, knowing I was going to be standing next to the place where Jesus was born all those years ago. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, it’s still a pretty interesting place to visit.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in beautiful Bethlehem, but apart from the Church of Nativity I’m not sure if there was a lot more to see.
After my journey to the Middle East I have a complete different view. Yes there are issues, but I personally witnessed nothing there, and I did not once feel threatened or in danger.
Arriving in Israel in the middle of April last year was a surreal experience.
My mum had always wanted to travel to Israel, but always thought it probably wasn’t the safest place to take a child, or the sort of place you would go on a family holiday. Now, being 20, my mum thought it was an appropriate time to go. It was a very last minute holiday. Three weeks after booking the trip we were on the plane.
My first thoughts on Israel were how strict the entry was. We entered by ship in Haifa, and got woken up at 5:30am to report to the main hall to have all our passports checked by the Israeli guards. This whole process took around 3 hours before we were even allowed to step foot on Israeli soil.
I was super excited to get a stamp, because this is something I love collecting around the world, but I knew this wouldn’t be the case. Israel entry stamps stopped around 2012, as apparently many people were having issues entering other Middle Eastern countries with Israeli travel records in their passports. This was a shame, but I did get a landing card, so at least I have something to remember the trip by.
We only had two days in Israel. Day 1 exploring Haifa and Day 2 was travelling from Ashdod over to Jersualem, then crossing the border into Palestine to go to Bethlehem.
DAY 1 – Haifa
Finally we were allowed off the ship, and we stepped foot in Isrsel. My mum and I didn’t know a lot about this northern city, but we were told that The Hanging Gardens of Haifa.
The gardens are around the Shrine of the Bab and are situated on Mount Carmel, and were created by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba. There are very strict rules about entering the gardens, with guards at the gates (I was made to spit my gum out in the bin).
We didn’t spend massive amounts of time in Haifa (as you can tell from the post, we were only in Israel for 2 days), and our ship left the harbour at 6pm.
DAY 2 – ASHDOD AND JERUSALEM
We woke up the next day at 6:00am, as we had a tour arranged from Ashdod to Jerusalem. Our coach picked us at 8:00 in Ashdod, and drove us the 64km to Jersusalem, where we started the tour at the Mount of Olives. After we went on to the Garden of Gethsemene where according to the New Testament was the place Judas betrayed Jesus. We then entered the Church of All Nations pictured below, where Jesus prayed the night of his arrest.
We reached the Jaffa Gates around 11am, and passed through the security to go to the Wailing Wale, also known as the Western Wall. I was always a bit cautious about going here, as 1) I’m not Jewish, and 2) I’m not a massive prayer, even though I was raised Catholic. I asked my tour guide if it was okay for me to approach the wall. He informed there is nothing wrong with other faiths going near the Wailing Wall, it’s just Muslims go on the other side and not on the same said as Jewish worshippers.
On our walk through the streets, we passed through Via Dolorosa, the street believed to be the path Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. The next part of our tour took us to the Church of Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified, buried and later the site of his ressurection. It was incredible seeing where Jesus was crucified, and seeing people of so many faiths paying their respects and reaching out to Jesus and God.
The photo on the left is the outside of the Church, and the photo on the right is where the crucifix of Jesus stood. The Church of Sepulchre was consecrated on 3rd September 335.
The tour then allowed us to have free time where we could wonder round the markets and explore the stalls that were near the Church. Old Jersualem is full on tiny alleyways with bustling crowds of locals and pilgrims.
After our tour in Israel we then went on to Bethlehem, to learn of the early years of Jesus, but I’ll write about this in another post.
Our tour ended back in Ashdod around 6:00pm. We booked our tour through Israel Cruise Excursions with prices starting from $119 per person. I would highly highly recommend the tour if you don’t have a lot of time in the Middle East, but still want to see as much as you can.
There was a couple of places I really wish we could have gone to, Nazareth, Galilee and the Dead Sea, to name a few. Fingers crossed one day I’ll be able to return.