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  • Day13

    We left our hotel in Jordan at 8.30am for the 1 hour journey to the Jordanian border crossing through the beautiful Jordan Valley that sits at least 400m below sea level, once here, all the bags came off the bus & were x-rayed etc...(& Pauly's binoculars were freed from their restraints with minimal fuss & lots of cigarette smoke). Next we were back on the bus to move through 'no man's land' (approx 15 minutes) to the Israeli border crossing. Here, the bags came off the bus again & were x-rayed whilst we obtained our visas, passed through security checks & moved to our buses (all new buses & drivers as our Jordanian guides went back to Jordan). Interestingly, the binoculars were of no interest to the Israelis, however my 5 kg of authentic turkish delight was a different story. 😁 However, once they had performed all of their necessary security checks I got my loot & was free to go. We were now officially in Israel & on our way to Tel Aviv.
    Lunch was held at the Rishon Le-Zion Museum where we learnt about the history of the Jewish nation & the Israeli flag, amonst other things.
    This afternoon we were treated to a wonderful concert on the Tel Aviv foreshore (beside the Mediterranean Sea) by our concert band (The Perth Hills & Wheatbelt Band) who flew in from Perth this morning along with all other tour members - there are now 180 of us in total!
    After another long day, we enjoyed a scrumptious buffet dinner before a quick "hello" & welcome from the Australian Ambassador to Israel.
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  • Day9

    We last visited Jerusalem in 2014, and one of the reasons for returning, aside from being able to visit all the members of the Korner family again, was to see some of the many places we didn't get to visit last time. As if there was any doubt, this visit has demonstrated that the more places we explore in Jerusalem the more we realise how much there is still to see and do.

    After a leisurely breakfast, Gil, Mary and Brian headed off for a bit of sightseeing. Mira didn't accompany us as she had a lot to do at home. More of that in a moment. First, we headed for the Israel Museum. We'd paid a rushed visit there last time, but hadn't even begun to do it justice on that occasion. We began this time by visiting a large temporary exhibition of the works of the subversive Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The exhibition itself is highly controversial, with many powerful and eloquent statements against the Chinese government, which he has every reason to hate.

    We then moved on to look at some of the excellent archaeological displays in this spectacular museum. Everything is presented in a very lean and stark fashion with subtle lighting. Its really quite something.

    From there, the three of us headed off to the old city where Gil wanted to pick up a few bits and pieces from the Jerusalem Market, a place we hadn't visited before. In Istanbul, we'd made several visits previously to the Grand Bazaar and to the Egyptian Spice Market, but this was something else again. Crowded, noisy and exciting it differs from those other markets in that it is for locals and isn't at all touristy. Mary absolutely loves places like this and was wandering round the whole time with a grin on her face like a split melon. Until we came to Israel the first time, i 2014, we'd believed that hummus was hummus was hummus, but that isn't the case at all. Israelis are hummus connoisseurs, and the search is always on to find the best hummus restaurant. Gil wanted to take us to his favourite one, adjacent to the market, but there was a queue to halfway down the street. It must be good. We then chose one inside the market which was the size of a pocket handkerchief, but somehow we managed to squeeze ourselves in. Its hummus was excellent and we're now beginning to understand what all the fuss is about.

    Meanwhile, back at base, Mira had been slaving over a hot stove preparing for a family dinner. Two sons-in-law were celebrating birthdays, and we felt very honoured that the dinner was in recognition also of our being there. Every family was bringing some food as a contribution, and we did our little bit by providing some very tasty fresh baklava from the market.

    Living on the far side of the planet, we have very little direct contact with the family members, which is a shame, as the Israeli Korners are very close and frequently get together. We'd first seen this in 2014 when everyone got together in Beer Sheba for the Rosh Hashannah (Jewish New Year) celebrations. This gathering was every bit as large and as lively, with 30 of us, representing four generations from Mira's 93 year old mother to the one year old youngest grandchild. It was a nice warm evening, typical for this time of year, so we were all able to sit outside. A great time was had by all.
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  • Day13

    Heading off from Petra, we drove first to Sam's home town of Madaba an ancient town in Jordan, southwest of Amman. It’s known for its 6th-century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. The Madaba Archaeological Park preserves the mosaic-rich Church of the Virgin Mary and artefacts from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras. Northwest, the biblical hill of Mount Nebo overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. We were right in the heart of biblical history - and biblical beliefs, which we were less excited about. At least half of our fellow travellers on the bus were right into this. We suspect that their main reason for coming to Jordan was less about Petra and more about walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Moses et al. The Madaba Map, which is of genuine historic significance, is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba. It is a map of the Middle East. Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. It dates to the 6th century AD.

