From here on out, I don't have journal entries yet, so I'm going on memory and our itinerary. Since I'll use this later to update my journal, the days might be a tad bit longer, but I promise they're not very long days.
|See the person on the end? Church of Beth Phage|
Wednesday started with a group photo on the roof after breakfast. Our hotel has a great view, so it ended up being a nice picture. Boy, did I have a raccoon tan from my sunglasses by this point though. We left for Beth Phage (the house of the palms) and the Mount of Olives to walk the Palm Sunday road. The church is controlled by the Franciscans and represents Jesus' triumphal entry into the city on Palm Sunday. There were beautiful murals and there's a stone that's remembered as Jesus' stepping stone onto his mule (the factuality of this is questionable, however). My favourite mural was on the back wall: it shows Jesus on his donkey and people laying down cloaks and palm fronds for him to walk on. The reason I like it is because the last person is in the process of pulling off their cloak, and when a priest was asked who it was, he responded that it could be anyone, you or me. We walked down the Palm Sunday road, with beautiful views to Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. We read the gospels and saw the tree from which the thorns for his crown came. Youch! Those thorns are LONG and nasty looking. The church has a beautiful picture window that overlooks the city, with metal designs and is shaped like a tear drop. We ended at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Agony or the Church of All Nations. This was James' favourite church last year because of the mural on the front of the church, which really is gorgeous and which I couldn't get a good picture of. The gardens have old olive trees, whose roots are said to be the same as those which Jesus would have walked through. Inside the sanctuary, the altar is built around the rock Jesus is believed to have offered his last prayer that night on (the "take this cup" one). It was a beautiful, dimly lit church. The doors were beautiful tree designs and the gates outside had some great metalwork. We headed to Caiaphas Palace or St Peter in Gallicantu next. We saw the dungeons and prisons, which show evidence of human cruelty. Some believe Jesus was held in the dungeons overnight. The church was beautiful: it had a wonderful stained glass gross on the ceiling that was breath-taking and there was a second church underneath the first. There was another model of the city during Jesus' time outside as well. We had lunch at the Notre Dame Center (they had couches!), just salads to save our appetite for dinner at Iyad's house in Jericho that night. We walked home through the Old City from the New Gate to the Damascus Gate. It was a nice walk, and you can really get a feel for the city. We went back to the hotel to rest before we left at 5 for Iyad's house in Jericho. His family was so kind and welcoming and the food was fantastic! Stuffed grape leaves (OMG why haven't I eaten these before), pastry-wrapped meat, rice and chicken and a very spicy spinach pastry as well. We all exchanged prayer partner gifts and my prayer partner was Jim, a Lutheran pastor who got me a tiny Jerusalem cross for the baby's baptism. So sweet. Then we headed inside to watch a hilarious show: West Bank Story. Think West Side Story as a comedy, set in Israel/Palestine with two fast food chains (Kosher King and Hummus Hut). It's pretty hilarious, and apparently available on Netflix: Go get it!
|That's James and me, inside the cistern!|
We were picked up at 7 am the next morning. James and I were flying out at 11, and Mom and Dad left at 1. James got pulled out for extra questioning as we were entering the airport. I really thought they wouldn't have a problem with him leaving the country, but we were all prepared for this happening. It was less intense than the last time, especially since I could see him and knew where he was. Plus, the guard who was asking questions was a lot nicer and didn't seem to hassle him, just asking who packed our bags, and if the ones in the back were all ours, and if they'd been under our supervision since being packed, etc. We had been warned about airport security at Ben Gurion by both Iyad and Mark, but were pleasantly surprised. I don't know if it was just that it was early (we arrived before the screening was open) but we had a great experience. Since we were leaving from different sections of the airport, and had to go through different security lines, we said goodbye to Mom and Dad before entering security, promising to call and text each other. We were a little confused since there was a sign saying to wait for an official before entering, but then another woman breezed right by the line forming, so we followed her lead, and everyone else followed us (apparently, there was supposed to be an official, but he was in the bathroom...for like 20 minutes). Our checked luggage got scanned through an xray machine that literally sent the luggage flying after it was done with it. Luckily, all the fragile items were in my carry on, and I still had a lot of room in my checked bag too. We checked in, checked our bags and got our boarding passes and headed off to the next security line. We went through that security and were surprised (and pleased) that James could keep his water all the way up to the gate. We were warned that the tiles we got might set off the scanners, but we had no problems and no one asked us any questions at all, despite being told to expect a lot of questions. We just breezed right through and poked around a few shops before getting a chocolate croissant and settling in to wait at our gate. We were there 3 hours early and had almost 2 hours left to wait after going through security. I settled in to read, and we finally boarded our plane. A really NICE plane. A really EMPTY plane. It was great: no one in our row and barely any people around us. In fact, James could probably have had a row to himself if he wanted. The food was terrible and I was starving, which wasn't a good combination (and none for purchase) but I did get to watch almost all three of the LOTR movies, which I'd been wanting to do for a while. So I didn't get any reading or journaling done, though I did sleep for a bit. Our next flight from New Jersey was a pain. We had to go through customs, and had very little time to do so. We finally go through customs with our bags and rechecked them, getting to our gate with our McDonald's (only slightly palatable option) with plenty of time. Only to discover our gate had changed to an entirely different part of the airport. So we had to backtrack down one wing to another wing (on the end of each wing, darn it) and only when we were almost there was an announcement made. Thank God we had a smartphone with us, or we would have been scrambling (by the way, the gate attendant had no clue and was completely unhelpful). Turns out that despite our plane being "on time" we still sat on the tarmac for about an hour before taking off, but after being told to turn off our phones. We couldn't let our ride know we were going to be late; but luckily she checked our flight online since we were over an hour late. *Sigh*. And the plane was gross to boot. Luckily we had no one in our row and I crashed out before we even left the gate, only waking up to eat the gross little meal, but it was an all over unpleasant, uncomfortable flight with no complimentary movies/tv (despite it being 5 hours long) and the attendants weren't even that pleasant. But, we were almost home. When we finally arrived in Orange County, we picked up our bags and called our ride, who was already there, yay! We finally got home to our puppies, who were so happy to have us back, and almost immediately crashed out in our own, queen-sized, comfortable bed! It was great to be home.
Aftermath: I got better within a few days, James was no longer sick, Mom and Dad both got really sick and had matching codeine cough syrup prescriptions. We woke up between 4 and 6 am most days, but adjusted relatively quickly. I get tired really easily, but I'm managing to rest a lot, which is good. We're finally recovering, and I've already got my photos sorted out. All that's left is to finish my journal, and then put the scrapbooking supplies away for the next 5 years or so ;) Eventually I'll get around to it, and it won't be as long a scrapbook as Ireland, so hopefully I'll get it done sooner rather than later. We also discovered that we have a dove nesting in the rafters of our balcony. I'm not sure why she's there, since Pippin tends to try to attack birds, but apparently she and her mate had a few uninterrupted days to build a nest. Now we're just working on keeping Pippin from popping the screen door out when she sees the dove (she's already done it once).