    No organised tour is complete without the hard sell of souvenirs and artefacts, and compared with previous trips to India and Turkey, we'd got off very lightly thus far. We're well acquainted with the routine, so weren't surprised when we were then taken to a mosaic factory in the town. It was certainly impressive to watch the painstaking work involved in making a high quality mosaic from minuscule, but precision-shaped pieces of coloured stone. Then, of course, we were led into the adjacent souvenir shop where large numbers of friendly, smiling sales assistants descended upon us. Some of the handicrafts, which included more than just mosaics, were beautiful (and quite pricey), but as we are trying to de-clutter our lives, we had to disappoint our designated shop assistant whose smile then disappeared along, shortly after, with the assistant herself.

    From there, we drove to the top of Mount Nebo, significant to religious people who believe that Moses died and was buried there. If one were irreverent (moi??), one might say that it's such a steep climb to the top of the mountain that potentially anyone could die there as a result of the climb. Many tourists go to Mount Nebo as a kind of pilgrimage, and there is a well set up church and display centre where one can view a number of Roman mosaics which have been uncovered in the area. From the top of Mount Nebo, one can see the so-called Promised Land, even if it was somewhat indistinct through the heat haze on the day that we were there.

    This was our last stop before we stopped for an excellent buffet lunch and headed back across the border to Israel. Our guide warned us that we shouldn't expect the border crossing to be easy by comparison with the northern crossing which we'd used to enter Jordan. This southern crossing over the The Allenby Bridge known to the Jordanians as the King Hussein Bridge is a bridge which crosses the Jordan River near the city of Jericho, and connects the West Bank with Jordan. It is currently the sole designated exit/entry point for West Bank Palestinians traveling in and out of the region, so for that reason we were forewarned that security was likely to be really tight.

    The approach to the border crossing from the Jordan side is less than impressive. We caught a brief glimpse of the wall which separates the West Bank from the rest of the region and then our bus drove into a noisy traffic-clogged shambles of slummy traders, people milling around and huge clouds of dust from passing vehicles. Somehow, our driver managed to bypass the long queues of stopped cars and buses and deposited us at the entrance to a modern-looking building where we completed all the security and immigration checks within a mere half-hour or so. We could hardly believe it. After our experience of entering Jordan and after the warnings from our guide, it all turned out to be quick and easy. As scheduled, our bus dropped us off at the Jerusalem Gate Hotel, after which we caught an Uber for the 15 minute ride back to Gil and Mira's.

    It was hard work, but we were really pleased that we had decided to do the Jordan trip.
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  • Day10

    After the previous night's celebrations, we were happy to have a leisurely start to the day. Besides, just like for us when we're at home, Gil and Mira had a big pile of weekend newspapers to read. We were glad of the excuse to do very little for an hour or two. Gil, Mary and Brian then set off for a tour of the outskirts of Jerusalem. We visited a couple of nearby vantage points where Gil pointed out some of the Jewish and Arab settlements and the wire fence separating the two areas. It should be mentioned that this is a long way from any of the trouble spots and there have been no incidents in these particular areas.

    Gil was keen to show us Castel National Park, which is a memorial commemorating key battles in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The mountain commands the western approach to Jerusalem, overlooking the old road to Jerusalem. During the War of Independence, many convoys set out to break the Arab blockade of Jerusalem to send food and medicine to the Jews in Jerusalem. Many of these convoys were ambushed, and it became clear that control of the mountain meant control of the road.

    In early April 1948, the Arabs deserted the village of Kastel, and the Israeli Palmach unit entered the village. The Arabs fought against them, and their leader, Abdul Khader el-Husseini, was killed. 41 Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle which followed, and the Israeli troops retreated on April 8. Three days later, in Operation Nachshon, the Israeli troops re-conquered the village without a battle.

    We walked through the line of trenches, visited underground bunkers and saw two impressive audio-visual displays which showed how the out-numbered Jewish forces fought off the Arab forces. Most interesting.

    Being Shabbat (the Sabbath), most things were very quiet, with hardly anyone around and very little traffic, which was good from our point of view. Gil and Mira had promised to take us to the historic port of Jaffa, nowadays a suburb on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, so after one of Mira's very generous lunches we set off. Jaffa is very scenic, and we found the visit most interesting..

    Next, we headed in to Tel Aviv, to the new unit where Brian's second cousin Esther (Gil's sister) lives with her husband Yossi. When we were in Israel in 2014 we stayed with them in their house in Beer Sheba, where they were wonderful hosts and terrific tour guides. They were keen to show us their new unit, which was under construction when we were there previously. It really is spectacular, very modern and spacious with a view out to the Mediterranean coast. Even though several other apartment blocks are being built in the area, their balcony overlooks the historic Sarona area, after which their building is named, and they cannot be built out. Sarona was a German Templer colony established in Ottoman Palestine in 1871. It was one of the earliest modern villages established by Europeans in Ottoman Palestine. In July 1941, the British Mandate authorities deported 188 residents of Sarona, who were considered hard-core Nazi sympathisers. Nowadays it is a very trendy area with many parks, and with many of the historic buildings now repurposed as trendy restaurants. The ground floor of the building itself is now full with dozens of restaurants and trendy food shops. It's certainly an area with a lot of character - and a foodie's paradise.

    The two of us together with Gil and Mira, Esther and Yossi and Esther's live-in carer Rachel headed off to an excellent Italian restaurant in one of the converted buildings, where we all enjoyed a really great meal.
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  • Day14

    After the rigours of the previous three days we were please to have a leisurely start to our last full day in Israel. Mira had to spend some time at her former work, so dropped us off just after 9am at the bus stop from where we took the 30 minute trip to Tel Aviv. Brian had arranged to meet two old Wellington friends, now long-term residents of Tel Aviv. Mary Aarons had been a classmate of Brian's at Island Bay Primary School, and the two of them have kept in touch by email over the past few years. We had spent some time with Mary when we were there previously in 2014.

    Meanwhile, Brian had known Barbara Schwartz (nee Vamos) for even longer, all his life, in fact. His parents and hers had been members of the Hungarian community in Wellington and close friends, though he and Barbara hadn't seen each other for about 60 years. Last time we were in Tel Aviv, Barbara had in fact been visiting her sister in Wellington, so we hadn't managed to catch up on that occasion. Mary A and Barbara had vaguely known each other through the Jewish community in Wellington, and had met a few times more recently in Tel Aviv. Anyway, the four of us caught up at the Dizengoff Centre and spent several hours talking and generally reminiscing. We could have kept going for many hours more, but unfortunately Barbara had another commitment and had to get away just after midday. The two Marys and Brian then continued talking for a couple of hours more over a pleasant light lunch at the Dizengoff Centre. The three of us then took a leisurely 15-minute wander to the Sarona Centre, where Esther and Yossi live. They'd invited Mary and Brian to come back to their unit. Gil and Mira would drive down from Jerusalem and join us there for dinner.

    We bid our fond farewells to Mary Aarons then headed up to Esther and Yossi on the 13th floor. For the first time since we'd arrived in the Middle East the air was clear of heat haze, so we were able to enjoy the terrific view right out to the Mediterranean Sea. The time went very quickly as we chatted about all sorts of things, then around five o'clock we were joined by Gila and Mira. Esther and Yossi are great hosts, and they treated us to a wonderful Hungarian meal of paprika chicken and nokedle (dumplings) along with numerous accompaniments.

    We talked for quit a while afterwards then made our sad farewells and drove back to Gil and Mira's at Jerusalem.
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  • Day25

    Israel! - The holy country.. Didn't feel such, but - who cares. It was interesting to be there anyway!

    I had a very nice "kind of a gyros" for lunch.. Afterwards, trolling around town I got a similar feeling like in Southafrica - somehow insecure, but very alive!

  • Day47

    We started our day at 5:30 am today and headed to Israel's version of the grand canyon. We had a wonderful breakfast overlooking the Ramon crater. Then we headed to the Dead Sea which was SO fun! You actually float from all of the salt!!! It was extremely hot but we really enjoyed it. Next we headed to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. We finished our day in Jerusalem by walking around a market and enjoying an amazing meal. We could not have asked for a better day!!Read more

  • Day3

    Day in a very interesting national park Timna.
    It's close to Eilat and famous for its nature made figures: spiral, moushroom and a half, Sphinx and temple.
    Very beautiful place! Besides, it's the ancient copper mine known since the king Solomon.
    Really worth visiting!

  • Day45

    We made it to Tel Aviv!!! Ross and I had a really fun time exploring today. We walked along the Tayelet, which is a board walk along the ocean. We stuck our feet in the Mediteranean sea!! Then we walked to Old Jaffa City, where we got to see a great view of the city and had a wonderful meal. We loved our first day!!

You might also know this place by the following names:

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